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The Universal Bread Recipe

Formula: 500g of bread flour, 325g of water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon yeast.

Method: Mix the dry ingredients including quick yeast. Then add the water to the flour and mix to a rough dough. Leave to rest for half an hour then knead for 10 minutes or so. If too dry, knead with wet hands. If very sticky, knead with some flour on the work surface. Put back in the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for about 4 to 5 hours. The dough should have doubled or tripled in volume.

Shape and proof: Grease a 1kg or 2lb loaf tin with a few drops of veg oil. With wet hands pull the dough from the bowl onto the work surface and press into a rough square so the length of a side is about the same as the length of the loaf tin. Roll dough into a sausage and plop it in the tin. Put somewhere draught free (I use the microwave) to prove for an hour or so until the dough is just doming over the top of the tin.

Bake: Warm the oven to as close to 250°C as it will go for 20 mins to half an hour. Put the loaf tin in the middle and bake for 20 mins. Reduce the heat to around 200°C and bake for a further 15 to 20 mins until top is a dark brown. If you don't like well baked crusts, pop some aluminium foil over the top of the loaf in the second half of the bake. Turn out to cool on a rack for an hour before slicing.

Sourdough instead of yeast: Use 2 tablespoons of active (recently fed) wet starter. Mix with the water in the recipe. Then add mixture to the flour and salt in the bowl. Rest and knead as before. Allow 10 to 14 hours to rise. Shape and proof as before. Allow 2 to 4 hours or so to proof until again doming over the top of the tin. Bake as before.

Vary the flour: Try wholemeal, a mix of white and wholemeal or try a few hundred grams of spelt. Up to 100g of ground up porridge oats won't change the dough much. As long as the total weight of the flours comes to 500g the recipe will work.

Add stuff: Add chopped walnuts, rosemary seeds, poppy seeds, or just sling in a tablespoon of mixed seeds. Add sultanas or dried apricots or dates - chop them up and soak for half an hour first. The nuts and seeds don't count in the weight of the flour.

Vary the shape: Cut the dough into 6 or 8 to make rolls. Form into rounds, squash them a bit and leave to prove on an oven try for an hour or so. Bake on high for 15 minutes until golden.
Or roll out the 6 balls of dough into thin ovals, rest for 20 mins and bake on a stone for 5 to 10 minutes for pitta breads.
Divide the dough into two for Pizza Romana style pizzas. Pat down into roughly rectangular shapes and place in well oiled oven trays or roasting tins and allow to rise for an hour. Add toppings and bake for 15 to 20 mins on high.
Divide the dough into two and pat each half down into a oval shape. Roll up, rest while the oven heats up and bake seam side up for a 'rustique' look.

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Last modified: Mon Jun 29 18:36:27 BST 2020 | This is a Web page