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There is something quite satisfying about making your own bread. The ingredients are simple and few and the smell of baking that permeates the kitchen is hard to beat. You can also use this mixture to make soft dinner rolls or a poppy seed plait (see Variations).
Always use strong bread flour for making bread. It has a higher gluten content than ordinary plain flour, which gives the dough elasticity and helps your loaf to rise well.
Do not be tempted to cut back on the kneading process - this stretches the dough and develops the gluten in the flour, which gives you a lighter textured loaf.
Always add fast-action dried yeast to the flour, not to the liquid.
The bread is put into a cold oven as this provides the dough with a final prove, and as a result you will get a lighter texture.
Do not worry if your loaf does not look the same as the one we have pictured - it will still taste good!
Bread freezes well. Simply wrap it tightly in foil or a freezer bag, excluding as much air as possible, and freeze for up to one month.
Knead the dough as above, then divide into 12 equal-sized pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Place a little apart on an oiled baking sheet. Continue from paragraph 5 in the instructions, brushing the tops of the rolls with beaten egg just before baking for a shiny glaze. Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes until golden.
Poppy Seed Plait:
Knead the dough as above, then divide into three equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 30cm long sausage. Pinch the three pieces of dough together at one end. Plait them together, then pinch the other end to seal. Place the plait on an oiled baking sheet and continue from paragraph 5 of the instructions, brushing the top of the plait with a little beaten egg and sprinkling with poppy seeds before baking. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
Large baking sheet
Large mixing bowl
Large wooden spoon or fork
Small sharp knife
Pedal or swing bin liner
This recipe was first published in September 2003.