Home-made bread (without bread maker)

Made some bread today as I’m being taken to Salcey Forest tomorrow and am responsible for the picnic! Many people have asked me how I make bread without a bread maker. I usually answer: how people made it until a few years ago before these peculiar machines started populating virtually everybody’s households – and later everybody’s attics or store cupborads… It’s actually very easy. There are three types of bread I mainly make: sourdough & yeast bread and yeast only bread. Sourdough you can make yourself with very easy means, but the downside is that you’ve got to stir it at least once a day which is not always possible for me. There are three other sources of sourdough in the UK: the internet, friends or familiy who are happy to post or bring it from abroad and, if you are very lucky, very good health food or Eastern European shops.

Once you’ve got your sourdough and a satisfactory mixture of bread spices, the rest is a piece of… er, cake! Depending on the amount of sourdough or sourdough powder in your sachet, you may have to multiply the amounts in the recipe. Note that this recipe will make most ‘bread bloggers’ faint because it is very vague in terms of temperatures and quantities. Bread bloggers tend to be anxious about that kind of stuff. I agree that it makes a difference, but if you just want to produce something that you could potentially bake anywhere in the world under any living conditions with only a fire, some water, and a bag of flour if need be (you can make sourdough with only flour and water, but it takes a few days and it goes faster with pineapple or raisin juice apparently – there are at least half a dozen videos on youtube about it) and whatever else there is, precise measurements may not always be practicable. Unless you are into ‘Rough Science’ maybe. Anyway…

Heat the oven (low heat).

In a bowl, combine:
about 500g mixed flour (e.g. rye, wholemeal, plain flour – the more plain flour, the fluffier the bread gets)
1 tsp to 1tbsp salt
roughly or finely ground bread spices (e.g. coriander, fennel and caraway)
sour dough
yeast
about 350-400 ml warm water
1 tsp of honey, syrup or sugar
If you like, add sunflower seeds, linseeds, pumpkin seeds or chopped/ground almonds/nuts.
You can also make bread with old potatoes, grated carrots, grated courgettes, cheese, different herbs & spices etc. There seems to be no end to what you can put into bread!

Switch the oven off. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and put it into the warm oven. Leave to rise for 30-45 mins.

Put some baking parchment into a large enough cake tin. Get the risen dough out of the oven, cover it with flour and shape it into a loaf. Put the oven on again for another little bit or leave cold, depending on how fast you want/need the dough to rise.

Optional step: Bang the loaf repeatedly HARD onto a kitchen surface (this is super messy – you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but my uncle who is a baker & pastry maker insists on doing this, so my reasoning is that there is some method behind the madness – and don’t worry, you won’t end up looking like Lori Petty after her dust shower in the Tank Girl film!).

Drop the wobbly loaf into your parchment-clad cake tin. Leave to rise again. When it looks light and fluffy, turn the heat to Gas Mark 6 (or about 180 – 200 degrees celsius) and bake the bread for just under 1 hour. If your oven is rubbish and you have no idea whether it produces the correct temperatures, you can determine whether the bread is ready by looking at the crust and by pushing the crust down with an oven glove or something that protects your hand. The bread needs to have a brown, but not burnt curst and needs to be a little bouncy, but firm. You can usually also smell if the bread starts to dry out.
To prevent the bread from becoming too dry, you can place a bowl of water into the bottom of the oven (make sure it sits on a grill rather than the actual bottom). I usually spray the bread with a little bit of water water after it has come out of the oven (with a small spray bottle that I got with my late cactus)!

As you can see, I put some chooped nuts and sunflower seeds in! Just had a two slices with butter and cheese! Yum! 😀

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