JUMP TO RECIPE -
Do you know why supermarket bread is generally rubbish? Because industrially produced loaf takes only about an hour to make. That’s right - from mixing yeast with water and flour to the baked (and sliced, probably) product in just about an hour. Where’s fermenting? Developing flavour? Proving and stretching and folding and the final rise? Gone – replaced by an accelerated chemical process and lots of additives.
I know, I know – some people do have a penchant for the gloopy, unnaturally white and perfectly square slices. But most of us, having tasted the proper stuff, Real Bread, will refuse to look at the old Hovis or supermarket’s own. And here’s the proof that it needn’t take all day to bake a decent loaf – and not a lot of skill.
Dan Lepard, my favourite bread guru, presents the recipe in his book ‘Short and Sweet – The Best of Home Baking’. There is quite a lot of yeast to speed up the rise and the tricks to make it taste like a longer-proving loaf are adding raw potatoes, vinegar and a bit of fat. I must say I went steady on the yeast (he calls for 5 teaspoons, ye Gods!), lengthened the proving process a bit (adding the first rise instead of forming and shaping straight off) but I still had a loaf ready in just over two hours from start to finish.
And it tastes perfectly decent, slightly sweetish from the potatoes. Beats supermarket ready sliced any time of day.
- 400g strong white bread flour
- 125g wholemeal or rye flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 25g butter or lard, softened
- 250g very warm water
- 175g raw potatoes, washed, unpeeled and finely grated
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 3 tsp fast action or 20g fresh yeast
- 2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 tbsp poppy seeds
Place the flours, salt and the butter or lard in a large bowl or in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix or rub the fat into the flour with your fingers.
Put the grated potatoes in another bowl, pour over the warm water, vinegar, add the yeast and mix well. Add this to the flours and mix into a soft dough. Knead by hand or use the dough hook on your mixer at 10 minute intervals (knead for a while, then let it rest for a few minutes) until it’s smooth and stops sticking as much to your hands as it did at the start – or bounces off the sides of the standing mixer bowl. Cover and prove in a warm place for half an hour to an hour.
When appreciably risen, turn out the dough onto wet surface, stretch and fold onto itself a few times, then shape into a ball or an oblong loaf.
Prepare a banneton or a bowl lined with well-floured cloth, dip the loaf in semolina or polenta and place in the banneton seam side up. Cover or place in an inflated plastic bag (just blow into it and tie the ends) and leave to prove for about 25 minutes.
Preheat a clay cloche, baking stone or a heavy baking sheet in the oven set to 220C/425F/gas 7. Tip the loaf (it should have risen by a half at the most) onto the preheated cloche bottom, stone or a tray and slash the top in several places. If using the cloche, place the lid on for the first 20 minutes of baking, then bake uncovered for further 20 minutes. If baking on a stone or tray, spray the oven liberally with water and bake for 40-50 minutes.