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Basic homemade white bread




1 large or 2 smaller loaves

By Heleen Meyer

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Warm, homemade bread with butter melting into it and a dollop of chunky apricot jam always bring back delightful memories. There is something comforting about freshly baked bread, which is sometimes difficult to describe. To bake your own bread, is not difficult, there are just a few basic guidelines that one should follow and understand. A well-tested recipe, with the correct ratio of ingredients is a good start. There are many ways to bake bread, but one with yeast that needs some kneading is a matter of a love for baking and actually quite therapeutic. A bread with yeast has a texture that is not easily achieved when baking bread with baking powder or with a mix and stir version. It may be more time consuming, but exciting to see how the bread ‘develops’ and it’s so rewarding to bake your own bread.

Stoneground flour gives the bread a coarser, yet lovely texture and almost creamy colour. It’s healthier than ordinary cake flour, as it is not so refined and more natural. If you do swap cake flour for stoneground flour in a recipe, you may need more liquid, as the stone ground flour is coarser.

  1. Place flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the oil. Mix well, but don’t be alarmed if it seems as if lumps are forming.
  2. Start by adding two-thirds of the water to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands. Gradually add more water until a soft, manageable dough is formed. Stone ground flour will require a bit more water than ordinary white bread flour.
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand by making a forward-rolling action with the heel of one hand and continue to repeat the motion. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic – it should take 7-10 minutes (or use the dough hook on your electric mixer).
  4. Knead until the dough can be shaped into a neat ball. When lightly pressed with your thumb to form a dent, it should bounce back immediately. If not, continue to knead for another few minutes.
  5. Spread a few drops of oil in a clean mixing bowl and place dough in the bowl. Spread a little oil over the dough to prevent it from drying out. Don’t use too much oil, as it can prevent the dough from rising.
  6. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place a clean dishtowel or blanket over the bowl. Place the bowl in a warm spot, such as on a windowsill or close to a warm oven. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes or until doubled in volume. (On a cold day, you can place the dough in a car, that’s standing in the sun – it makes for a wonderful ‘warm spot’.)
  7. Turn out risen dough onto a lightly floured surface again and knock down with your hands.
  8. Line two 1-litre loaf tins or one 2-litre loaf tin with baking paper and lightly grease with oil.
  9. Shape the dough with your hands to be just smaller than the tins. (Or see tips for more ways to shape the dough.) Place dough in the tins, lightly brush with oil and cover with a clean dishtowel.
  10. Allow to rise in a warm place for another 20-30 minutes or until doubled in volume. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 °C. Sprinkle a few pinches of dry flour over the bread. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until is sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then carefully turn out and allow to cool down completely. (Or immediately slice the warm crust to reward all your effort.)

Chef's Tip

Bread baking tips
1. Shape the dough into different forms for other bread and rolls. Bake it in different containers, such as empty tins of different sizes, small terracotta pots or mini loaf tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes before opening the oven and remember that the size will determine the baking time. The dough can also be used to make roosterkoeke.
2. The dough freezes well, so if you don’t feel like baking two breads at once, freeze the rest for another time. Thaw the dough in the fridge and then continue the recipe from step 5. If the dough is still cold, the first rising may take a little longer.
3. Rye or wholewheat bread: make 1 x Basic homemade white bread dough, but substitute half of the flour with rye or wholewheat flour and use 125 ml (½ cup) extra water or as necessary.
4. Pizza dough: prepare the dough as above but only up to the end of step 6. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock down. Divide into four or eight equal parts. If you only want to prepare four pizzas, use half the dough and freeze the rest immediately before it continues to rise. Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Sprinkle flour onto two large baking trays. Roll each piece of dough into a circle or oval shape of approximately 0,5 cm thick. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle. Brush each piece of dough with a little oil and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until almost cooked, but not golden brown, for an extra crispy end result. Top to your preference and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cooked and the cheese has melted.
5. Other seasonings can be added to the Basic homemade white bread, rye or wholewheat bread dough. Robust herbs like chopped rosemary or thyme work. You can even knead ingredients such as pesto, olives, cheese, caramelised onions or sun-dried tomatoes into the dough before rising in the pan. Take care not to add too many ingredients, as it can prevent the dough from rising. Sprinkle any of the breads with seeds if you like.

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