WE SOON got used to homemade bread when we bought our first breadmaker about 15 years ago. Ever since we have rarely bought a loaf. It’s great to wake up in the morning to the smell of fresh-baked bread. Last autumn we bought a new food mixer and I decided to try it out on different recipes. There didn’t seem to be much advantage to mixing scones in it – they only need roughly mixing by hand – but it consistently produced a good bread dough.
We use Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s basic recipe for white bread from his River Cottage Family Cookbook but we find that with the mixer we can dispense with the stage where you ‘knock it back’ – fun though that is! We always get a consistent texture.
In place of the 500 grams of white flour that he suggests, we invariably use a mixture of strong white and wholemeal and recently we’ve also been adding a proportion of rye flour. 100 grams – one fifth of the flour mix – is enough to give it some flavour without loosing any of the rise.
I made this loaf in less than 20 minutes (which was the time it took me to cook some homemade oven chips using our Kestrel and Desiree potatoes). After measuring the five ingredients; flour, easy-blend yeast, salt (we use just a pinch), honey and warm water from the tap (you can also add caraway or mixed seeds); it needs just 2 minutes of mixing with the dough-hook on setting one and a further 10 minutes on setting two. While it’s doing that there’s time to clear up and grease the loaf tin before the dough is ready for shaping to rise in the tin, covered by a tea towel. I score three diagonal lines across it, to give it that artisan look.
It usually takes no more than half an hour for it to double in size then it has another 25 minutes in the oven, turning it upside down in the tin for the last 5 minutes. That’s somewhere between an hour and 90 minutes from weighing out the ingredients to the finished loaf. The quickest loaf in the breadmaker takes 4 hours. With our breadmaker we always get a hole where the paddle has been and, as the non-stick coating is now wearing off the paddle, this can mean that a quarter of the middle slice is a gaping hole. You don’t get that using the food mixer and our old breadmaker now hardly ever gets used; in fact we recently consigned it to the attic.