Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Being half French, I spent every summer holiday as a child visiting my family in France. We used to stay with my grandfather who lived in a little town called Ussel in the Correze department of France. He was a very French Frenchman who loved his food, wine, hunting, vegetable garden and above all fishing. His love of all things food was infectious and is no doubt to blame for my obsession with all things food today. We ate all manner of delights on those holidays from snails and brains to frogs legs and oysters and a plethora of saucissons, pates and cheeses between! However, a prominent and lasting memory of those holidays is breakfast! Partly because as a child starting each day with a bowl of hot Nesquik is pretty much a dream come true, but mainly because of the bread or more precisely the baguettes. Delivered freshly from the bakers van every morning, they were light, firm, crisp and oh so delicious. Slathered with butter and dipped in hot chocolate, the memory of those tartines still brings a smile to my face (although the often scalded tongue doesn’t!)
So, long story short, it was the thought of those baguettes that got me interested in making my own bread. I had fanciful ideas of recreating those baguettes in my home kitchen and eating breakfast as a 7 year old me every morning…Nesquik and all. Well that dream was short lived once I discovered that making those classic baguettes took a whole host of pre-ferments, starters, yeasts and flours that I didn’t know about and on top of that required a whole load of skills and experience that I simply didn’t have! So after a few futile months of trying I eventually gave up and realised that I needed to learn to walk before I could run and that brings me to this basic white bread dough. At one end of the bread spectrum there are sourdough baguettes, naturally leavened panettones and buttery enriched breads and at the other end you have a basic white loaf! And that is what this video is about. If you simply want to get one foot tentatively on the bread ladder, then this is the place to start.
1200g Strong White Bread Flour
12g Instant Yeast
780g Tepid Water
50g Olive Oil (Optional)
Flour/Rice Flour for dusting
Put all the ingredients together in a KitchenAid or a large bowl and mix on a low speed (1-2) for 5 to 8 minutes. The dough should look smooth, stretchy and well homogenised. Scrape any dough off the dough hook, cover the bowl with a plate, tea towel or sheet of Clingfilm and allow to proof at room temperature for an hour or until the dough is lifting the cover off the bowl.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface being careful not to tear it too much and then using a dough scraper or a large knife divide it in two.
Flatten the dough out into a rectangle by pushing and manipulating it with the tips of your fingers. Then using the palms of your hands scoop both sides up simultaneously and fold them over so they meet in the middle, push them down to flatten them out and degas the dough a little. Now fold the two top corners in like you are making a paper plane, then hold the point that has been formed at the top and pull it up and over on to itself. Now with your hands flat, push the front part of the dough you have just rolled over down, then reach around the top of the dough and roll it over again. Push the new front down and keep repeating until you have formed a nice taut roll.
Place each loaf into a tin (grease with a little butter and flour if you are worried about the bread sticking), cover with a tea towel and leave to proof at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 220c with an empty roasting tin on the bottom shelf. When you are ready to bake, put both loaf tins side-by-side in the oven and then pour a cup of cold water into the hot roasting tin and quickly close the oven door. The water in the roasting tin will produce steam for the first few minutes of cooking which will help your loaves 'spring' and also give them a nice crisp, shiny crust. Bake for 10 minutes at this temperature, then turn the oven down to 200c and continue to cook for a further 23 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave the loaves in their pans for a couple of minutes, (the steam from the bread will help release them from their tins), but then do transfer them to a wire rack otherwise they will get very soggy bottoms. Allow to cool for a couple of hours before slicing.