One thing I gleaned from this year’s Great British Bakeoff was how little I actually knew about baking bread. The kneading, the proving, the waiting, the rising – they were all a bit of a mystery to me. But then, for my birthday, Carl chose one cracker jack of a gift in the form of a bread baking class from Bake with Maria. We walked out of the class with rolls, loaves and focaccia, all looking like they’d come straight out of some artisan’s oven. As my first post-class attempt, this white loaf was surprisingly successful (not to mention easy), so forget any reservations you may have about these lovely loaves and get stuck in!
What you’ll need
500g white strong flour
5g dried yeast
320g warm water
What to do
Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and, using your hands, mix the ingredients together until you’ve incorporated all of the dry flour. Transfer the dough from your bowl to
the countertop (which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t actually need to be dusted with flour) and knead about ten times.
Leave the dough for roughly ten minutes, then begin by grabbing a corner and bringing it to the center. Rotate the loaf slightly, and repeat another 5 times.
Leave the dough a further 10 minutes, then repeat your corner grabbing another 6 times.
Leave the dough a final 10 minutes and repeat again.
By this point in time, the corners should be resisting when you pull them to the centre, and the outside of the dough should be silky and smooth.
Return the dough to your mixing bowl, cover with a plastic bag or damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead a further few times. Finish by grabbing your corners and pulling them to the centre.
Mould your dough into the shape of a loaf and return it to the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 250ºC/480ºF and place a roasting tin in the bottom.
Grease a baking tray and transfer the dough onto the centre of it. Using a sharp knife, slice a couple of slits in the top of the loaf (to accommodate the loaf’s growing size as it bakes) and lightly dust with flour and boil a kettle full of water. At this point, your oven should be at 250ºC/480ºF .
Leaving the oven door open for as little time as possible, pour about 2cm of boiling water into the roasting tray already in the oven. Place your bread on a middle rack, shut the oven door and reduce the temperature to 220ºC/430ºF .
Bake for 25-35 min or until the crust is golden brown. When your bread is ready, it should have a nice hollow sound to it when you tap the bottom.
Leave the bread to cool for as long as you can muster, then grab a knob of butter or a bowl of hot soup and tuck in.
**If you want a less crusts loaf, reduce the temperatures in this recipe by roughly 20ºC.