This is the simplest but possibly the best of all the recipes we have for baking a plain white loaf. It is made up of simply four ingredients flour, water, salt and yeast. The basic quantities are as follows:
Flour – 500g
Water – 300ml
Yeast – 1 teaspoon
Salt – 1 teaspoon
The first thing I am going to talk about is flour. This is the main component of any good loaf. Flour comes in a variety of grades from numerous suppliers click this link. You want to look out for a “strong white bread flour” this will be ideal for baking bread. Flour quality varies throughout the year, obviously it is harvested and milled and the quality slowly deteriorates until the next seasons harvest comes in. It is definitely worth trying another producer if you start to notice your bread becoming doughy or not rising to its potential as different manufacturers store and treat the flour differently resulting in a wide variance in the quality. Generally speaking the more you pay for flour the better quality you get. This could be said about a number of things but particularly with food products you really do get what you paid for.
The second thing I want to talk about is water. While you can use standard tap water I find that using sparkling mineral water really improves the final quality of your bread. Sparkling water is carbonated with the same gas, carbon dioxide, that is produced when yeast ferments. Whichever water you use make sure it is lukewarm. The optimal temperature is 28 degrees centigrade. This gives the yeast a kick start and gets them working converting the natural sugars into carbon dioxide.
Yeast – The absolute best yeast you can use is fresh yeast. You can normally get this if you ask at a bakers or supermarket bakery counter. It is not usually sold off the shelf however. If you can not find any fresh yeast use dried yeast but make sure you rehydrate it for fifteen minutes before adding to the flour. To rehydrate the yeast add a teaspoon of dried yeast to a cup with half a cup full of luke warm water and half a teaspoon of sugar. After fifteen minutes a creamy head should appear on the cup, scoop up this creamy head and add that to the bread mixture. Do not add the water or the dried yeast clumps.
Salt – Salt is what gives bread its seasoning and flavour. I find finely ground sea salt is the best for my tastes but experiment and find what suits your taste buds. There are a endless number of salts available. Famously the French Laundry in the Napa Valley serves a salt course. A whole course of a tasting menu dedicated to various types of salt. If you can’t afford three Michelin star luxury head to your local supermarket and see what you can find.
Combine all ingredients together in the mixing bowl.
Set the bread maker to bake on large setting with medium crust. Always use a slow bake option as opposed to the fast bakes which rush the process.
Wait until the machine beeps to say its done. Remove the bread immediately and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before slicing. Bake by hand