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First Homemake of the Year

It can only be bread.  On opening the bread bin yesterday morning I found only the white processed stuff and so rather than head out and buy some I decided to make some.  Bread isn’t generally a quick thing and although I mixed up the dough at about 11am I didn’t bake it until gone 5pm.  It is utterly worth the wait though and I have to say that this batch was one of if not my best yet.

Making bread is a process that is entirely in the hands and not at all in the head.  You can sense at the kneading stage whether or not it’s going to be a good loaf, by the way the dough yields (or doesn’t) to your hands, or the feel of the surface of the dough.  It’s heartening to have at least a few certain successes with bread making, because if nothing else, it gives you a reference point for all future mixes.  I don’t have a standard recipe per se.  I always seem to have numerous bags of flour, some fuller than others, so I empty bags into the scales until I have a kilo (2.2lbs in old money) of flour and tip it onto the work surface.  Then add 3.5 tsp salt, 1 tsp of sugar and two of those packets of quick acting dried yeast.  As for water, there never seems to be a set amount to use and my guess is this is because all flours absorb different amounts of water, so I keep a large jug of blood temperature water to hand and add a little at a time until I have a slightly sticky dough.  I used to mix up the dough in a bowl until I found that working with it just on a work surface gave me far better control over the consistency.  Again, bread is made by the hands and not the head.

I put my bread dough in a large oiled bowl and then put the bowl inside my bread black binbag as apparently the black of the bag absorbs more heat and helps the dough rise.  Seems to work!

I prove and knock back the dough about three times, which is why it takes so long from start to finish.  It’s not a problem though because you don’t have to stand over it.  I’m all for slow cooking and baking in all its forms and I love recipes that take very little time and attention to prepare and bread is a perfect example of this.  After proving, shape the loaves and leave to rise for twenty minutes or so.  I then sprinkle with seeds and slash the tops as this seems to help the loaves rise when in the oven.

For the first ten minutes of baking I set the oven to the highest temperature it will go as this gives the raw dough a final ‘spring’ before turning it down to bake the loaves all the way through.  After about half an hour, I got these beauties from the oven-

There is a rule that warm bread is for tearing and cooled bread is for slicing, but I simply cannot resist a slice of warm, freshly baked bread.  So with careful slicing and an oven glove, flaunting the rules yields wonderful results-

Rather pleased to say the least.

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