Bread is one of the very few things that I actually enjoy baking. I love the whole process of baking a loaf - the stress relieving kneading, the smell of it baking, the treat of eating it still hot from the oven and the knowledge that even if I screw up the mix with my experimentations and haphazard attitude towards weighing and measuring ingredients, that it will still taste amazing once toasted and smothered in butter and marmite.
A few weeks ago Siany sent me a picture of a very cool looking loaf of bread that she had bought from Paul Rhodes in Greenwich:
|A very cool looking loaf|
I really liked the idea of having sections with different toppings on so set about making my own version. There is one book and one book only that I turn to for my baking recipes, it's called Bread Revolution and it's by the guys from the wonderful Thoughtful Bread Company based in Bath. Every now and then I totally lose my baking mojo and stop baking completely, then I flick through their book and not only am I inspired to get baking again but I'm rewarded with amazing tasty treats (their cinnamon swirls really are awesome). Their recipes always work too so I turned to them for a basic white loaf recipe to make this pretty loaf. This is a REALLY easy recipe and looks dead impressive, actually I would go as far as to say it's my sexiest looking loaf of bread ever. The best thing about it is when you have a slice you get several different flavour patches coming through, my favourite is the ajwain bit.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp fast action yeast (or 3 tsp fresh yeast)
- 300ml warm water (blood temperature is best)
- 5 tsp rapeseed or olive oil
- 1 egg
- 6 types of seeds. I used: sesame, blue and white poppy, black onion, sunflower and ajwain which smells like bombay mix
- In a big bowl mix together the flour and salt then make a well in the centre. Combine your yeast, water and oil in a jug then pour into the well and mix everything together to form a ball of dough. Dust your work surface with flour, put your dough on it and get kneading for about ten minutes. Don't skimp on this, badly kneaded dough makes a crappy loaf (I've made loads). Your dough will become really smooth and elastic the more you knead it. When it's ready you should be able to stretch it really thin without it breaking.
- Put your dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth, leave it to rise until it is doubled in size, this depends on how warm your kitchen is, an airing cupboard is perfect. I must confess I do cheat when I'm in a hurry and pop it in the bottom of my oven thats set to 50C and it doubles in about 30 minutes, it doesn't make a brilliant loaf doing it that way but it does make a decent one, although bread purists will probably throw baked goods at me now I've fessed up.
- Once it's risen tip it back onto your work surface and punch all the air out of it before forming it into a dome shape and putting it onto a floured baking tray. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave once again to double in size.
- Preheat your oven to 230C. Beat the egg then using a pastry brush just egg wash the whole top of the loaf. Using a really sharp blade ( a stanley knife is perfect) slash through about 1cm down into the dough 3 times to make a star shape. You need to make confident cuts in one smooth motion each time. Sprinkle seeds over each dough segment.
- Put a few ice cubes on a small tray and put it in the bottom of the oven, the steam will help make a good loaf crust. Put your loaf in the oven and turn the temperature down to about 200C and bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the base of the loaf.