Coming from a long line of bakers, from my mother’s side of family, it was only a matter of time before I renounced any kind of store bought bread and start making my own. There are several reasons for sticking with homemade bread, it tastes better, it reduces preservative intake, it’s more nutritious, and in many cases, cheaper than what you buy at the store.
After a year and a half of not buying any bread at all I’m pretty sure that baking your own bread is pure happiness. Think about it…The smell when you proof the yeast. Mixing all those fresh ingredients like a chemist. Then, you put it in the oven and don’t even get me started about the smell! There is something special about that aroma created from the mixture of flour, water, yeast, and salt that makes you feel that all is right with the world.
Despite what books and chefs say about bread making, there is no perfect recipe because measurements are not precise for making the perfect dough. The key on making good bread is using good quality flour (not enriched wheat flour or bread mixes simply because they usually contain enriched flour) and gain some experience until you make the perfect dough.
Today I will not only give you a basic recipe for the perfect homemade bread, I will try to to give you all the tips and hints you need to know to make that dreamy loaf of happiness 😉
- 1kg Strong Bread Flour
- 600ml Tepid Water
- 2x7gr Dried Yeast
- 1tbsp Sugar
- 3/4 tbsp Salt
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
- Sift flour and add salt.
- In a bowl add yeast, water and sugar. Stir it to resolve and let it aside for 5 minutes.
- Slowly but confidently add the flour mix in the bowl with the yeast mixing the ingredients with your hands or with a mixer (appropriate for dough).
- Once you are done with adding the flour it’s time for some serious kneading for about 3-4 minutes. Again, using a mixer might be handy but using your hands is just enough. Keep kneading until you have a nice silky and elastic dough which doesn’t stick on your fingers. -If needed add some extra tepid water (if the dough is not elastic enough) or some extra flour (if the dough is too sticky).*Experience here is the key.
- Create a small ball with your dough and place it inside a bowl and coat it with 1tbsp olive oil. Cover it with a towel or a cling film and let it prove for about an hour to almost triple it’s size to -ideally- warm place.
- Once the dough has at least doubled in size, knock the air out by kneading it a bit more for about 30 seconds.
- You can now shape it and put it in a baking tray (on baking sheet) and let it prove for 20 minutes inside cold oven.
- Set the oven in 160*c / 320*F and slow bake it for about 70-75 minutes or until golden brown. *Do not open the oven door for at least the first 45 minutes of baking + the 20 minutes of proving. *You can tell if it’s cooked by tapping its bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s done, if it doesn’t then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes.
While other recipes insist on baking bread in preheated oven by experience I found there is no way to keep steady temperature while the whole procedure of making the bread and thus it is very probable to loose all air and volume while you put it in the hot oven. 20 minutes is enough time to let it prove plus the 10 first minutes of heating the oven is actually the best way to always achieve the same result.
After you master this basic dough you can start experimenting with mixing flours. One of my favorite combinations is mixing strong bread flour with wholemeal flour (50-50) or mixing 3/4 strong bread flour with 1/4 rye flour. It’s really up to you. If you want to add some flavor best time to do it is right before you shape your dough for baking. Thyme and oregano are really good choices but again…it’s really up to you.
Slow baking is the best and most traditional way to bake your bread, give it a try and I’m sure you’re going to love it 😉
Happy Baking Everyone!
Until next time…