Basic White Bread

Lovely Meal

The ability to make perfect bread eluded me for nearly three years while living on Glencora. I tried various methods, using a sourdough starter instead of yeast, cooking in a pressure cooker, as well as the standard method of kneading for 10 minutes, leaving to rise, knocking back and letting rise again. It all seemed such a drawn-out affair, and the end result was always heavy and solid - 'dumpling bread' my kids called it.

I shelved the idea for a while, relying on finding a shop every few days where I could buy a loaf, or else do without. This was not very satisfactory, as bread is a staple part of our diet, especially for children who will always eat a sandwich if they don't like anything else on offer. Also, we were shortly going to be sailing along the coasts of Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, where shops might be very few and far between.

I determined that I HAD to learn to make good bread, without too much effort having to go into the making. A chance reunion with our friends Jenny and Craig on Asylum inspired me further when I saw and tasted their bread - it was so light, well-risen and yummy!

A tip from them which really clinched it for me was the use of a black plastic bag *see recipe). From then on, I never looked back, my bread was better than the shops (well, almost!).

I now pass on to you this recipe, in the hope that you do not have to struggle for three years as I did. 

Makes 2 * 2lb loaves

Preparation Time:  15 Minutes + 1 1/2 hours rising
Cooking Time:  30 minutes

1 1/2 lb white flour 1 tblsp cooking oil
3/4 pint warm water 2 teasp salt
3 teasp dried yeast 2 teasp sugar

Pour a mixture of 1 part boiling water to 2 parts cold into a measuring jug up to 3/4 pint level. Stir in the sugar and sprinkle the dried yeast over. Leave for 10 minutes to froth up.

Measure 1 1/2 lb white flour into a large mixing bowl. If you don't have any scales, a heaped tablespoon of flour will weigh about 1 ounce. Stir in the cooking oil to give elasticity, and the salt. When the yeast mixture is ready, add to the flour and stir with a spoon until the flour and liquid are mixed.

Place the dough on a floured board, and start kneading with your hands.  Add a bit more flour whenever the dough starts getting sticky. You should knead for about 10 minutes - any less and the dough may not rise properly. The dough should now look like smooth plasticine.  Divide it in two, and shape into long rolls to fit into two non-stick loaf tins.

Place both loaf tins inside a black plastic bag and close the opening with a peg.  The idea is to leave plenty of room inside the bag for the dough to rise without touching the bag at all. Leave in a warm place, preferably out of the wind, to rise for at least one hour. The dough should rise to nearly overflow the top of the pans. Don't be tempted to keep opening the bag to have a look, as all the warm moist air will escape and slow down the rising time.

Pre-heat the oven to its highest temperature. Carefully bring the tins below - I found that if they get knocked about too much, the dough sinks down.

Place the loaf tins in the middle of the oven, turn the temperature down to medium hot, and bake for about 30 minutes. The tops of the loaves should be a golden brown. If you want an all-over crust, turn the loaves out of the tins and pop back in the oven for the last 5 minutes. 

Take out and cool, allowing some air to get underneath otherwise the condensation produced by cooling against a solid surface will make the bread go soggy.

Note 1:  Two loaves are enough to last our family for 2 days, so I only have to bake every other day. Sometimes, I make a little extra dough and use that as the base for a pizza. The same dough can also be used to make cinnamon rolls.

Note 2:  It is important to keep as closely as possible to the quantities advised for making bread. If salt is omitted, the dough rises too quickly. Too much salt kills the yeast. Too much sugar delays fermentation of the yeast.