Your daily bread: four kinds of bread from one simple dough
When it comes to bread the only requirements are flour, yeast, salt and water
A good loaf of bread can make a meal out of a bowl of soup, a chunk of cheese, salads or cured meats
Bread-making must be the most enjoyable and rewarding task one can carry out in the kitchen, and it is a great confidence boost for the new cook. A good loaf of bread can make a meal out of a bowl of soup, a chunk of cheese, a bowl of salad or some cured meats.
Over the years bread-making has bookended my kitchen day, shaping, proving and baking in the morning and mixing and proving in the evening.
Bread-making gives routine to the day, with every stage giving joy. The process never fails to intrigue, whether you’re making one of the simple recipes below or you’re at the more advanced sourdough stage.
My intention for making my own bread is the same as with all my cooking, which is having control over the ingredients I am using. When it comes to bread this is not much of an ask as the only requirements are flour, yeast, salt and water.
When buying the best flour, and using your precious time to mix, knead and shape, one comes to appreciate the value of a slice of bread so much more.
We must remember bread freezes – slice it beforehand and help yourself as needed. A bag of breadcrumbs can add that finishing touch to the top of a dish, and homemade croutons for soup or salad can take them from lunch to dinner.
When you want to get that just-baked feel into bread that’s a day or two old, pop it into a preheated cast iron saucepan with a tight fitting lid and give it 15 minutes is a preheated oven at 200 degrees and it will become the star of the meal.
Today’s recipes all stem from one simple basic recipe. For pizza, flat bread and frying pan bread, the dough can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. So with a bit of forward planning you will spend less time in the kitchen and produce some impressive results.
If the thought of making bread with yeast is something you fear but would love to give it a go, here is your chance.
So happy bread-making, and remember real bread is not light and fluffy.
Good Things White Loaf
This is our regular everyday bread, so easy to make, and you can’t go wrong as long as you are not too heavy-handed. This recipe will make one large loaf, or you can keep some dough back to make a pizza and make a slightly smaller loaf.
If you are making it by hand do think about doubling the quantities (double quantities are not good for your domestic mixer) and making two loaves and putting one in the freezer.
Or make one loaf and also have dough in your fridge to make any of this week’s other recipes. You will be surprised how handy having a bit of dough will be when planning a meal.
500g white bread flour – also known as strong flour
1 x 7g sachet of Instant dried yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
350ml lukewarm water – not hot, not cold
1. In a large mixing bowl mix the flour, yeast and salt together. Next add in most of the water (hold a little back) and mix well with a wooden spoon to form a dough. Continue mixing until the dough has come together and the bowl is clean. If your dough is a little dry add the remaining water and if it is a little sticky add a little more flour.
2. Generously flour your work surface, and turn the dough out on to it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is soft, springy and clean. You might need to sprinkle a little flour as you go if the dough is sticking to your hands or surface. Your hands should be clean of dough as you work. This should be a relaxed affair so don’t overwork the dough (you will end up with a heavy loaf and tense shoulders).
3. Alternatively you can put all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on a low speed using the dough hook.
4. Place the dough back in the bowl (or leave in mixing bowl if you’re using electric mixer), cover it with a tea towel and put it somewhere warm, but not hot, for at least an hour in summer and two in winter. Or you can leave it overnight covered with cling film.
5. Once the dough has doubled and is light with a few little bubbles on top, tip it out on to a floured surface, give it a quick knead and shape it into a round ball and place it on a floured baking sheet. Dust it with flour ( I like to use a handful of brown flour here as it gives the loaf a nice colour) and leave to rise again – this should take from 30 to 45 minutes depending on the time of year.
6. Set the oven to 250C/Gas mark 9. Do this 15 minutes before the bread is ready to go in the oven.
7. Place the bread in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 220C/Gas 7 and give it another 10 minutes. Check the bread for doneness by tapping the bottom of the loaf; it should sound hollow. If not give it another few minutes. Let the loaf cool on a wire rack.
Follow the recipe above for Good Things bread until the end of point four. If you are not using it on the day of making, you can put it straight into the fridge once it’s mixed in a sealed container and keep it until needed.
Durrus cheese, spinach and nutmeg pizza
Oh, I love and hate this pizza altogether. One Friday evening, before I opened my cafe and restaurant, I went to the fridge to see what I could put on a pizza for myself and the girls. I was too tired to make tomato sauce but I had a bag of spinach and an unpasteurised Durrus cheese, so decided to give something new a go and see what the reaction would be like from my fiercest critics, who were then aged 10, six and three. The result was that it ended up on the cafe’s lunch menu for the next 13 years, and is always the most popular request for staff dinner.
We don’t have a pizza oven, and rolling and cooking the pizzas to order is always a challenge, so every year when we would reopen after winter I would take the pizza off the menu. However, our customers would demand its return so it would reappear the following week.
I dedicate this recipe to Robert Putz, who was my best pizza customer ever, and always phoned in his order before he left home so he would not have to wait! A pizza oven is on my wish list!
Makes two large pizzas, enough for four people
Roughly 600g dough at room temperature
Fine brown flour for rolling
4-5 large handfuls of roughly chopped large-leaf spinach, stalks removed and finely chopped
12 thin slices Durrus cheese (about 250g) with rind removed
Salt and pepper
1. Heat your oven to its hottest and pre-heat two flat baking trays. This is essential for a crispy base.
2. Divide the pizza dough in half, and roll each piece very thinly using the fine brown flour to dust the worktop.
3. Place on the hot baking tray, top with the spinach and chopped stalks. Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.
4. Arrange the slices of cheese on top.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the hot oven for 8-10 minutes until the base is golden and crispy and the cheese has melted.
Note: Instead of spinach you can use Swiss chard, beetroot tops or sea beet.
If you can't get Durrus cheese use a strong semi-soft cheese, preferably unpasteurised as the flavour is better for cooking.
Frying Pan Bread
This is so handy when you would like to have some nice warm bread to mop up supper with, and it will all happen while you are heating up some leftovers. This works best on a gas hob as your pan will get extra hot. Bring the dough to room temperature before rolling.
200g bread dough (from above) at room temperature
Flour for dusting
28cm cast iron frying pan
1. Heat the frying pan until it gets very hot, and in the meantime dust a counter surface with a sprinkling of flour and roll out the dough until it’s roughly the size of the pan.
2. When the pan is smoking hot, place the dough in it, and as it chars press the dough down with a palate knife or the back of a fish slice to help it to cook evenly.
3. Check the underneath for doneness – you are looking for a nice charred look but making sure the dough is cooked all over. This should take between three to five minutes depending on thickness.
4. Turn the dough over and cook the other side as above, and make sure you eat it while still warm.
Flat bread with olive oil and pink salt
This bread is ideal with anything, but especially good with mezze. I use Himalayan salt here for its health benefits and the colour is cool. This freezes well and will reheat in a preheated oven at 200C for 10 to 15 minutes.
750g-800g bread dough (from recipe above)
Coarse pink salt
Baking tray (roughly 26 x 36cm)
1. If your dough is in the fridge remove it and allow it to come to room temperature.
2. Brush the tray with oil, and take the dough and press it onto the tray pushing it out as you go. Leave to prove for anything up to an hour depending on the heat in the kitchen.
3. Fifteen minutes before you need to bake the bread, heat the oven to 250C.
4. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil, and sprinkle the top with salt. Now push your finger tips into the dough, pressing the oil and salt into it, and as you do so the dough will be pushed out to the edges. Make sure the dough is evenly spread.
5. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until you have a golden bread.