A very hygge Thanksgiving | Part 1: Basic Bread recipe

In honour of our American friends celebrating Thanksgiving this week, we think everyone could use a little hygge time to hit refresh. So dust those counter tops. It’s time to make a little mess in the kitchen and summon a little inspiration for the festive season ahead.

Bread rising gif

From Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley.

Basic Bread

This is the simplest possible yeasted dough. It can be worked into all kinds of shapes or augmented with other ingredients to produce different flavours and textures. To complete this bread in about 4 hours, aim to make the dough at about 27°C. The yeast quantity shown in the recipe is fairly small. In winter you may wish to increase it a bit to allow for the difficulty of keeping a relatively small piece of dough warm in normal kitchen conditions.

Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves

600g Stoneground strong wholemeal flour

5g Sea salt

400g Water

8g Fresh yeast

1013g Total

Flour or seeds for the top

Weigh the flour and salt into a bowl. Measure the total amount of water and pour about a quarter of it into a small jug or bowl. Dissolve the yeast in this water by stirring it gently with your fingers. (If you are using traditional active dried yeast, stir the granules around for a moment or two and then leave them to soften; they will probably float to the surface. In a few minutes they should be beginning to dissolve and foam a little.) Pour the yeasty water into the bowl with the flour and salt and add the rest of the water. Use one hand to hold the bowl and the other to begin mixing the dough (you could use a wooden spoon but it’s just another thing to wash up, and hands are more effective anyway). As soon as all the dry flour has become wet and the dough has begun to form, scrape it out of the bowl on to the worktop and begin kneading.

Do not add any flour at this stage, even if the dough seems to you to be rather wet. If it seems too dry, add some more water. As you knead, the flour will absorb the water and the gluten structure should begin to develop. Knead for 10–15 minutes. If you are using a mixer, rather less time will be needed. At the end of the mixing/kneading process, the dough should be soft, slightly silky to the touch and with a definite elasticity that was not there at the beginning.

Make sure the bowl is reasonably clean and put the dough back in it. Don’t worry about oiling the bowl: it’s a waste of oil and makes washing up more difficult. Cover the bowl with a polythene bag that is big enough not to come into contact with the rising dough. Leave the bowl in a warm place (around 25°C, if possible).

After 2 hours, the dough should have risen appreciably. If it has grown significantly in less than 2 hours, you can either ‘knock it back’ by gently folding it over on itself a couple of times and leaving it to rise again, or you can simply progress to the next stage.

Grease one large loaf tin or 2 small ones with some fat or vegetable oil; a hard fat such as butter is better than liquid oil because the latter tends to run down the sides of the tin and form a pool in which the base of the loaf partially fries. Tip the dough on to the worktop again. If you plan to make 2 small loaves, divide it in half. Using the barest flick of flour to prevent the dough sticking to your hands or the worktop, roll the dough into a sausage about twice as long as the longest side of the tin. Flatten this sausage with your knuckles and then fold it in three. Again, knuckle the dough down until it is a flattish rectangle about two-thirds the length of your tin.

Starting at the edge furthest from you, fold it over and roll it up, trying to keep the dough under some tension but not folding it so tightly that it tears. Finish your roll with the seam underneath and then pick the whole thing up and place it in the tin. If you intend to cover the surface with seeds or flour, it is better to do this before the dough goes into the tin. Have a shallow bowl of flour or seeds available and roll the freshly moulded dough piece in it, ensuring that what will be the top of the loaf, i.e. the side opposite the seam, gets well covered. If the stuff doesn’t stick very well, your dough surface is too dry. Get some water and rub it over the dough or spritz it using a household sprayer with warm water in it. Then dip the dough. Place it seam-side down in the tin. The dough should roughly half fill the tin (a little less if the dough is made from white flour).

Set your bread to prove in a warm place, covered with a stiff plastic bag or large bowl to stop it drying out too much. It is important not to let the dough touch the cover as it rises otherwise it may stick and damage the loaf structure when the cover is removed.

Preheat the oven to 230°C or its hottest setting. When the dough has risen appreciably but still gives some resistance when gently pressed with the pad of one finger, put the loaf or loaves carefully into the oven. Bake for 30–40 minutes, turning the heat down to 200°C after 10 minutes.

Turn the bread out of the tin and check that it is done (see page 122). Don’t be afraid to put it back in the oven for a few minutes if you are not sure that it is fully baked. If the bottom seems rather pale by comparison with the top, turn the loaf out of its tin and put it on one of the oven’s wire shelves to finish baking.

When you are happy that it is done, cool it on a rack to stop the bottom sweating and going soggy.

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