I do appreciate that everyone is entitled to holidays, even the hard working Vietnamese couples that slave away at all hours of the day and night at our local hot bread shop. I hope they’re having a lovely time. What I should have done is to buy a whole lot of bread before Christmas and stuck it in the freezer, not that there would have been any room with all the ice blocks I was making. But I didn’t, so here we are with no bread. Oh, yes, I could go up to the nearest mall because Baker’s Delight doesn’t go on holidays, but then the Horror will want to come too and he’ll want a milkshake and a surprising amount of sushi and then I’ll have to have a coffee to cope with him and then a loaf of bread will have ended up costing me thirty dollars. I’m going to have to make it myself.
I have alluded to this method of making bread when I was chatting about cheese and bacon rolls a while back. It isn’t a method that requires a whole lot of kneading, but you do have to stay a little focused, otherwise you get the risings all wrong and you end up with a loaf that looks like a depressed Frenchman. This method comes from that monumental tome, The Cook’s Book.
Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with three hundred and fifty grams of water. Squash up the yeast with a fork until it’s dissolved. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten twists of the salt shaker. Mx it all up with your hands until the flour is incorporated, then cover it with a damp tea towel and go fold sheets for about ten minutes. Pour a slug of nice olive oil over the dough and knead it in. Go pay a phone bill or two. Repeat with the olive oil and the ten minute pause until you’ve done it three times. Leave the dough covered in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This is very dependent on how warm the spot you’ve left it in is. Often I put it in the oven with just the light on, but today my oven is occupied with ginger nuts, so I’ve placed it in the square of sunlight that comes through the kitchen skylight and moves like a laser beam through the room during the afternoon, melting everything in its deadly path.
Once it has doubled, punch it about a bit and manhandle it into a loaf tin that has been lined with baking paper. Leave it again, covered with a damp tea towel, until it has doubled in size. For my sized tin, this is when it’s doughy shoulders have just risen above the sides of the tin.
You put it in a hot oven, about two hundred and twenty degrees for fifteen minutes. You can mess about with brushing the top with water and slashing it with a sharp knife, but nobody really cares about that kind of stuff among my consumer base. Drop the temperature to one hundred and eighty degrees Celsius and bake it for a further thirty to forty minutes, but keep an eye on it. It should be all brown and crusty looking on top and sound hollow when you, feeling slightly foolish, knock on its top.
Once it’s out of the oven, lift it out of the tin by the baking paper, otherwise it’s sides will get damp as it cools. My grandma says you shouldn’t eat bread the day it’s baked, it’ll give you a tummy ache. I defy you to try abstaining from chopping off the end of your loaf and slathering it with butter and possibly Vegemite while it’s still warm. I’m willing to risk a tummy ache.