I’m such a fickle thing… I have a new favourite yeast bread!
A half-day bread baked in a standard kitchen oven, this recipe manages to produce a loaf with a crunchy crust and a tight but super-soft crumb, and it tastes absolutely magnificent.
The secret is a slightly slower rise. Most recipes would call for about 15g fresh yeast for this quantity of flour, with a 1 hour proof, but the slightly smaller amount of yeast than usual in this recipe makes the world of difference.
I adapted the recipe from Darina Allen on the Guardian website, where she also has some great tips on kneading, proofing etc, and notes about the ingredients. It’s well worth a read if you’re new to bread baking.
Makes 1 x 450g (1lb) loaf
Hands-on time about 30 minutes together
Rising time about 2 and a half hours total
Baking time 30 minutes
Note if you are converting fresh to active dry or instant yeast:
for active dry yeast you should halve it by weight (5g for this loaf);
for instant yeast, you should divide it by 3 (about 3g for this loaf).
215ml (7 1/4 fl oz) lukewarm water
10g (1/3 oz) fresh yeast
350g (2 3/4 cups, spooned and scraped) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
15g (1 Tbsp) butter or 15ml (1 Tbsp) olive oil
Put 80ml (1/3 cup) of the water into a small bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the water and leave in a warm place for about 5 minutes.
Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter or olive oil and make a well in the centre.
Pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining lukewarm water. Mix to a loose dough, adding a little more water or flour as needed to bring it together (it will depend on the absorbency of your flour).
Turn the dough onto a work surface, cover and leave to rest for about 5 minutes.
Knead by hand for 8 – 10 minutes, or in a stand mixer with a dough hook for about 5 minutes, until smooth, soft and elastic.
Put the dough into a large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours.
When the dough has at least doubled in size, knock it back and knead it again for about 3 minutes. Cover and leave to relax for a further 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 230°C (450°F), and grease a medium loaf tin.
Shape the bread as desired, then transfer to loaf tin and cover loosely with a cloth. Leave to rise again in a warm place, until the dough has again doubled in size, 30 minutes or so, depending on ambient temperature.
Brush with water and dust with flour.
Bake in centre of oven for 30 minutes. When done, the bread should sound hollow if tapped underneath.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.