They say the best way to sell a house is to have freshly made bread baking in the oven when your prospective buyers come to visit. Well, with today’s obsession for home baking there should be no excuses getting your property off the market.
I began baking at home about a year ago now. I became fascinated with the entire process; the measuring of the flour, the kneading, proving and shaping it all into all sorts of shapes and sizes. The amount of labour involved was completely secondary.
For me, part of the appeal of home made bread over fast-tracked commercial bread varieties is the lack additives and “processing aids”, not to mention the fact that they taste vastly superior. This has become part of a growing “Real Bread” movement to get people more involved in home-based baking initiatives. I think we’re approaching a golden age of bread making in the UK – and I’m not just talking about the number of baking shows on the BBC (which are fantastic, incidentally); not only are we seeing weekend farmers markets spring up in almost every crevice of every town throughout the country, but we’re also seeing a large number of overseas bakeries. Scandinavian, German, Danish, Polish, for instance, selling loaves to the public in artisan bakeries in most major cities. This is great news for bread lovers because of the variety and flavours; German rye brots, Italian herb and olive oil-infused varieties, soda-breads, Jewish flatbread, salted pretzels, egg and butter rich loafs. We’re being overrun with the holy trinity of flour, yeast and water.
Enough talk for now, though. Let’s get down to business.
I’ve listed a couple of handy recipes below that you could easily knock up at home, including a short list of breads from around the world.
Homemade Italian ciabatta with rosemary and rock salt
- 400g strong ‘00’ type flour, plus extra for flouring
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 250 ml water
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
- 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp rock salt
- 2 – 3 tsps dried rosemary needles, plus extra for sprinkling
- Combine the flour, yeast and the rosemary with the water in a bowl. Beat it together into a thick batter. Oil a clean work surface and knead the dough with the palm of your hands for five minutes.
- Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise for three hours in room temperature.
- Remove from the bowl, knead again for a few minutes. Dissolve the salt in the oil and add this to the mixture then knead for 6-10 minutes,
- Tip the dough into a well-oiled litre square plastic container and leave to rise.
- Flour a clean work surface. Tip the dough out onto the surface.
- Split the dough into two and stretch the two pieces into oblong shapes.
- For the extra rosemary, in a bowl combine 1 tsp olive oil with 1 tsp rosemary and mix. Then rub this mixture over the top of both bread loafs followed by a sprinkling of rock salt.
- Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the dough on a baking tray (floured) and allow to prove again for another 30 minutes.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, slice and serve with dipping bowls of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (optional).
Basic soda bread recipe
A quick and easy loaf without yeast. Leavened with bi-carbonate of soda.
- 170g self-raising wholemeal flour
- 170g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 300ml buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
- Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly
- Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
- Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Other common bread varieties from around the world:
This is an Indian flatbread. Yeasted, soft, chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside, and an ever present in my shopping basket when I was at university. Naan is simple to make at home, doesn’t require any proving period and is fantastic as an impromptu pizza base. It’s traditionally made with ghee, or clarified butter, and natural yoghurt to give it extra ‘body’.
Finally, for all you Londoners out there, a bit of local insight: Bakhtiar’s naan on Blackstock Road, North London, specialises ONLY in naan bread. The name gives it away. This is a place you must try, if only for the novelty value.
Theses Italian, oval shaped ‘little breads’ have taken on something of a novelty value here in recent years. Every high street sandwich shop or casual dining scene seem to make use of them. In Italy they are served simply with a slice of cheese or ham on the side.
An unleavened flatbread made with yoghurt, enjoyed across the Middle Eastern and North African regions. The satisfaction of biting into a warm, crispy, pitta bread ‘pocket’ is second to none. Wholemeal are usually best.
Traditional, wholesome and not cheap. Typically you’d pay around £3 for a small loaf from a farmers’ market or deli, owing mostly to the time and skill involved, but its well worth that little extra for the sheer depth of flavour.
A traditional fermented bread from Ethiopia made with teff. Injeera is usually used as a ‘plate’, much like you would see in, say, a South Indian Thali dish, from which you can eat other ingredients like curried lentils, rice or beans. Stretchy, chewy and super absorbent, but lacking in any sort of flavour, hence why it should be eaten with other constituents of a main meal.
A basic lean dough shaped into a long ‘baton’ shape and measuring anything from 30cm to a yard in length.
It has recently come to light that the French are no longer fond of this long held food item of gallic culinary heritage. Au secors!
A rich, dense loaf usually made with a mixture of rye flour, strong white flour, full-fat milk, brown sugar and carraway seeds. Rye flour contains a high gluten content, so much so that yeast is often omitted from the recipe altogether.