Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bread and Exercise!

© Copyright Trish Steel and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

There's nothing like homemade bread. Our ancestors have been baking it for generations and I always feel bread baking puts me in touch with my historic roots and with nature.

One of my favourite stories about bread baking comes from Pliny the Elder who wrote that the Iberians (ancient spaniards) used the yeasty foam from beer to produce a good light bread.  I'd like to have tried that! Another medieval method for producing yeast was to mix wheat bran steeped in wine and then ferment. I think old breads made from these methods must have had amazing flavour.

For lots of years now I have been making my bread with a bread maker. 100's of recipes and endless varieties.    Lazy - but machines these days make great bread, even if they are noisy when you set the timer for kneading in the middle of the night and then forget to shut the kitchen door!

Anyway, when I decided 2011 was my year to get fit, I began to get a bit disillusioned with having to add fat and sugar and oil to bread recipes and started looking for another way to make bread the old fashioned way with just the four basic ingredients of yeast, water, flour and salt.

The following recipe is one I've tried and tested many times now and I think the quality of the loaf and it's flavour is far superior to anything I produced in my bread machine. The hand kneading also provides great exercise for the hand, arm and back muscles so benefits all round. It's actually really good for you if you have arthritic hands as I do , really exercises the hands and gets the blood flowing.

12 fluid ounces of tepid water
500 grams of strong white flour ( I prefer Allinsons or Doves Farm)
2 good teaspoons of Hovis Fast Action Bread Yeast ( I can't get any other to work as well for me)
1.5 teaspoons of fine salt ( I prefer sea salt)

1. Pour 3 to4 fluid ounces of the warmish water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on the top - give a brisk whisk and leave to froth for 5 minutes

2. Add 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour and mix to a paste . Cover, leave in warm place for 20/30 minutes where it will rise.

3. Add the rest of the flour and salt and enough of the remaining tepid water until you have a pliable but not sticky dough.

4. And this is the exercise bit!   Flour up a board, turn out the dough and knead for 10 minutes. Nothing complicated about it. Fold and squeeze or squeeze and fold then turn to left or right and do it again and again!

5. Place in bowl, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for a couple hours whilst it doubles in size. Time for housework and coffee now.

6. When risen, turn dough out onto floured board and knock the air out of it by folding and squeezing. Don't overdo it - it doesn't need kneading again.  Shape dough into oblong and place in a greased loaf tin ( the only fat that is used in the whole of the recipe!)

7. Let loaf tin stand, covered, for about an hour until well risen then place in an oven preheated to Gas mark 7 / 220C for 40/45 minutes.

8. Turn out and eat hot. Great!

To be extra healthy you could add a couple of dessert spoons of sunflower or poppy seeds.

I double up the quantity and make two loaves at a time. They freeze really well.

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