Nelson, New Zealand
I figured an actual recipe deserves a post of its own....
I baked a second batch of bread today, with far better success than my first attempt! I used a new recipe this time, a much more traditional one involving kneading and rising. I looked around the internet for a basic bread recipe, and then tweaked it in a few places, so here's my version:
Combine, in a large mixing bowl:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. honey (if you like a slightly sweeter bread, double this amount or use white sugar instead)
1 Tbsp. yeast granules
Whisk lightly with a fork, and then let this combination sit for about ten minutes. During this time the yeast should do its stuff, foaming up and bubbling, creating a head on top of the water.
1 pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. cooking oil or olive oil
Approx. 6 cups flour, one cup at a time.
I used 2 cups wholemeal flour, and about 4 cups of white flour. Add a little at a time, stirring and mixing all the while. When the mixture begins to come away easily from the sides of the bowl and combine without being totally sticky, you've added enough flour. I think I used a bit too much, because it was a bit thick and heavy to knead (it still came out great, though!). Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Knead for about eight or so minutes, trying not to add too much flour to the dough. Knead by folding the dough on top of itself, giving it a quarter turn, then pushing it away from you with the heel of your hand. Repeat. When the dough has formed a cohesive, smooth ball and is no longer sticking, place it in a greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it somewhere relatively warm and out of the way of any draft. Let the dough rise (prove) for 1 to 2 hours. In this time it should (approximately) double in size.
Punch down the dough, and work it for just a few seconds to pop the air bubbles in it. Don't work it too long, or the dough will become rubbery. Form into loaves or rolls, and place on greased baking sheets or in greased loaf pans. Cover again and let rise for another 45 minutes. After 35 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 F/177 C. Before you bake the loaves, slash the tops with a knife to prevent them from splitting (they will still taste great, this is a purely aesthetic touch). Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.
This recipe makes as much bread as is shown in this photo. This bread baked for just the right amount of time, but did not brown on top. Brushing the tops with egg would make for more toasty looking bread.
Enjoy! (And let me know your results, if you try this recipe!)