Working from home can have many wonderful benefits, but learning how to bake bread was not one I expected.
This week is Real Bread Week, which isn’t the latest challenge on The Great British Bake Off, but instead a celebration of the simplicity of bread. It’s the perfect week to discover how easy it is to make your own bread at home. It’s inexpensive too, as real bread only has four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt.
Last summer, I attended a Ma Baker bread class, run and hosted by Liz Wilson. The class takes place around Liz’s kitchen table – surrounded by photos of her family.
“I think that’s why the classes are popular”, says the mum of two, “you leave knowing you can replicate this all at home.” On every surface I can see sit awards that Liz’s creations have won.
“My buckwheat crackers have just won a Great Taste award”, Liz proudly tells me. I wonder where she will find the room for it.
Standing around the kitchen table with two other novice bakers, our ingredients laid in front of us and our aprons on, Liz began to teach us all about bread.
“I did a bread course around six years ago”, Liz tells us, “but I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it as much as I have. I used to be a primary school teacher, and baking bread was just something I did for fun.”
“Did you ever expect to be teaching people how to bake bread?” I ask.
“It was the biggest shock of my life,” Liz laughs, “I love teaching because there is something so special about sharing something you love with other people.”
Liz volunteered in bakeries and bread schools to learn more about bread, before baking for customers every Saturday and teaching bread classes once a month. Then, as her business grew, she went part-time at the school, before eventually deciding to “take bread full-time”.
The first thing Liz taught us was how to make was a basic white dough, that we could use to make a loaf, some rolls, and a focaccia. Priding myself as an amateur cake baker, I expected to take to bread naturally and confidently. As I looked down at my clay-like dough, I realised I wasn’t a natural, and I certainly didn’t feel confident.
“There will be no bread envy in this kitchen”, Liz says, but as she finished kneading her dough a good five minutes before the rest of us, I was rather jealous. As I persevered, the dough eventually took its form, and we left it to rest in a bowl – topped with a shower cap, which she recommends for allowing dough to prove.
The white dough recipe is a four-hour long process, but you’re only actually doing anything for about 20 minutes, making it the perfect way to break-up the working day.
Next, Liz told us about her no-knead bread recipe, a recipe that suits even the busiest freelancer. You quickly mix the ingredients for the dough together the night before, leave it to rest in the fridge, then spoon it on to a baking sheet the next day and bake for perfect, fresh rolls in time for lunch.
After lunch, we headed back into the kitchen to form our white dough into a loaf, some rolls, and a focaccia. The focaccia was a highlight – so easy to make and so delicious.
Check out the recipes below and have a go at making your own bread this Real Bread Week.
By Jessica Hayden
White dough (enough for a small loaf, a focaccia, and two small buns):
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g salt
- 5g instant yeast
- 325g water
- Place the flour, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the water and using a dough scraper, bring the dough together in the bowl. When there is no more dry flour, take the dough out onto a clean surface and start kneading it. Knead for between 10-15 minutes, until you have smooth and silky dough.
- Put the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover it with a shower cap or plastic bag. Leave to prove for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.
For a white loaf:
- Take 450g of your dough. If putting into a loaf tin, flatten into a rectangle, pull each corner outwards and then fold back into the middle.
- Place the dough scraper on one long side of the dough and push it against the dough until the dough comes underneath the scraper. Repeat on the other side.
- Place the loaf seam side down into a greased tin. Cover the tin and leave for 45 minutes.
- When the dough has doubled in size, flour the top of the loaf, and slash the top.
- Cook at 250c. Put a cup of water in a baking tray at the bottom of the oven when you put the loaf in. Leave for ten minutes at high heat and then turn down to 220c for the final 10-15 minutes.
- Rest for 30 minutes minimum before eating.
For a focaccia:
- Take 250g of your dough and place in a small oven tray. Pull it gently with your fingers until it reaches the sides of the tray.
- Cover and leave for 30 minutes until the dough has puffed up. Brush with olive oil, and poke rosemary, cherry tomatoes and sea salt on top. Poke indents into the dough.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes at high heat.
- Divide the remaining dough into two pieces. Looking at the dough like a square, pinch the four corners inwards and then roll into a tight ball.
- If you want to, dip the dough in water and then your choice of seed.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes at a high heat.
No knead buns
- 600g water
- 3g yeast
- 12g salt
- 325g white bread flour
- 325g wholemeal bread flour
- 75g seed mix (optional)
- Mix all ingredients together, cover bowl and leave overnight in the fridge.
- When you want to bake, using two spoons drop blobs of dough onto the baking sheet stacking them as best you can so the buns are more round than flat. Bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven.
This dough will last for 2-3 days in the fridge, meaning you can have fresh buns every morning.