Classy, Crusty Artisan Bread

from Emily (who loves food)

I love making bread.

If I’ve got a day where I’ve really got to get some uni work done – I’ll make bread. Because it adds structure to my day, without taking much effort.

I make the bread, and while it proofs, get some work done.

Take it out, punch down the yeast.

And as it rises again, more uni work.

While the oven heats up, more uni work.

While it bakes, I dot my ‘i’s and cross my ‘t’s.

Then, as a reward for a solid few hours work, I get freshly baked bread.

Making bread is actually super easy – and in fact, the crusty, classy stuff like this is the easiest. No weird ingredients, just flour, water, salt, yeast oil/butter and whatever herbs you want to add. You’ll be making it for a fraction of the cost of those loaves at the bakery, and trust me, it’ll taste better too.

Here, I added oregano, thyme, a smidge of tomato paste and a couple of tablespoons of the oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes. You know, the liquid that pools at the bottom and you usually end up throwing out. Mmmm. Put it in bread.

 

 

Classy, Crusty Artisan Bread - Makes one medium-sized round loaf

Prep time: 3 hours, give or take  Cook time: 45mins

  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 1 cup luke-warm water (if you put your finger in, it should feel like it’s sliding through air: body temperature).
  • 1 packet (8g) instant dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • A combination of melted butter and oil adding up to 120g (I used 60g butter, 60g oil – some of which was from the sundried tomato jar – but you can change it to taste).
  • A few good shakes of your favorite dried herbs (I used a small 1/2 tsp thyme, and a good shake of oregano.)

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a bowl, and leave for five minuets to go foamy and soft. If it doesn’t appear to be working, give it a teeny tiny stir and leave for another 5 mins.

In a small bowl, mix together the herbs and butter/oil.

In a stand mixture fitted with the dough hook, mix together the flour, foamy yeast, salt and herb mix. Knead for 5-10 mins on a fairly slow, but steady speed (or do it by hand – you’ll just be kneading for longer) until firm and elastic. If you stretch a piece out like you intend to break it, it should tear away from a hole in the centre, not rip from the sides.

Lightly grease a large bowl (I just use the stand mixer bowl) and plop the dough inside. Grab a tea towel, and sprinkle it lightly with water to dampen it, then cover the bowl with it. Place in a warm place (I use the hot water/airing cupboard) for 2 hours to double in size.

Occupy yourself while you wait.

Take it out of the bowl, and don’t knead it, but sort of stretch it and move it around in your hands to wake up that sleepy gluten.

Put a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven, and preheat it to 210C (this is the artisan trick they don’t want you to know).

It should take a while to heat up, so while it does, but the dough back  in it’s warm place for a quick wee rise.

Once both oven and pot have come to temperature, shape the dough into a circular loaf shape and score a cross on the top with a knife. Place it carefully into the pot, and cover with the lid – bake for 30 mins (in my super-oven, it was 20mins) then remove the lid, and bake uncovered for a further 15mins (again, my oven bakes double-time, and the bread was ready in 7mins).

The bread should ‘smell done’ when it’s ready, and have a nice golden brown crust on top.

Carefully remove it from the pot, and pat yourself on the back.

See? Not that hard.

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