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It must be a Monday morning / summer holiday thing. The kids have gone completely berserk.

In particular, DB2 is putting the fear of god into me. He has a favourite toy hammer, which he is wielding with crazed abandon, swinging it into walls, doors and breakable items. I’m actually at this present moment too frightened to intercept it, in case I get the full might of it swung into my face.

He is very much putting me in mind of a certain Norse god actually…thunderously knocking out entire villages with his mighty hammer…(must be partly down to that shock of white blonde hair on his head too…)

Anyway, I thought I’d share another little money saving tip today…singing the virtues of home baked bread.

I’ve been home-baking bread for a while actually, as it works out much cheaper than shop bought, especially since the cost of bread went up. An average loaf is now around £1.20-£1.50, which, when you’ve got a sandwich loving son and a husband who believes that four rounds of toast is a fairly average sized breakfast, can be a bit of a drain on the finances.

Here is the point where I mention Approved Food again as well. They often have offers on bread flour; I recently invested in 20 kilo bags of granary flour, for 50p a bag. One bag makes a bumper sized loaf; working out as almost a quid cheaper than the shops.

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There are a few things that put people off making bread. They perhaps make it the once, it doesnt quite work as well as they want, and it puts them off for life. I’ve had my fair share of bread disasters, believe me! But get the basics right, and you’ll never go back to shop bought ever again.

The formula for a successful loaf is very simple really. It generally goes:

1) 500g bread flour

2) Around 270ml of warm water

3) 1.5 tsp easy action yeast

4) 1-2 tsp salt

5) 20g butter.

I simply dump all the ingredients (apart from the water) into a huge bowl, mix together, then add the water slowly, mixing with a wooden spoon, until it’s all stuck together enough for me to start kneading.

I then knead it for around 10 mins (less for White flour when I’m making rolls), leave it to prove until it’s twice the size (an hour for white, two for wholemeal or granary) then pop it in the oven at around 200c for half an hour. Less for rolls, around 15mins.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? There are a few little tips to make sure your loaf turns out perfect.

Bread Making Tips:

1) Use warm water. This bit is so important. Yeast is alive…and needs the right temperatures to get jiggy with it. Too cold, it will become sluggish and not do anything. Too hot, you’ll kill it. A nice warmish temperature is perfect and gets them in the mood.

2) Perfect kneading. Underkneading is not a good idea. Neither is over-kneading. It should be springy (ie poke a finger in it and it slowly bounces back to shape). It should still feel slightly moist, but not so wet that it’s still sticking all over your hands. Neither should it feel so dry that it feels floury (you’ll get an equally dry loaf!) If it’s too dry, add a splash of water. Too wet, add a sprinkle of flour. Easy!

3) Place a damp tea towel over it when proving. Really really important. It stops the bread drying out and gives the yeast perfect conditions to do their stuff. Often recipes recommend oiled cling film over the bowl instead, but a damp cloth is much easier!

4) Place the dough in a warm place. In a sunny room, or near-ish to a radiator in the winter. (I use the airing cupboard in the winter, it’s pleasantly warm enough to make the dough rise really well!)

5) Some recipes suggest knocking the air out of it and proving twice. I’ve never bothered. It’s entirely up to you, but experiment and see what works best for you!

6) If, in the oven, it starts to go a bit black on top, simply pop some foil over it. This will help it not to burn!

7) Test it’s cooked. Simply tap its bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done!

8) Divide up and freeze. If you don’t eat much bread, simply cut up and freeze into portions. Hooray!

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Here’s one I made earlier. Or last night, to be precise. I’ve frozen the rest!

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