Perfect White Bread
It’s Saturday morning which can mean only one thing for gay men and people with aspirations around the globe: BRUNCH! But what’s brunch without BREAD!
I’ve used the inimitable Dan Lepard’s bread recipe for about eight years now. This recipe is almost identical to his, but I’ve picked up a few tweaks over the years. Here they are:
- I like my bread super tasty, so I doubled the salt. It also makes the recipe easier to remember (I call this the 4,3,2,1 recipe, as you can see from the ingredients below).
- I always use a banneton. Bannetons are small reed baskets used to shape and prove bread dough. They give the bread distinctive ridges and also hold it in the perfect shape while it proves. It’s also much easier to turn out when you’re ready to bake.
- A must for all bread baking is a Dutch oven or large cast iron casserole dish with a lid. The purpose behind the Dutch oven is to hold all the moisture which is released by the bread dough when it first goes into the oven. It creates a nice little humid environment around the bread because the steam can’t escape past the lid, which stops the bread from drying out too quickly, meaning it can rise to its fullest potential. Some people put a tray of water on the bottom of the oven, but I find this works much better. Just remember to remove the lid around half way through to allow the bread to crisp up!
400g strong white bread flour
300g warm water
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp fast action yeast
In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook) mix the flour, yeast and salt.
Measure out the water (yes - weigh it, it’s important to get this bit spot on) into a measuring jug. Pour the water into the flour mixture and mix well with a silicone spatula. If you’re using a stand mixer, allow the dough hook to do the work. Mix until you have a very sticky mass (it will be difficult to handle but don’t worry). Cover the bowl and leave for ten minutes (this allows the flour to hydrate fully and will help it to be less annoying and sticky).
After ten minutes, grease an area of your counter with a tiny drizzle of olive oil. Grease your hands too. Turn out the bread dough and knead it for literally ten seconds, rotating the dough after each knead. Return the dough to the bowl and cover for another ten minutes. Repeat this kneading and resting process three more times, regressing the counter and your hands if necessary. The dough should now be very smooth and easy to handle.
After the fourth knead, cover the dough and leave to stand on the counter for 40 minutes.
When 40 mins is up, check on the dough (it should have risen quite dramatically). Turn out the dough into your greased counter and punch it down or flatten it out with your finger tips, to remove some of the larger air bubbles. The dough should end up like a rough oblong.
Roll the oblong up tightly and tuck the ends under. Place seam side down on the counter, flour the top and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave for 40 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a banneton basket, flour the banneton and place the dough seam side up in the basket, cover and leave for 40 minutes (this is my favourite option).
Halfway through this second prove, preheat the oven to 220c and place a large, cast iron Dutch oven with the lid on inside to warm up.
After the full 40 minutes has passed, carefully remove the Dutch oven and sprinkle coarse cornmeal or semolina on the bottom to stop the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to the Dutch oven and carefully make a long slit down the middle length of the dough with a very sharp knife or razor blade. Put the lid back on. Place in the oven and bake for a total of 40 minutes, removing the Dutch ovens lid after 25 minutes have elapsed.
Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool for at least two hours before slicing.