When my brother and I were kids, we used to spend at least one weekend a month, and plenty of holidays with my grandparents. On Sunday mornings, my Pop would walk up to the local corner store – it was one of those fantastic corner stores selling everything from fresh bread to bait! – to get a couple of loaves of freshly baked bread. My brother and I would wake up to the morning sounds of my parents and my grandparents making coffee and toast. There was nothing I loved more than walking down to find Nanna and Pop sprinkling cinnamon sugar on toast for us kids (we were only allowed this particular treat at my grandparents’ house). It’s one of my best memories of them.
Now, as an adult with my own family, hubby and I have instilled our love chowing down on fresh baked bread in our little Minions, and trust me this can get expensive! Especially when this Minion loves getting the uncut loaves so I can slice my own lovely thick slices, and then smother them with butter and vegemite . . . yum!
Today, there is an extra Minion in our house, so I’ve decided to escape the high-pitched girlish giggles and spend the day making my arms ache . . .
Fresh baked bread
7g dried yeast
275ml warm water
500g good quality plain flour (I like to use bread flour)
5g bread improver
2tbsp powdered milk (this is optional, however my family can really taste the difference if I don’t use it!)
Preheat your oven slightly – just to warm it up a bit.
Add dried yeast to warm water in a small jug. Mix it with a fork, just enough to wet all the yeast. Leave it to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, place plain flour bread improver, salt and powdered milk. Make a well in the centre, and add the yeast and water mix (by this time, it should have started to foam a bit). Mix until well combined.
Take your dough out of the bowl and knead on a floured surface for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy. As I mentioned in ‘Stupid cars and yummy pies’, I’m lazy in the kitchen so I do this part in my mixer using the dough hook. I’ve found that I only need to ‘knead’ the dough for about 8 minutes in the mixer instead of hand kneading for 10-15 minutes – and my upper arms thank me for it!
Place the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel, and leave it to rise in your warmed oven (make sure you’ve turned it off!) until doubled in size. This can take up to 2 hours.
After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface. Knock back the dough by lightly kneading it for 2-3 minutes, then shape into whatever shape you would like. I usually go for just a round or oval shaped loaf, and you can also use a loaf tin if you have one.
Place the shaped loaf on a baking tray which has been oiled, or lined with baking paper and dusted with flour. Make 3 or 4 slashes across the top with a sharp knife, brush the top of the loaf with some salted water, then sprinkle with some more flour. You could use sesame seeds or poppy seeds or even go without any of it if you prefer! Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size (the extra flour will help make sure the tea towel doesn’t stick to your dough).
Preheat your oven to 240°C (230°C fan forced).
Place your shaped loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Open the oven door slightly, and bake for a further 2 minutes with the door open.
Reduce the heat to 190°C (180°C), close the door and bake for a further 25 – 30 minutes (if you want a darker crust, just keep a close eye on your bread from this stage until the crust is to your personal liking). You’ll know when your bread is cooked when it makes a hollow sound when you rap your knuckles on the crust.
Slice – thickly if you’re one of our Minions! – butter and enjoy!
* Originally posted on 4th October, 2013