I woke up on Saturday with a craving for some freshly baked bread. The desire was so strong that by 7:30am I had a batch of wholemeal bread proving in the morning sunshine. You can buy good quality bread from bakeries these days but there is something so unique and enjoyable about making your own. I think it is to do with how the bread physically grows in size before your eyes and gives off different aromas during each stage that increases the anticipation of eating it and makes it taste so good once you get your reward of that first, still warm, slice.
This bread dough starts off very wet and sticky, but the more you knead it, adding just a little extra flour, it will become a soft workable dough. I have always wanted to try making bread in one of those traditional bread proving baskets, but as I don’t have one I decided to improvise with a wooden bread basket and a well floured tea towel. I’m delighted to say it worked well and produced a lovely humped shape and rustic flour dusted loaf. A few quick slashes across the top and it was ready for the oven.
Preheating the baking tray ensured a crisp and golden brown base, while a few sprits of water in the oven created a little steam which helped give the bread a thick crisp crust. As the bread baked, the aroma of hot toasting wheat was wonderful. It permeated through the whole kitchen, making my mouth water. I wandered around impatiently waiting for it to cool before cutting my first slice and eating it, no butter required. Wheaty with a moist crumb and a crisp chewy crust, delicious, and just in time for lunch.
Wholemeal Basket Bread
500g wholemeal flour, plus extra for kneading and dusting
450ml warm water
5g dried yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Mix together the oil and water and pour over the flour. Shape your fingers into a claw shape and use to swirl around the ingredients to bring the mixture to a wet and sticky dough.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, it will be very sticky but it will naturally become less wet as you knead it, so keep working with it. After 5 minutes, add another 50g-ish of flour to bring it to a workable dough.
Form the dough into a ball and place in large greased bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 2hrs in a warm place.
Once doubled in size, knock back the dough and reform it into a ball. Rub a tea towel with a generous amount of rye or wholemeal flour and use it to line a medium sized mixing bowl or wooden bread basket.
Place the dough ball on top of the floured tea towel and gently fold the sides over the top of the dough. Leave to rise again for another 90 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 240C and place a sturdy baking tray in the oven to get hot.
Once the dough has risen, carefully invert it out onto the hot baking tray (it should come away from the floured tea towel easily). Slash the top of the bread gently with a bread knife and spay the top with water. Place the bread into the oven and quickly spray in a mist of water before quickly shutting the door. (This helps create steam which gives the bread a thick and crispy crust).
Bake for 10 minutes before decreasing the temperature to 200C and baking for a further 30 minutes.
Test the bread is sufficiently baked by tapping the base with your knuckles. It should be crisp and sound hollow. If it sounds muffled, give it 3-5 minutes longer and try again. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool to room temperature before slicing.
Farmer's Wife Harvest Cafe, Port Fairy
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