What's the easiest basic bread recipe I can use for the first time?

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Answered by: Sakina, An Expert in the Bread Baking for Beginners Category
The Easiest Basic Bread Recipe Available

Bread-making is a wonderful experience which is really very easy to do, but many people shy away from it, because it seems complicated and difficult to get right. In fact, it's neither of those things, and this recipe should start you off making your own artisan bread with no difficulty at all.



Ingredients:

500g strong white flour

1 x packet/7g instant dried yeast

25g soft butter or 25ml olive oil

4 tsp salt

15g sugar

Approx: 120-250ml lukewarm/blood temperature water

1. Weigh out the flour into a bowl and add the butter or oil, the salt, the yeast, and the sugar, and give everything a good mix up. If you’re using butter, you need to rub it into the flour.



2. Run the tap until you have warm water – it only needs to be around 37.5 degrees Celsius; any warmer and you could kill the yeast. You can tell when the water is the right temperature, because when you put your hand into it, you can hardly feel it. That means it is at blood temperature.

3. Collect the water in a measuring jug, and pour around 120ml into the mixture in the bowl. Stir it with a knife or fork; it will start to clump together.

4. If you still have quite a lot of crumbs and floury bits in the bottom of the bowl, you should splash a little more water into that area, and mix some more. It doesn’t matter if you add a bit too much water – the dough will just be stickier – but it’s best to add in increments, to be on the safe side.

5. When you have a mass of dough in the bowl, and very few crumbs left in the bottom, that’s when you can stop with the water.

6. Heave the dough out of the bowl, and onto a floury surface. Knead the dough, by pushing the base of the palm of your hand into the dough, and as it splurges out at the top, fold that bit over, and repeat the exercise.

7. The dough has to be kneaded for around 7-8 minutes, in order to get the glutens working in the flour. The gluten is what creates the elasticity of the dough; it helps it rise, and gives it shape.

8. When you have finished kneading, the dough will look and feel soft and pliant, with a smooth surface.

9. Pop the dough back into the bowl, cover with either a damp tea towel, or cling film, and place the bowl in a warm area in the kitchen. Near a radiator is fine.

10. When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl, and knead it again for a couple of minutes. This is called ‘knocking back the dough’.

11. At this point, you can either leave the dough as a whole piece – this will make one loaf of bread, approximate 1lb or 500g in weight – or you can make bread buns with it.

12. To make the single loaf of bread: after you have knocked back the dough, pop it onto a greased baking tray or roasting tin, or even into a loaf tin, cover it again, and set it down in the warm area again.

13. To make approximately 6-8 bread buns: using a blunt knife, cut the dough into 6-8 even-sized pieces, and make them into spherical ball-shapes. Place each one evenly spaced on a greased baking tray or roasting tin. Cover again, and leave in the warm area.

14. When the buns or the loaf have doubled in size once again, pop them or it into the oven. Buns should take between 20-30 minutes, and a loaf should take around 35-45 minutes.

15. Remove from the oven, turn over the loaf or a couple of the buns, and tap on the bottom. If it sounds like a hollow box, it is ready. If it still sounds a little hollow, pop it back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes, and check again in the same way.

16. When the bread is baked, remove from the oven, and place on a metal cooling tray.

17. If you want the bread to have a slightly softer crust, wrap it in a clean tea towel as it cools. Alternatively, if you want it to have a crunchy crust, don’t wrap it in anything.

You can adapt this basic bread recipe to all kinds of flours, and add ingredients like nuts and seeds or cheese, if you prefer. One thing to note is that if you are a beginner, white flour produces the most consistent results. Brown or wholemeal flour can result in a heavier product.

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