White bread – a staple of most households and a basic item that should be easily obtainable and healthy. Whenever I get asked about the things I missed about Poland when I had moved over here, bread has been and always is the top item on my list.
You see, I grew up in a country where you went to the bakery or your local shop first thing in the morning to buy a fresh, still hot from the oven loaf of bread that has been baked in the early hours of the morning and was delivered at 6 am. That bread was had for breakfast and made into packed lunches. And then in the afternoon, you went to the bakery or the shop again and bought another freshly baked loaf to have with your evening meal. And every household did this. Everyday. Except Sunday.
And that glossy, cracked golden crust, soft and tangy crumb with a thin spread of butter are often the very first thing I have when I go back home. My mum used to laugh as she would prepare all sorts of my favourite dishes for my arrival whilst knowing that a slice of bread would be the only thing I would ask for. I would sit down in my parents kitchen and enjoy it with mum’s lemon tea. And with that first bite, the inner feeling of being finally home, safe and loved always comes over me.
What is being sold in this country as an everyday loaf in most shops has meant that I have always consciously chose not to have it – I’d rather go hungry. And it saddens me to see the demise of the humble white loaf and the loss of bread making techniques that have now become to be known as artisan. I have a dream that is fuelled by love and passion for bread. And maybe one day it will become a reality but for now and through this blog I am hoping that at least one person will be inspired enough to give bread baking a go in their own kitchen and ditch the bagged loaf.
This recipe has made its way to me through a dear friend of mine. She was lucky enough to spend a day down at the River Cottage and learn all sorts of things about making and baking breads. She very kindly shared some script sheets with me and with a slight modification on few things and timings, I am passing one of these onto you. It requires 24 hours before your dough is ready for baking and with some careful planning, the timings should fit in with the busiest of schedules. Here is the recipe.
Ingredients for the bread ferment:
- 200 grams of strong white bread flour
- 5 grams of fast acting yeast
- 5 grams of salt
- 150 ml of cold water
Place all ingredients in a bowl, bring them together and knead for 10 minutes. You should end up with a soft elastic dough. Place it in a glass bowl, cover with tea towel and leave it to rest. Original recipe calls for 18 hours but I find that it always works for me better once it has been resting for roughly 24 hours in a cool room such as a conservatory. Once it is rested, it will look like the picture above. Now for the main loaf.
- 400 grams of strong white bread flour
- 10 grams of fast acting yeast
- 10 grams of salt
- 250 ml of warm water (body temperature)
Place flour, yeast and salt in a bowl and give it a stir to combine the ingredients. Add the ferment and the water and bring the dough together. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until nice and soft and strong and elastic at the same time.
Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and place in the cool room to rest. Within 2 1/2 hours the dough should be well risen. If you see it wrinkling on the surface, it is ready to be shaped and proven. The photo below shows the dough just after I had disturbed it before transferring out.
Place your dough onto a floured surface and just like we did in the wholemeal loaf recipe, shape it into a tight ball. Once shaped, put it into the prepared banneton, wrap in cling film or a carrier bag and allow it to rest.
Within 30 minutes or so the dough should double in size and fill the banneton. Half way through that time, turn your oven on, place a baking stone or a tray or a shallow casserole dish in and heat it to maximum temperature your oven allows (and your choice of the baking equipment)
Once fully risen, sprinkle the surface of the dough with some flour and turn it out onto a baking paper.
With a sharp knife, make some deep slashes across the surface. These will help the loaf to expand as it springs up in the hot oven.
Place the loaf onto your preheated choice of baking equipment, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 200°C. Allow the bread to bake for 35 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
Leave to cool completely on a cooling rack. Slice it and have it however you wish but I love it simply with a thin layer of butter. Delicious simplicity. Enjoy x