Well, it’s not really Ben’s Bread – it’s actually a fairly generic bread recipe that my 11 year old uses as a basis for his latest money-making wheeze – FredsBread ™! It’s basic, fairly forgiving, easy to follow, good for rough hands and adaptable to all sorts of ‘special’ ingredients. Whilst it will take up to 2.5 hours to make the bread this is about 20 minutes of activity split into 10 + 10 + bake with about 1 hour in between each – perfect in fact for a morning meeting/workshop with coffee breaks!
It makes a ‘bloomer’ style loaf big enough to feed 6-8 adults or 3-4 teenagers. Or you can control consumption and manage demand by making 16 or so smallish rolls. You may even be able to shift demand by then freezing some but we never seem to manage to. If you need more bread just multiply.
What you need:
- 600g of STRONG BREAD flour. NOT plain flour, NOT self-raising – STRONG BREAD flour. Can be white (gives lightest bread), brown (heavy), wholemeal (verrry healthy) or country grain. We find a mix of 400g white & something else works best. You will also need a little bit more flour for kneading and for ‘correcting’ consistency if you add too much liquid;
- 1 sachet (c 7g) of dried yeast;
- c. 400ml of warm water – not much in bread making is exact, if this makes you nervous buy a bread maker and follow it’s instructions to the letter;
- 10g salt;
- 40ml olive oil (you can use any other fat – butter, cooking margarine etc, we just like the taste & feel of olive oil. And it’s so much better for your skin :-);
- A large bowl
- A flat baking sheet/stone spread with a little oil (if needed)
- A large plastic bag or cling film
About 2.5 hours – so if you want it for lunch start at 09:00!
The yeast in this recipe will cause additional CO2 production. It’s probably equivalent to one human exhalation (don’t cite me) but if this causes you ethical palpitations then find a flat bread (no yeast or sourdough) recipe.
What to do:
- Read the packet of dried yeast instructions – they’re usually helpful. If they say to mix yeast with a little warm water (this uses up some of your water allowance!) and sugar do so now but don’t fret if you don’t have any sugar – there is plenty of carbohydrate in the flour that the yeast is just waiting to get it’s little enzymes into.
- Measure flour into the large bowl
- Mix in the salt so it is as evenly distributed as possible. Don’t put it in or near the yeast – it’ll kill it and you’ll have a brick not a loaf
- Make a well in the centre of the flour – think meteor crater
- Carefully pour in the oil, yeast (or yeast mixture – see 1.) and about half of your remaining water – think Santorini/Crater Lake
- Gently roll/mix the flour into the lake using your cupped hand/s and work it into a dough ball. If it is too dry (probably) add a little water and keep working with the heels of your hands. Try not to squeeze with your fingers. If it is too wet, add a little flour. It should reach a consistency which ‘collects’ stray bits of dough & flour from the bowl but is not sticky-wet. The classic newbie mistake is to add too much water and not have enough flour left over to fix it!
- Now you’re going to knead it. You can either spread a little flour on a worktop or others prefer to use a little olive oil instead – up to you. But you need to knead (hah) the dough ball until it gets elasticy and stretchy. This can take up to 10 minutes of ‘pushing’ with the heels of your hands – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/techniques/kneading for tips!
- Put your kneaded dough back into the bowl – some people say clean bowl but we prefer recycling to washing up and it seems to make little difference in the end. Cover with the cling film or (recycling version) put inside the plastic bag and leave somewhere slightly warm for up to 1 hour for the yeast to do it’s ‘carbohydrate to CO2 bit’ and for the dough to roughly double in size. Do NOT put it somewhere too hot – a fast rise might look exciting but a slow rise gives better texture & taste.
- Fun bit: once it has doubled, gently tap the middle of the dough with your fist. It will collapse. Do not panic.
- Remove the collapsed dough and knead again for 5 minutes but don’t be rough or squeeze too hard.
- It’s now decision time. To make rolls, divide the dough in half (2 large rolls) and then half again (4 large rolls) and again (8 good sized rolls) and possibly again (16 smallish rolls). This is a good time to get people to help as they can each take on a ‘section’. Roll each ball of dough around gently in your hands and place on the baking sheet/stone leaving about 5 cm in between them. They will expand! If you just want the bloomer loaf then flatten the dough into a rough rectangle and roll the long edges towards each other so they meet in the middle. Turn it over & place in the middle of the baking sheet/stone. If you’re feeling fancy, make a few diagonal cuts in the dough using a sharp knife. You could even sprinkle on a few poppy seeds (or whatever).
- Put the baking sheet/stone back into the plastic bag & try to make a ‘tent effect’ to allow for rising. Return to your rising spot for about another hour. You could cover with cling film but the re-rising dough tends to stick to it. Bag is best…
- Preheat the oven to 220 (200 fan)/425F/Gas 7
- After c 1 hour gently check that your bread has risen. Don’t worry if it looks slightly sluggish – the cooking heat will give it a jolt – but try not to touch or knock the bread as it could subside.
- Bake! For the rolls this is about 10 minutes then reduce heat to 200C (180 fan)/400F/Gas 6 for about another 5 minutes. For the whole loaf it’s about 20 minutes before reducing and cooking for another 10. In either case the bread is cooked when the underneath sounds hollow when tapped. So that will involve heat proof gloves and a little juggling! Don’t be afraid to bake for slightly longer to get that hollow sound – better a crunchy crust than a soggy loaf.
- When cooked, place loaf/rolls on a cooling rack and (optionally) cover with a clean cloth to protect from marauding insects. You may also need to protect it from marauding colleagues – hot bread has an amazing ability to distract delegates from even the most interesting workshop debates.
- When cool enough to handle easily, eat and for best results tear, don’t slice!
If this proves successful you can then introduce ‘specials’ – try a little chopped rosemary, or sliced onions, or crushed garlic, or olives or… anything really! This needs to go in at stage 5 to ensure even distribution and watch out for the water – whatever you add will alter the consistency slightly and you may need slightly less/more of the warm water.
And then sign up for http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/
(Photo: “Bread rolls”. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bread_rolls.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bread_rolls.jpg)
Recipe Feedback: “I had a go at making Ben’s bread with quite some success. It bloomed – as a bloomer should – far and wide. Tastes fine.” Elizabeth