Long weekends is all about having fun, and there are few things more fun than making a loaf of home-made bread! It allows me to relive my childhood, take out my frustrations and feed me all at the same time. I'll show you how.
Get the following ingredients ready.
- 1 tbsp of active yeast (any good supermarket will have this)
- 1.5 tbsp of vegetable oil (or melted butter for a tad bit extra richness)
- 1/4 cup of milk (low fat will do as well)
- 1.5 tbsp of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3-3.5 cups of flour (just regular milled flour will do, not the self-rising or ultrafine stuff)
the "cup" i used is roughly the size of an English teacup, about 160-200ml in size. No need to be too exact as far as the milk and sugar are concerned
The pour in 2 cups of flour and stir like crazy (or you can use your hands if you like - i did). Its all really sticky and gooey at first. As you stir, slowly mix in another cup of flour, pouring it in bit by bit. In just 3-4 minutes, the dough will be well formed and should lose some of its initial stickiness.
Ok, get a fistful of flour in your hands, then sprinkle a table top or other flat surface with it. Get some on your hands as well, the fun is about to begin! Grab the dough, and plonk it onto the floured surface, and go to work kneading it. Do whatever you like to it. Here i relive my childhood memories of all those hours playing playdough.
Smack it, flatten it, fold it (this part is really important - remember to fold the dough!). Then smack it, twist it, punch it, really put your fist and palms into it, then fold it some more. Fun times and a real stress reliever if there ever was one.
After about 10-15 minutes of this, shape it up into a round ball. It should be the size of a large orange. Then put it into a clean bowl, cover it with a clean cloth, then put it somewhere warm and just leave it. Magic is going to happen, the yeast is going to have a feast and work its powers on the dough.
Clean up the mess in the kitchen, but leave the table top floured, you're going to be using it once more.
After 1 hour give or take a few minutes, you'll find the dough has more than doubled in size. Take a look at the pic above, it was less than half the size when i first put it away.
Give it another good pounding for another 10-15 minutes. Remember to FOLD, FOLD, FOLD. This helps the texture of the bread and makes it all nice and fluffy.
Then, use your hands and flatten the bread out, somewhat into a square, with length dimensions roughly the same as the baking pan you intend to use. Once its flattened, just roll it, like a swiss roll, and drop it into the bread pan. Cover it up with a cloth, put it somewhere nice and cozy, and leave it for 60 minutes.
This is a good time to clean up the rest of the kitchen.
You'll find the dough ballooning in size once more, but this time, nicely fitting the shape and size of the bread pan. Nothing more needs to be done, just chuck it into the oven at 200 degrees celcius for 30 minutes.
Once the bread is done, let it cool for 20 minutes or so before taking your first slice. Use a bread knife if you can (the one with a serrated edge) to make a clean cut through the crust.
And thats it! On the part of the cook, you only spend like 20 minutes total actually doing anything. The rest of the time, the yeast is doing all the work. How's that for an easy cooking job!
When the bread is still warm, it'll taste great with butter, jam, honey or peanut butter. It tastes wonderful even on its own, all fluffy on the inside, and thinly crusted on the outside. When you're comfortable with this basic recipe, you can slowly add things like nuts or raisins, or herbs like oregano and parsley to add more colour to the flavour of the bread. Try experimenting with different types of flour too do find out how this can change the texture and flavour of the bread.
Easy, cheap and healthy -- it doesn't get better than that.