Lockdown has brought out the best and worst of people. But if there’s one strange yet oddly comforting trait, its that a lot of people are kneading their way through these times.
I’d argue the two big winners of the pandemic are TikTok and producers of bread flour.
Shortages of flour and yeast on supermarket shelves (while bread remained well-stocked), is testament to the surge of home-baking. Perhaps it’s the therapeutic, stress-beating qualities of baking your own. Or maybe a deeper, archaic sense of belonging:
The first bread in the world was consumed around 30,000 years ago. They were flatbreads. (Flat because yeast was not yet used). If we’re talking loaves of bread as we’d know them today, yeast was used to make such bread from around 300 BC. And the recipe has hardly changed since.
I think its safe to say – judging by Instagram feeds filled with homemade buns and loaves, sourdough starter kits and focaccia – that there has been a bread baking revival across Wales, and the world.
My Dad was a bit early on the trend. Having dabbled in bread making now and again for a few years, with each loaf turning out completely different to last, he has never really been satisfied. However, he’s recently itched that decade long frustrated-home-baker itch, and has made a few consistent, and quite good white loaves.
I asked him what it is he likes about baking his own bread. “I like the process of it…its like a hobby… and its much more homely to put your own bread rather than shop-bought bread on the table.”
Unlike most people who would search a recipe online or follow one from a book… despite a bookshelf of cook books in the kitchen and a global plethora of recipes on Google, my Dad has noted his own recipe from trial and error, stubbornly independent from following any pre-written process.
And so this is his recipe for a classic, light white loaf (probably not dissimilar to other recipes yet nevertheless his own).
Makes 1 very large loaf or 1 loaf and 6 rolls
- 2 pints of plain white flour
- 1 and a half tsp salt
- 2 and a half tsp dried instant yeast
- Optional – any sort of seeds (e.g. poopy seeds or sunflower seeds work well)
Add the yeast to one pint of tepid water. From experience Allison’s Instant Dried Yeast works best, and is available in most supermarkets. Leave the mixture for half an hour.
In a mixer, combine the flour and salt, and pour in the yeast mixture. Use a dough hook to knead. If you don’t have a mixer you can do this step by hand but it is a lot more work.
The mixture should form a ball on the hook. The right consistency would slowly fall off the hook and the bowl should be clean. If the dough is solid, its too dry – add a bit more water. If it is in a puddle its too wet – add a bit more flour.
Place a damp cloth over the top of the bowl and leave the dough to rise in a warm spot … maybe on a windowsill. Leave for at least one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
On a floured surface, knock back the dough and knead again.
Cut, shape and score the dough into your creation. This recipe makes enough dough for one very large loaf, or you can half the dough, turning one half into a loaf and the other half into a batch of six buns. You can cover with seeds if you’d like.
If you are going to cover with seeds, a good technique is to wet the surface of the dough, and then press onto a plate with the seeds on.
After shaping, leave for another hour to rise again. And preheat the oven to 190 C.
Bake the bread according to its size, the buns about 12 minutes, a normal-sized loaf about 15 minutes and a larger loaf about 20 minutes.
If you’ve tried out this recipe, let us know what you think in the comments below!