A Guerilla Guide To Bread Baking

I am a German living in London. Although this is one of the most exciting cities in the world I can’t help it. Every once in a while I get homesick. Regularly, the reason for homesickness is food. More regularly it is about bread.

British bread is awful. To be fair, there a number of great places to get excellent bread in London. If you have ever been to wholefoods or Yasar Halim, you will know what I mean. On average however, british bread makes people unhappy.

Some weeks ago I decided to end this misery. I started baking. Try and error. My intent was not just to kill time. I wanted to include delicious and healthy bakery goods back in to my daily diet. And not surprisingly, out of the need evolved a passion.

I love bread baking. Simple ingredients, no rocket science, myriad options for modifications and a yummy output that draws smiles into peoples faces. What more could one want? And it is so easy. So easy, that there is nothing you can do wrong. Over the time, I determined a base recipe. One that will make delicious bread, but one that can be alternated in every way you like. There are only a couple of things to pay attention to. And this is how it goes:

Ingredients

Bread only has 3 ingredients. Flour, Water, Yeast, that’s it. I always add a couple more, but for sure by far less then you get in a store-bought loaf. Good news is that we can also say good-bye to a lot chemicals that are used to make bakery look good or help to stay fresh for a longer period of time.

Anyways. Here is what we need:

Flour
Any kind will do. Wheat, spelt or rye make delicious dough and can be bought almost everywhere. Whole-wheat, kamut, barley, oat, corn or whatnot sort of flour might be harder to get, but worth the try in any case. My base recipe is usually all about wheat flour simply as a matter of personal taste. A very important factor however, for every kind of flour is its amount of dietary minerals. In my personal perspective I have to say, the higher the better. Wikipedia can help you understand flour type numbers. Those numbers are no rocket science. In most countries they just indicate how much ash would be left if you burn a certain amount of flour, thus indicating its mineral content. For the beginning, any kind will do.

Water
Again, any kind will do. In some countries, you just need to open the kitchen tab. In London you might like to filter it or buy it in the store to begin with.

Yeast
Yeast can be found in every supermarket. Use whichever you want. Despite the conversion, depending on the recipe you are using (1 tsp active dry = 0.75 tsp instant = 0.3 tsp fresh), there is no noticeable difference in terms of texture of taste according the a couple of internet forums and some professional bakers. Many professional bakers use fresh yeast, as it is simply more potent, some believe in a better structure. Instant yeast is the solution of the lazy man and therefore my preferred one.

Addons
Salt, Sugar, Oil as well as Nuts, fruits, vegetables etc. are great additions to craft delicious bakery goods. Just throw in, what you think could make a great dough and see what the people say.

The base recipe:
  • 5 cups wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1,5 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 350 ml water

Preparation

A bread maker is a pretty solid investment. Not only will it serve for bread doughs, your fellow folks will also benefit from home-made pizza, cakes, brioche or jam. The Panasonic SD-2500 is the Porsche amongst the bread machines and will do all the work for you. There is no need to spend a lot of money on a bread machine though. The only thing you you’ll actually need is a little tool that takes over the kneading for you. Any little bread machine available in discount stores or the internet for around 30 bucks will do the job just fine.

The base recipe will leave you with a good sized loaf or, what I personally prefer, the amount of dough to portion 8 fist size rolls, that make perfect lunch time sandwiches. You can half, quarter or portion the recipe in any way you want.

Overall, there is actually not much to it. Throw the ingredients together, knead well, let it sit for about an hour (this is where a bread machine comes in handy) to allow it to rise and your ready to go. Form eight little rolls out of the dough, place them on a buttered tray and let them bake for about 20 minutes in the oven (recirculating air, 200° Celsius is ideal)

Now what?

As mentioned above, this is only the beginning: the base recipe. From here on it is all about creativity. For inspiration and to share some ideas with friends and family, I will post a couple of recipes in the near future and tag them as bakery. All the posted recipes will use the basic recipe.