I, like many, am currently grasping for things to do to keep me occupied during this global pandemic. I work in the TV industry and have lost all my work for the foreseeable future and so I’ve turned to what I like to do best when I’m bored or stressed: cooking. I know that many people are in very similar situations and I thought that sharing some simple recipes may help those struggling to make meals out of what’s left in the cupboards, and also those who now find themselves with loads more time on their hands.
Yesterday I went to the supermarket and noticed that all those selfish stockpilers had raided the bread aisle. Today while fishing around in the bread-bin for the last slices of Hovis I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my bread at home. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be altered to add in flavours that you like best! Variations could include olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sesame seeds, jalapeños, cheese and sage, etc. I made my bread in my slow cooker but it’s just as easy to bake in the oven! The only difference is where to leave it to proof, and that you won’t need to brown it off at the end if you use an oven- don’t worry I’ve left directions for both.
300 ml warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons of dried active yeast or a 15g sachet
1 teaspoon of white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of Cornish Sea-salt, and make sure you have extra for decorating the top and adding a salty crunch!
3 tablespoons of good olive oil (of course other types of oil will work just as well)
Fresh roughly chopped rosemary to taste, as well as extra for decorating (I’m lucky enough to have rosemary growing in the garden but dried will work too, it just won’t look quite the same as mine on the crust)
475g strong brown flour (remember you will need plenty more for making sure your dough doesn’t stick to surfaces)
Step One- In a large mixing bowl dissolve your sugar in the warm water, stirring until it is all completely dissolved. Then add the yeast and stir. You will want to leave this mixture for about 15-20 mins and you will have a film of foam covering the water. I use this time to prepare my other ingredients e.g washing the rosemary if fresh.
(Tip! If you have clumps forming after 20 mins, just drag a wooden toothpick through them and they should burst and separate, allowing the yeast to do its thing.)
Step Two- Next add the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the chopped rosemary (or preferred addition!). Stir well until the salt is dissolved.
Step Three- Combine the remaining salt with the flour, I like to do this to have some chunky flakey pieces of salt in the bread. Add the flour to the yeast and oil mixture two tablespoons at a time while mixing with a wooden spoon. This will help to gauge how your dough is developing, so that it doesn’t end up being too dry.
Step Four– When combined, knead the dough until it no longer sticks to the bowl, or you! (don’t forget to wash your hands lads!!) It should take roughly 10-15 mins and make sure you don’t over-knead. Add extra flour if it keeps sticking.
Step Five- Cut a piece of greaseproof paper that will line the slow cooker comfortably. Set the dough onto the paper and use it to lift the dough into the slow cooker. Lay a clean tea towel over the cooker and put the lid on top, this will prevent condensation from running back onto the dough. Set the slow cooker to ‘warm’ or ‘low’ heat and leave the dough to proof for about half an hour. Do keep checking on your dough to make sure the edges aren’t cooking!
(Alternatively, if you are not using a slow cooker, take a bowl big enough to accommodate double the amount of dough you currently have. Grease the bowl with olive oil and place the dough into this. Lay a tea towel over the bowl and leave in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard or a very low temp oven (60 C max) for an hour.)
Step 6- After 30 mins in the slow cooker (or an hour in your airing cupboard) the dough should have doubled in size. The texture should be smooth and elastic. Dust a clean surface with flour. Lift that bad boy bread dough out by the greaseproof paper and place onto the floury surface, being careful of the sides of the slow cooker (I burned myself on mine 😒.) Now you want to knock back the dough. This is done to get rid of those big air bubbles that proofing will have created. To do this you want to start kneading again! You only want to knead for about five minutes this time, and until your dough is back to its original size. Shape it how you envision your bread looking (don’t bet money on it actually turning out like that.)
(If you’re baking with an oven then you need to do a second rise. You will want you shape your dough into an oiled tin – the tin you wish to bake it in, and return it to your proofing place of preference. This will take yet another hour. Once risen you will not need to knead again.)
Step Seven- Hold onto your hats lads, it’s baking time. Pop your dough back on the greaseproof paper and into your slow cooker. Decorate the dough- in my case I added lots of chunky sea-salt and some nice sprigs of fresh rosemary but you can do whatever you fancy. Cover the cooker back up with the tea towel and lid, and turn it up to high heat. Set your timer for 2 hours and go and do your new home exercise routine or paint with Bob Ross, or whatever you plan on doing during isolation. Before your 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to about 250C- yeah we’re using the oven now.
(For oven bakers!! You only need bake your bread for 30-40 mins at 220C. Check your bread by tapping it with your knuckles on the bottom. If it sounds hollow you’re good to go!)
Step Eight- After two hours your bread should’ve developed a dry crust around the edges. If the top is still a little damp but your edges are dry don’t fret! It may just be your tea towel or your decorations that are retaining that moisture. Transfer your bread onto a baking sheet, keeping it nestled in your greaseproof paper- trim off any excess paper. Brown off the top of your loaf in the oven for about 5 minutes. Once baked your loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Enjoy!! I hope this recipe works for you. Definitely eat most of it when it’s still warm, with balsamic and olive oil, or just plain butter. But I hope this also helps some people who are looking for things to do at home, or struggling to find essentials in the shops. Keep safe guys.