OK, so here is my very basic white loaf recipe. What you need to remember is that every different make of flour absorbs water at a different rate so you will see that the water amount is variable what you want to go for is a dough that is nice and sticky to begin with and ends up as a soft and pliable dough after kneading really well.
Basic White Loaf – 2lb loaf tin
500grms Strong White Wheat Flour
300 – 380 mls water (cold from the tap is fine)
4grms dried instant yeast or 8 grms fresh yeast
1 tsp salt
Put all the ingredients into a bowl (use 300grms of water initially) mix well and turn out into your Worktop. Do not put any flour onto the worktop.
If the dough seems dry then add a little more water and keep adding until you have a nice sticky dough then proceed to knead the dough by hand REALLY well for At least ten minutes. If you have a food processor with a dough hook then you can of course use that but it’s good to knead by hand when you first start out as this educates you as to how the dough behaves during the kneading process.
Don’t worry if it gets stickier during the kneading before it gets silky and stretchy this is normal. Don’t add flour!
Once you have a lovely soft pliable elastic dough pop it into a clean bowl cover well and now you have a choice.
You can put it somewhere warm to rise and double in size ( this may take 45mins to 2hrs depending on how warm your kitchen is) or you can put it in the fridge where it will also rise and double in size only slower!
If you use the fridge method the dough can stay in the fridge for up to three days. The fridge method allows you the freedom to make bread fit into your day and also it improves the flavour and texture of the dough – win win!
If you use the fridge the dough will need longer to rise I find it easiest to mix my dough in the evening and pop it in the fridge overnight then the next day when I have a few moments I take it out and shape it and then leave it somewhere warm/cool depending on my schedule to prove again and then bake it.
Once you have a dough that’s doubled in size either in the fridge or somewhere warm. Empty it out of the bowl and shape. (No flour on Worktop, you can flour your hands though if you want to) Now………shaping is a technique that takes practice and can make or break your end result!
So, use a loaf tin FIRST before you progress to other shapes. To shape for a loaf tin stretch your dough out into a rectangle fold one end up half way and then fold the other end over the top of the first fold like an envelope.
Then turn this small folded rectangle long end towards you and roll it up quite tight then pop this into your very well greased loaf tin. Use a hard fat such as butter or lard don’t use oil as it just drips down the side and pools at the bottom.
Now if your dough was not in the fridge then you probably only need to leave it for this second prove somewhere warm for approx 40-60minutes. If your dough was in the fridge to prove and was shaped straight from the fridge then you will need to leave it somewhere warm for anything from 1-3hrs depending on how warm your kitchen is.
Once risen, pop into a hot oven at 240’C for ten minutes then turn the heat down to 200″C and bake for a further 20-35 mins until it’s cooked through and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. If you are not convinced it’s cooked when you take it out of the oven then turn it out of the tin and return it “naked” to the oven and bake for a another 5-15minutes.
Cool COMPLETELY on a wire cooling rack before eating and ENJOY!