Homemade Bread

What can I say about freshly baked warm bread? Its great. ‘Nuff said. Having freshly baked bread is great for the weekend. It doesn’t take long, and this is a basic recipe that you can add to if you want. Add in olives and cheese and you get a very tasty savoury bread that you eat it on its own or as a sandwich. I have added a can of pitted dark cherries once (drained of its liquid syrup) and it became a partially sweet bread that I made into excellent French Toast.

Ingredients: (makes 1 big loaf)

500g of flour (look for one that says ‘bread flour’. If not all-purpose flour works fine, too)
7g sachet of fast-acting yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp of olive oil
Lukewarm water UP to 350ml

Preparation:

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the water and olive oil in a mixer, using the dough-mix extension. If you don’t have a machine, check out no.4.

2. Start the machine on slow. Add in the olive oil. Then slowly add in half of the water, bit by bit. Increase speed to medium low, and add the water gradually until it’s all mixed but not too sticky. You may not use all the water, I sometimes have about 1-2 tablespoons of water leftover.
3. Continue the ‘kneading’ for about another 7 minutes on low. Remove the dough into a greased/oiled bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rest in a warm airy place for about 30-40 minutes until the size has doubled. Go to no. 5.

4. If you don’t have a mixer, this is what you do – mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, and make a well in the center of the flour mix. Add the oil in the well, and add 100ml of water on top of the oil. Gently fold in the flour in the water, from the outside edge of the bowl towards the center (towards the well) and do that until all the liquid is absorbed. Slowly add as much water as you need while you are mixing/folding until the flour stops sticking to you fingers. You might have leftover water, and that’s ok. You don’t want the dough to be too sticky. Prepare a work surface for you to knead the dough. Follow the instructions on how to knead dough. In a greased/oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel, Leave to rest in a warm airy place for about 30-40 until risen.

Before
After

5. Mould the risen dough, push the air out of it (I use the punching method, but gently, of course.) This is when you can include additions to your bread – chopped olives or cheese and just knead gently into the dough.

6. Shape the dough into your desired shape – you can make a rather flat rectangle to make a focaccia-like bread, or shape it into a bread tin to make a bread loaf.
7. Here I have garnished the bread with a mix of crushed mix pepper, sea salt, rosemary and dried rose petals (I bought this herb mix from a small deli in Northern Italy.). Garnish as you wish, or leave it plain.
8. Cover with the tea towel, and leave it to rise again, for another 30 minutes.
9. With 10 minutes to go until the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius for an additional 20-25 minutes.
10. Check with a toothpick to ensure that the bread is fully baked. If it comes out clean, its ready!
11. Remove the bread onto a cooling rack, and when its cool enough to touch (so that you don’t burn your fingers) you can start eating it! Its great when eaten warm with a bit of butter. Serve it however way you want to.
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