I am still singing the praises of James Morton, whose no-nonsense approach to bread making really works! This is another recipe from his book Brilliant Bread:
If you want a really easy white loaf, this is it! It’s a basic flour, water, yeast and salt mix. Because I have a fabulous sourdough starter, I add a dollop of that in the mix as well. It adds flavour and aids in longevity, too. However the loaf works just as well with just yeast.
Here is James’ recipe, with a couple of comments from me.
500g strong white flour
10g table salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
100g sourdough starter (optional)
350g tepid water
In a large bowl, weigh the flour. Rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl and the yeast on the other side, as the salt can stop the yeast working.
Add sourdough starter (if using) and the tepid water, and mix together to form a coherent dough (use your dough to mop up any flour sticking to the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel or clingfilm (I use a large clear plastic bag), and rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes, or until it has noticeably increased in size.
Wet the fingertips of one hand and slide between the bowl and dough. Fold the dough in half. Turn the bowl 90°; repeat until you have removed all of the air and it’s noticeably smooth. Cover and rest for an hour, or until at least doubled in size.
Scrape the dough on to a floured surface, flour your hands and shape into a ball.
Place the dough on a heavily floured surface like a chopping board or baking tray, loosely cover and leave it for a final hour, or until it has doubled in size and springs back when pushed. James recommends using a proving basket – my loaf was made without one – but I have just acquired one and am keen to test it out!
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced, at least 20 minutes before you want to bake.
Transfer the loaf carefully to a lightly floured baking tray, (turn out of the proving basket and gently shape if using one). I put my proved dough into a lightly floured cake tin for baking – worked a treat!
Give your bread a few shallow slashes with a serrated knife and place onto a low to middle shelf in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a deep golden brown – don’t be scared to let it get a good dark crust. If your oven is at all uneven, turn the loaf so that the loaf bakes evenly.