My current favourite bread recipe is fougasse, a flat, rustic French loaf. However, a while ago a friend asked about my basic loaf recipe: what do I do when I just want plain old bread?
Start with 290ml tepid water (turning on the hot tap but not waiting for it to heat up). I can measure this as four lines from the top of our large drinking glasses, which is much easier than trying to figure out if I’ve reached 290ml in our measuring jug.
Add 1 tbsp (15ml) of olive oil – in colloquial terms, a ‘glug’!
Add 1 tsp salt (cheap table salt will do) and 1 tbsp sugar (granulated sugar – recently I’ve been going for the unbleached kind and buying a Fair Trade variety).
Measure 400g of flour. You might have suitable sized cups; I just use our electronic scales. I normally use a cocktail of flour. For a white loaf, it might be about 380g of strong white bread flour and 20g of plain flour (trial and error showed that this gave slightly better results than pure bread flour). I often start with about 250g of white bread flour and then finish off with wholemeal flour or some speciality variety (brown seeded is the current pick of the cupboard), perhaps finishing off with a dusting of plain flour.
Finish off with 1 tsp yeast. I use 125g packs of Doves Farm “Quick Yeast” – kept sealed in the fridge, one pack will last for two or three months.
That’s all the ingredients. I then put it in the bread machine and use the medium “French” setting. When I first got the machine I did lots of experiments and found that this program worked best for the results I wanted. I normally give the mixing stage a helping hand with a spatula, which is a little more work but avoids occasional deposits of unmixed flour on the outside of the loaf.
And, c’est voila, that is how I cook my standard loaf.