Warm air wafts in gently through the bedroom shutters, typical of this time of the year and is referred to locally as the ‘Berg’ wind. We tend to get a few days of these conditions during the winter, a warm respite from the cold.
The dawn is just breaking through and the garden is filled with different bird calls. I open the shutters and gaze out over the sea, beautiful pink and blue shades, different from last evening’s sunset where the sky was a magnificent magenta hue, casting deep pink shadows across the sea.
After my morning coffee I will start a batch of bread. Through the years I have tried many different recipes but have since settled on a handful of reliable favourites; one does not need much more than that.
I enjoy making bread and love the smell that fills the kitchen as the warm yeasted dough starts to rise. The loaf today is a white ‘cottage’ loaf with a nice crispy crust. I find this recipe suitable for making a loaf, to shape into rolls, or to roll some of the dough as thinly as possible to for a pizza base.
This recipe makes one large loaf or 2 smaller ones or a loaf and some rolls. I usually mix my dough in the Kenwood mixer using the dough hook, but you can do it just as easily in a large bowl by hand.
1 kg white flour plus a little extra for dusting and kneading
14 g instant dried yeast
20 g salt
700ml water (approximately)
Place the flour, yeast and salt in the mixer bowl, pour in almost all the water and mix to sticky dough. (Add more water if too dry) Mix for about 5-6 minutes adding a little extra flour if required until you have dough that is soft, spongy and slightly sticky to the touch.
Scoop the dough out onto a flour dusted work surface, work the dough with your hands, pushing flat with palms, then folding far edge towards you, pushing it back into the dough with the heel of your hand. Work firmly but gently for about 5 minutes. The dough should feel soft, springy and alive.
Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place (not hot) to prove, the dough should almost double in size. The time this takes will depend on how hot or moist the room is, the type of flour and the age of the yeast, usually about an hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it onto the floured surface and knead for a few more minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a floured baking sheet. Dust heavily with flour, cover with the tea towel and leave to rise; about another hour.
Set oven to 250∘C.
After an hour the dough will have spread, it should be twice its original size. Gently, tuck it back into a neat, high ball and place in the hot oven, taking care not to slam the door.
Bake for ten minutes at 250∘C, then turn the heat down to 220∘C and continue to bake for about twenty five to thirty minutes. Check the loaf for doneness by tapping on the bottom, it should sound hollow. Let loaf cool and settle before slicing.