Bread ... It's so easy!
It's baking day today.
I love bread. No, I really love bread and anything baked with dough. Fresh white loaves, crispy French sticks, Chelsea buns, hot cross buns, muffins, bagels and bloomers. Complex enriched breads like brioche and simple flatbreads like naan.
And I love to bake bread, to knead dough and feel it come alive in my hands. The smell of freshly baked bread is heaven, and to taste a roll still warm from the oven is divine.
Before I started to read up on a study sports nutrition I was in the carb load-up camp. It suited me fine. I would gorge on loaves to fuel my training.
But I’ve learned that for more effective recovery I need to up my protein intake and that has meant I’ve had to give somewhere. And it’s my trusty friend, the loaf, that has had to give.
Not all lost. I now make individual bread rolls and sticky fruit filled buns for a carb fix. Making 8 individual rolls I’m never tempted to eat the lot over 24 hous, which I might have been tempted to do with dough made into a single loaf!
Good bread is amazingly simple to make with a few ingredients. And if you’re heading off to the gym or out for a long run dough will happily rise for you whilst you’re out and be ready for baking when you get home.
Give baking a try and you’ll not look back.
Most packets of strong flour (you’ll need strong flour which has a higher gluten content, rather than regular plain flour for bread making, although if I’ve run out I’ve been known to add the odd spoonful to make up a mixture) will have a basic recipe on the side of the packet.
My favorite flour is a wholemeal with added seeds, but use whatever is your preference. Wholemeal contains more fibre, so is be a better nutrition choice over white.
To start, weigh out 500g of strong bread flour. To this add 1 tbs oil (I use rapeseed, but you could use olive or sunflower), 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp dried yeast (make sure your yeast is fresh. I once tried to use yeast I found at the back of my store cupboard that was out of date and I ended up very hard un-risen block). Pour in 300ml of tepid water and mix to combine. I use an electric mixer with a dough hook, but you can mix by hand or start off with a wooden spoon and then get in there with your hands.
Once the dough has formed turn out onto a lightly floured (or oiled) board and knead for about 5 mins.
So, you’ll ask, how should I knead by dough? Everyone has a different technique to kneading. Take a look at this short video clip from Paul Hollywood (BBC bakeoff baking guru) if you need some advice.
Once you’ve given the dough a good kneading and its nice and stretchy place in a large bowl and cover with clingfilm, or a clean tea towel, and leave in a warm place to rise, for about 1 hour. If your kitchen is cold then don’t worry, it’ll just take longer for the dough to rise.
Once the dough has risen to about double its original size turn out onto the board, knock back the air in the dough and knead for a few a minute.
Then cut your dough into 8 even pieces. Shape into round rolls and place on an oiled baking tray. Cover with the tea towel and leave for a second proving for about 30 minutes.
Once the rolls have risen, heat your oven to 220C/200C fan and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Your rolls will have a nice golden colour and sound hollow if you tap their base. If they appear pale, give the rolls a few more minutes baking time.
Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool.
I freeze my bread rolls once they are cold the day I bake them, so I always have fresh bread available. A short blast in the microwave will defrost a roll if you’ve forgotten to take one out of the freezer for your lunch.
I love to bake bread. That way I know exactly what’s in my diet. I sometimes vary the types of flour used. Maybe 50 :50 white : wholemeal for a lighter texture or add in a few handfuls of seeds. It’s up to you.