Look, I believe in the nutritional, virtuous and downright soulful qualities of wholegrain as much as the next right-thinking foodie, but sometimes you just need white bread. And sometimes you just need white bread baked in a tin. For sandwiches, for picnics, for easy lunches or – most importantly – for bacon sarnies1.
I didn’t really eat meat for about 20 years, and only had my ways corrupted by my carnaholic wife, so I thought I’d revisit meat abstinence for Lent 2015. So, for Easter Saturday, I’m officially breaking my fast with a bacon sarnie. And some white bread.
In this case, I’m enriching the dough by using milk instead of water. I also use a mix of strong white and plain flours. This makes it sweeter, possibly softer, and slightly more indulgent. It’s not as rich or sweet as a brioche or babka say, which have eggs and more sugar in the dough, so it’s still versatile enough to go as well with jam as it does with bacon.
This is a nice basic loaf that’s good for beginners: it’s not too high hydration (64%), so the dough is quite manageable.
300g strong white bread flour
200g plain/all-purpose flour
10g fine sea salt
10g caster sugar
10g fresh yeast (about 6g/1 tsp ADY)
20g thick cream or unsalted butter, melted
1. Warm the milk to about body temperature.
2. Add the caster sugar (about 2 tsp) to the milk then the yeast. Whisk it up then leave to activate.
3. Put the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.
4. When the yeast mix is frothy, add to the flour, along with the cream or butter.
5. Bring the dough together, turn out, then knead until smooth. You could do this in a mixer or even a food processor with a dough attachment. Form into a ball.
6. Clean the bowl and oil it slightly, then put in the ball of dough, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.
7. Give the dough another quick knead, put back in the bowl, cover and leave for another 10 minutes. Do this once more, then leave it to prove until doubled in size.
8. When doubled in size, take the dough out and form into a tight ball. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
9. Lightly oil a 1kg loaf tin.
13. Slash the top with a sharp blade in a pattern of your choice2, then put in the oven.
14. After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 180C.
15. After another 20 minutes, take it out, remove from the tin, and put back for another 10 minutes.
16. Allow to cool completely on a rack before cutting.
1 English slang for sandwiches.
2 I’ve read that in the old days when a village shared a communal oven, the slashes on top of a loaf were a type of signature, a way to identify your bread once baked.