Homemade bread has that amazing taste that you just cannot find anywhere else. Deliciously crusty on the outside, and soft and light on the inside, homemade bread is the one. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: don’t be fooled into thinking that because it’s sold in abundance in all supermarkets, that it is something beyond your culinary capacity. It isn’t. Bread is incredibly simple to make, and once you’ve got the knack for it, loaves of all shapes and flavours will begin appearing in your kitchen! It needs few ingredients, and even fewer minutes of your day. The time spent baking bread is the time it needs to rise, and then cook. Time within which you can read a book, have a bath, or do whatever you want, really! This isn’t a stew that you need to actively stand over for hours and hours, stirring, seasoning, tasting. Bread does the work itself – all you need to do is wait, and enjoy.
And don’t forget, homemade bread is your blank canvas. There isn’t any need to spend ages searching for your perfect loaf, and then hand over a small fortune for the privilege! Those little bread knots filled with herbs, spices, or olives, can be made at home. Honest! Especially nowadays, when money is tight, back-to-basics bread is a brilliant money saver, but doesn’t scrimp on taste. At all! Here, rosemary and garlic add a little something special, making this the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten on a Wednesday afternoon.
Ingredients – makes a large loaf
- 700g strong bread flour
- 1 sachet of yeast (7g)
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1 tsp golden caster sugar
- 425ml hand-hot water
- 2-3 teaspoons of dried or fresh rosemary
- 1-3 cloves of garlic (medium to large in size) OR 1-3 garlic cloves from the ‘Olive counter’ of a supermarket – the amount of garlic you use will depend on your personal taste! 1 clove = hint of garlic; 3 cloves = more intense flavour
- Olive oil
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees. If using garlic NOT bought from the Olive Counter: trim one end of each clove, before placing them into a large piece of silver foil. Season with salt and coat in a tiny amount of olive oil. Wrap the foil tightly, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Once cooked, open the foil wrap and leave the garlic to cool slightly. Squeeze the soft garlic out from the hardened clove shell onto a chopping board.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, salt and sugar, and fold with a wooden spoon.
- Create a well in the middle of the bowl by pushing the flour mixture to the sides. Pour in the hand-hot water, and drizzle in some olive oil. Stir well to combine. If the mixture is too runny, add a little more flour; if it needs more liquid, drizzle in a little more oil.
- Add the dried rosemary. If NOT using the garlic cloves from an olive counter, add to the bread mixture using a garlic press, and stir. If you ARE using garlic from an Olive Counter, finely slice the cloves and add. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured side. Knead the dough – starting from the centre of the dough, push outwards with the heel of your hand. Then, fold the pushed out side of the dough back into the centre. Rotate the dough clockwise and repeat the process.
- The kneading will be complete when the skin of the dough begins to have a slightly blistered appearance – this is the presence of the gluten network, which will make it rise and have a fluffy centre.
- When the dough has been kneaded fully, place it in a clean bowl. Lightly oil some clingfilm; cover the bowl with the clingfilm, oil side facing the dough. Leave to rise – it should double in size. This can be done overnight at room temperature, or, if you’re short of time, leaving it in a warm place can speed up the process. It is important to not leave the dough in too warmer area, because this can kill the yeast and it will not rise! 😦
- When the dough has doubled in size, the air needs to be knocked out of it. You can do this by simply punching the dough in the bowl. This will cause the dough to return to its original pre-risen size.
- Then, transfer the dough to a lightly greased loaf tin. Cover the tin with the oiled clingfilm once more, and leave to rise again. This is called proving, and it will give the bread a better texture.
- Once it has risen, place in a preheated oven at 230 degrees and cook for 35 – 45 minutes. Pop the loaf out of its tin, and knock the bottom of the bread – it should make a hollow sound, and this will confirm it is cooked.
- Leave to cool, and serve in thin slices.