It’s the third week of 2011 and I have stopped buying bread. Well, I do have an emergency loaf in the freezer, but I am no longer a prisoner to the over-priced and not-that-great French bakery around the corner and I can smugly avoid the bread aisle at the supermarket. I haven’t gotten around to growing the sourdough starter yet (sorry Dom!), but definitely feel back in the swing of breadmaking.
These robust loaves have become our daily bread. They’re quick to make, have a good crust, a nice crumb and turn into excellent toast. The recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cooks Companion, one of my most-used books for both recipe and reference purposes.
Country-style Crusty Bread
I have to thank my sister Marion for the baking paper technique described below – much easier than fluffing about with flour-covered teatowels and the like. This makes two loaves, so you have one to eat today and one to freeze.
800g unbleached strong flour
200g wholemeal strong flour
1Tbsp instant dried yeast
1Tbsp fine salt
2Tbsp olive oil
600ml lukewarm water
Put everything into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed until you have a smooth but not sticky dough (about 8 minutes). If you don’t have a mixer, prepare to knead for about 15-20 minutes.
Divide dough in half (I weigh it to be sure) and put each half into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with tea towels and leave until doubled, about one hour.
Knock back and knead each piece for a couple of minutes, then return to bowls and let rise again for about 30 minutes, covered with tea towels again.
Gently form each piece into a loaf (“like a fat cigar,” Stephanie says) and place on a liberally floured piece of baking paper. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C, with a heavy baking tray inside. Carefully lift the baking paper and loaves onto the hot tray and bake for about 20 minutes, then turn over and bake for another five minutes (you can remove the baking paper at this point). The base of each loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.