Le pain quotidien
I remember a time in my life when all I wanted for dinner were steaming lattes and fresh baked bread. There was this place near my parents' home where they had fresh bread at about 6.30 p.m., hot out of the oven, redolent, crusty, amazingly good bread. Back in those days, Eastenders was on BBC Prime at 6 p.m., I would watch the day's episode - do you have a secret unspeakable, shameful dream, like for instance singing a duet with Rod Stewart? Mine is to be on Eastenders. For a couple of years on a row. Man, I'd really love that ahah!!! - and when it was over, I'd put on a coat and dart off to get freshly baked bread. Then I would get home, make myself a latte and just watch butter melting over the steamy bread. And then I'd eat. Whilst playing Sid Meyer's Civilization. And be quite happy.
So bread is a big thing with me. With us, actually. When we started dating we went away on weekends to my family's summer house, and the fondest memories of those days are of mornings laying in bed and gobbling away on toasted baguettes. When we got married we started - and by this I mean my husband did, as I have a problem with dough - making our own bread, first for dinner parties only, then on a full scale, bread we'd freeze and that we would have for the whole week. We still do. Later on in life we bought one of those bread machines, so convenient they are, really, as they do the hard work for you and you can still make your fave bread recipe. Hubby's tweaked his over the years, because I'm not a white bread person, I want a bread that is filled with stuff, like bran, cereals, oatmeal, dried fruits, nuts, you name it. Now that our second bread machine as keeled over, we're back to the old method of handmade bread, and that means that some weekends this house is a full on bakery, as the kid likes white bijou bread to take to school, hubby needs baguettes to take to work, and I'm still demanding my wholesome bread filled with good stuff.
So, for my husband's basic bread recipe you'll need these basic ingredients, to which you can then add whatever you fancy, but I'll show you later in the week how you can tweak this recipe:
- 350 gr flour
- 200 ml lukewarm water
- 9 gr fresh yeast, or 4 gr dry baker's yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 tbsp oil
Place the flour in a bowl, and dig a hole in the middle. Around the edges of that hole, scatter the yeast. Inside the hole place the salt, the oil and add the water. With the help of a fork start mixing flour and water together. WHen it's all mixed in, take the dough off the bowl and start kneading by hand over a surface scattered with flour. YOu must knead until you obtain a silky, smooth dough, that has some elasticity to it. Form into a sort of ball, cover with flour that you scatter by hand over all the dough, and let it proof inside the bowl four a few hours - 1 to 2 if you're pressed for time should be the minimum required, but it does make for a much better bread if you leave it for at least 6 to 8 hours. Once it has proofed, get the dough off the bowl with the aid of a spatula onto a floured surface and mold it into the shape you want (I've just started braiding all our doughs, and trust me, it does make for a deliciously crusty bread!). Make sure you have your hands duly floured as well! PLace the dough on an oven tray, that has been cvered with baking paper and let it rest for at leats 15 minutes, but 30 minutes would be the best. Then take it to a previously heated oven at 200º, for 20 to 3o minutes, untill it has reached the baking level you want. Some people prefer their bread to look tanned while others like it jsut golden, so you choose the colouring you like on your bread. Take it out and let it cool, and enjoy. You won't be sorry you've baked your own batch!!