My Simple Bread Recipe
This is the basic recipe I finally settled on. It’s a simple and quick to make bread recipe that makes a good general purpose sandwich or toast loaf. It is also quite forgiving with the quantities. I’ve also found it makes a good base for fruit bread or sun-dried tomatoes. You can make it with white flour, but my preference is to use half white & half wholemeal flour.
When I started, I found following a recipe takes quite a lot for granted (for example, how to knead bread, what the texture should feel like, how the dough will feel to your hands, what the yeast would look like), so this is part recipe, part full description of the process. I hope this helps you.
I’ve put the shortened version of the recipe at the end, so you can skip all the verbiage if you just want the recipe.
500 grams of bread flour. I mix half white and half wholemeal
50 grams of butter or 3 tablespoons of oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon of sugar (white or soft brown)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
200ml warm water
1 teaspoon dried active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (brown or white)
300 ml of warm water
I’ve never used with margarine or butter substitutes such as “I can’t believe it’s not butter”, because I don’t usually cook with these, so I don’t have them in the cupboard. I’ve seen bread recipes with margarine, and other types of oil, so I don’t see why you couldn’t use them if you don’t have butter or oil to hand.
Dry Tea Towel
Clean work surface. I prefer to use a wooden surface
Wire tray for the bread to cool on
Here are the different tins I’ve used, and you can see how the shape changes. <photos> of tins with <photos> of bread
Preparing the yeast
The yeast takes about 10 minutes to get ready (about 1 minute to put the stuff in a jug and 9 minutes whilst it does it stuff), so if you start with this before getting the other ingredients together, the yeast mixture will be ready at about the time you need it.
Fill a mixing jug with 300ml of warm water. I find adding 100ml of boiling water to 200ml of cold water gives right temperature. You can test the temperature by putting your finger in it. Yeast works best at around body temperature, so if the water feels good to your finger, you’ve got the right temperature.
Add the teaspoon of sugar and stir vigorously to dissolve it.
Add a teaspoon of dried active yeast. These look like little balls. As soon as they get into the water, they’ll go soft and start to expand. Stir for 10 seconds.
Place a tea-towel over the top and put to one side.
Prepare the dry ingredients
Place the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and mix together by stirring them around a few times.
Add the oil or butter.
With your hands mix the butter or oil in. The mixture should start to resemble breadcrumbs at this stage. Make a small hole in the middle of the bowl when you’ve done this to pour in the yeast.
Now check the yeast mixture. There should be a foam about 1 to 2 cm (1/2 to 1 inch) tall on the top of the water. If you don’t see this, then the yeast isn’t ready.
Some things to check for are: was the water too cold or too hot? Also check the expiry date on the yeast. Has the yeast been stored somewhere too hot? This is why I like using this yeast. You can almost see the success or otherwise of the mixture are this point.
If the mixture looks good, then pour it into the middle of the bowl and give it a stir with the spoon to get the liquid mixed through.
You may need some extra water, so in the jug you’ve just used add 100ml of water you boiled earlier (it will have cooled down a bit) and 100 ml of cold water.
Now the fun part. put your hand in and start to mix it thoroughly.
(You’ll probably also notice the dough is warm. That’s a good sign. The dough needs to be warm for the yeast to work).
When you’ve got most of the dough damped and it’s holding together put it onto your work surface reading for kneading.
You’ll probably see quite a bit of flour left in the bottom of the bowl. Use a little of the water to this to make it into a dough. Only add a little water (about a dessert spoon ) at a time. Once you start to work it in the moisture will spread throughout the dough. Add this to the rest of the mixture.
You’re now at quite a satisfying part of the process; the kneading. This takes about 6 to 10 minutes. The aim here is to get a nice pliable even dough.
Use the heel of you hand to continually roll the dough and fold it back over. You may need to put a little bit of flour on to your work surface to stop the dough from sticking.
Here is good short video showing three different kneading techniques. Tom Baker’s Kneading Techniques. I use the method that he demonstrates at the 30 second mark. Once the dough starts to bind, the process becomes easier. You can see in the video that Tom hasn’t put any extra flour on his work surface. The dough should be moist, but not so wet that it sticks. (This is why you want to add the water in very small quantities if you need to add a little more).
I’m usually too impatient to knead for a full 10 minutes, but anything from about 6 to 10 minutes produces a dough with a good consistency.
Once you’ve done this, roll the dough into a ball and put back into the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave for an hour in a warm place. During this hour the yeast will start to work and the dough will rise. If the temperature isn’t high enough, your dough may fail to rise.
Note: If you are really stuck for a warm place heat your oven to about 50°C (about 120° F) for 3 minutes and then switch if off and place the covered mixing bowl in the oven & close the door to keep the warmth in.
After an hour look at the dough. It should now have risen to about the level of the top of the mixing bowl.
Push the centre of the dough lightly with your fingers. It should feel slightly spongy.
We’re going to pre-heat the oven now as we do this final step. Turn the oven to 220°C (about 430° F)
Tip the dough out of the bowl onto the work surface again. You should the find the dough comes out in almost one piece. If not use your hand to collect the dough and add it to the rest.
Roll the dough a few times to make the shape of the loaf. It is almost ready to go into the tin now.
I now just put a little bit of flour on the work surface and given the dough one last covering with this. This is to stop it from sticking to the tin.
A completely optional step is to take a sharp knife and make 3 or four diagonal cuts across the top of dough.
You will see that the amount of dough you have doesn’t fill the tin. When I saw this the first time, I thought I’d made a mistake with the quantities, or my dough hadn’t risen enough. Don’t panic! I found afterwards that this is normal.
I like the rustic floured look, so I dust some flour over the top of the loaf before putting it into the oven.
Turn the oven off and place the bread in a middle shelf.
The bread will rise, so remove any trays above the bread. As a rule of thumb, the final loaf will be about two to three times the height of the tin, so make sure it has room to rise without touching the next shelf.
Leave for 10 minutes. During these 10 minutes, I find it’s the best time to clean up everything. Wipe the surfaces clean and wash the mixing bowls.
After 10 minutes, turn the oven to 200°C (390° F) and cook for 30 minutes.
If it’s your first loaf, you should look in every 5 minutes, not because you have to, but just because it is fun to watch the loaf grow and cook.
After 30 minutes open the oven and remove the bread. Tap the top with your finger (quickly – remember it’s hot). It should sound a bit hollow.
Tip the bread out of the tin on the wire tray to cool. If you’re using a non-stick pan and have dusted the dough with flour the tin will probably be clean enough to just wipe clean with a cloth. You shouldn’t have the bread sticking to the tin.
Of course, once the loaf is finished, you could let it cool, but nothing beats a slice of fresh bread with butter. So try it.
Congratulations, you’ve completed your first loaf.
Finally, I really like this loaf because it also is easy to alter and try different things. Some of the changes I’ve made include:
Using White sugar, not brown
Using butter rather than oil or vice versa
Adding 2 teaspoons of cinnamon plus 1 cup of dried fruit (when mixing dried ingredients) for a fruit Adding 4 tablespoons of mixed herbs to the dry mixture
Adding a cup of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds (or both)
Adding a cup of re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes (and using olive oil)
Using Maldon Sea Salt
In each case, the loaf worked, and tasted good. Use your imagination. You’ll also find that once you’ve made two or three loaves, you’ll get a feel for your own preferences, and also individual things like the best place to put the bread to rise etc.
Finally, you probably don’t want to read the above text each time you make the bread, so here’s the basic recipe without all the extra narrative.
Prepare the yeast (see above) and set to one side while you prepare the other ingredients.
Place the flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl and mix together by stirring them around a few times. Add the oil or butter and with your hands mix it in until it starts to resemble breadcrumbs. Make a small hole in the middle of the bowl and pour in the yeast mixture when its ready.
Mix the dough in the bowl and then put onto your work surface. Add a little extra water if needed. Knead the dough for 10 minutes so that it is pliable and not sticky. Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover. Place in a warm location for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, put the dough onto the work surface and knead a few times. Make into the loaf shape and dust with flour. Put into the tin.
Pre heat the oven to to 220°C (about 430° F). Turn the oven off, place the tin on a middle shelf and leave for 10 minutes.
Set the oven to 200°C (390° F) and cook for 30 minutes.