Basic homemade white bread
Homemade white bread
Warm, homemade bread with butter melting into it and a dollop of chunky apricot jam always bring back delightful memories. There is something comforting about freshly baked bread, which is sometimes difficult to describe. To bake your own bread, is not difficult, there are just a few basic guidelines that one should follow and understand. A well-tested recipe, with the correct ratio of ingredients is a good start. There are many ways to bake bread, but one with yeast that needs some kneading is a matter of a love for baking and actually quite therapeutic. A bread with yeast has a texture that is not easily achieved when baking bread with baking powder or with a mix and stir version. It may be more time consuming, but exciting to see how the bread ‘develops’ and it’s so rewarding to bake your own bread.
White bread remains a treat and we should rather opt for a variety of wholegrain starches. However, a home-baked bread is more flavourful and healthier than many shop-bought options. It contains less salt and has no added preservatives. With a well-tested basic recipe, one can easily prepare other breads, like brown, wholewheat or rye bread. I enjoy using stone ground flour as it is coarser and lends a lovely texture and almost creamy colour to the bread. It’s healthier than ordinary cake flour, as it is not so refined and more natural. If you do swap cake flour for stone ground flour in a recipe, you may need more liquid, as the stone ground flour is coarser.
Ingredients for successful bread making
Typical ingredients, like a small amount of salt and sugar, some oil and lukewarm liquid is always part of a bread recipe. Yeast needs ideal circumstances to act as a raising agent and each ingredient has an important role to play. If for instance, the water is too hot, it will ‘kill’ the yeast and the dough will not rise. If the dough is too cold, it cannot rise fast enough.Therefore the ideal temperature is required, both for the water and when the dough needs to rise. The amount of water is often not indicated to the last millilitre, as the moisture in the flour as well as other factors affects the amount of liquid required – even if you prepare the same recipe two days in a row. Salt gives flavour, but together with the sugar, it helps to activate the yeast. Too little may slow down the process, but too much, could again ‘kill’ the yeast. Yes, yeast is alive, so do treat it carefully.
The many shapes of bread and how to make them Bread is normally shaped after rising for the first time. The dough is knocked down, shaped and then allowed to rise again. Remember to cover the shaped dough with a clean dish towel, so that it doesn’t dry out. Once it has risen a second time, the shaped dough can be baked. See the recipe below for more details.
– Buns: divide dough into 70 g pieces, roll into balls and pinch underneath. Allow to rise and then brush with oil and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
– Knots: divide into 70 g pieces and roll into a thin sausage shape. Gently tie each piece into a single knot and allow to rise. Brush with oil.
– Mini loaves: use small loaf tins and divide the dough in 200 g pieces. Shape the dough with your hands until it is just a little smaller than the bread tin. Line and lightly grease the baking tins and place dough in the tin. Allow to rise. Brush with oil and, if preferred sprinkle with coarse salt, seeds or fresh rosemary.
– Mini baguettes: divide dough into 70 g pieces, roll flat with a rolling pin. Roll up into a sausage shape, pinch together underneath and roll so that it tapers at the ends. Allow to rise until double in size. Sprinkle with flour and snip the top of the baguette with a pair of kitchen scissors to make 3 scores or cuts into the dough.
Recipe from Make five/ Maak vyf Makes
1 large or 2 smaller loaves (1,5 kg bread dough)
1 kg stone ground or ordinary white bread flour (see tips)
1 x 10 g packet instant yeast
10 ml (2 tsp) soft brown sugar
7,5 ml (½ tbsp) salt
45 ml (3 tbsp) avocado or olive oil
800 ml lukewarm water
extra flour for kneading
1. Place flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the oil. Mix well, but don’t be alarmed if it seems as if lumps are forming.
2. Start by adding two-thirds of the water to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands. Gradually add more water until a soft, managable dough is formed. Stone ground flour will require a bit more water than ordinary white bread flour.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand by making a forward-rolling action with the heel of one hand and continue to repeat the motion. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic – it should take 7-10 minutes (or use the dough hook on your electric mixer).
4. Knead until the dough can be shaped into a neat ball. When lightly pressed with your thumb to form a dent, it should bounce back immediately. If not, continue to knead for another few minutes.
5. Spread a few drops of oil in a clean mixing bowl and place dough in the bowl. Spread a little oil over the dough to prevent it from drying out. Don’t use too much oil, as it can prevent the dough from rising.
6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place a clean dishtowel or blanket over the bowl. Place the bowl in a warm spot, such as on a window sill or close to a warm oven. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes or until doubled in volume. (On a cold day, you can place the dough in a car, that’s standing in the sun – it makes for a wonderful ‘warm spot’.)
7. Turn out risen dough onto a lightly floured surface again and knock down with your hands.
8. Line two 1-litre loaf tins or one 2-litre loaf tin with baking paper and lightly grease with oil.
9. Shape the dough with your hands to be just smaller than the tins. (Or see tips for more ways to shape the dough.) Place dough in the tins, lightly brush with oil and cover with a clean dishtowel.
10. Allow to rise in a warm place for another 20-30 minutes or until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 °C. Sprinkle a few pinches of dry flour over the bread. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until is sounds hollow when tapped.
11. Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then carefully turn out and allow to cool down completely. (Or immediately slice the warm crust to reward all your effort.)
1. Shape the dough into different forms for other bread and rolls. Bake it in different containers, such as empty tins of different sizes, small terracotta pots or mini loaf tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes before opening the oven and remember that the size will determine the baking time. The dough can also be used to make roosterkoeke.
2. The dough freezes well, so if you don’t feel like baking two breads at once, freeze the rest for another time. Thaw the dough in the fridge and then continue the recipe from step 5. If the dough is still cold, the first rising may take a little longer.
3. Rye or wholewheat bread: make 1 x Basic homemade white bread dough, but substitute half of the flour with rye or wholewheat flour and use 125 ml (½ cup) extra water or as necessary.
4. Pizza dough: prepare the dough as above but only up to the end of step 6. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock down. Divide into four or eight equal parts. If you only want to prepare four pizzas, use half the dough and freeze the rest immediately before it continues to rise. Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Sprinkle flour onto two large baking trays. Roll each piece of dough into a circle or oval shape of approximately 0,5 cm thick. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Brush each piece of dough with a little oil and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until almost cooked, but not golden brown, for an extra crispy end result. Top to your preference and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cooked and the cheese has melted.
5. Other seasonings can be added to the Basic homemade white bread, rye or wholewheat bread dough. Robust herbs like chopped rosemary or thyme work. You can even knead ingredients such as pesto, olives, cheese, caramelised onions or sun-dried tomatoes into the dough before rising in the pan. Take care not to add too many ingredients, as it can prevent the dough from rising. Sprinkle any of the breads with seeds if you like.
6. To prepare lukewarm water: boil a kettle, but switch it off as the water starts to simmer gently. Pour about 200 ml of the hot water into a jug and top up with cold tap water to 800 ml. You should be able to easily hold your fingers in the water. Some refer to lukewarm water as baby bath water. Take care not to make the water too hot for the yeast.
7. How to store flour: It’s best to store flour in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag. Warmth and light increases oxidization – that’s why, when it comes to storing flour colder and darker is better. Store well-sealed flour in a dark cupboard or in a fridge or freezer – this way it can last up to 6 months. This will retain the freshness and prevent it from going rancid.