I mentioned a few weeks back that I had been enjoying baking bread by hand since our bread maker died after seven years of faithfully baking bread, so I thought I would share one of the recipes I have been using to make a basic white (or wholemeal) loaf. It really is so simple, and I am finding that so long as you factor in plenty of time for the bread to prove, it is so worthwhile making bread by hand rather than buying it from the shops.

I adore the simplicity of bread: flour, water, salt, yeast, and sometimes a little bit of butter or oil. That's it. Just four ingredients. So very simple, yet so very brilliant. And the smell of bread baking filling your home? There's nothing quite like it.

Simple White Tin Loaf
// ingredients //
400g strong white bread flour (or wholemeal)
8g salt
7g dried fast action yeast (1 sachet)
25g unsalted butter at room temperature
250ml cold water
olive oil for needing (if doing so by hand)

1) Place the flour into a large mixing bowl / bowl of freestanding mixer.
2) Add the salt and yeast either side of the flour (not on top of each other as the salt can kill the yeast)
3) Add the butter and 3/4 of the cold water and mix together with your hand until the water has been absorbed and a rough dough has formed.
4) If using a free standing mixer, knead the dough for 5-10 mins. If kneading by hand, put some olive oil on your working surface before turning the dough out of the bowl, then knead for 10 minutes. 
5) Lightly oil your mixing bowl, put the dough back into the bowl, then cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place to prove for an hour. It's fine to leave the dough for up to three hours if you like.
6) Remove the dough from the bowl, and knock the air out of it by folding the dough in on itself a few times.
7) Gently shape the dough into an oblong shape, tucking the ends in to create a neat finish. You should end up with a fold going along the length of the dough.
8) Grease a standard sized loaf tin and place the dough into the tin with the fold on the bottom of the loaf so that you don't see it on the finished product.
9) Place tin inside a clean plastic bag & leave to prove for an hour. Preheat oven to 200C / Gas mark 5.
10) Remove the loaf tin from the carrier bag and slash the top of the loaf with a few diagonal lines, using a sharp serrated knife.
11) Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 mins. To check if it has backed, turn the loaf out of the tin, tap the bottom & see if it sounds hollow. If it doesn't, pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so.


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