Is there anything more nourishing, comforting and tasty as a good bread? Asks James Waller-Davies.
It is the British staple that takes care of us from the moment we can chew a bit of solid food. How many of us were weaned on a buttered crust, or a toasted soldier dipped in a creamy yolk?
Unfortunately, nothing else so reflects a national decline in our expectations of what constitutes quality food as mass produced bread that has all-but erased traditional handmade and artisan baking.
For many countries bread is a symbol of national culinary pride. In Britain, however, much of our daily bread comes far too close to being in the junk food category. We’ve ceased to be fussy about our bread and many people have never bought bread from an actual baker, let alone made a loaf at home.
From our lapsed memories of real bread has arisen the myth that bread is difficult to make. It’s not. Baking a basic loaf is a simple set of processes combined with a bit of patience. I’m certainly no baker, but after a conscious decision three years ago, I’ve not bought any manufactured bread since.
This week’s recipe is a simple, but rustically tasty cider and cheese bread. Measure all the ingredients accurately and be patient while it proves. Enjoy as sandwiches, with a good homemade soup, or just as a good old slice of bread and butter.
400g strong white bread flour
100g wholemeal bread flour
100g grated cheese
10g dried active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Stir a teaspoon of sugar into the cider and microwave for 40 seconds, just to warm slightly. Stir in the yeast and allow 10 minutes for it to froth up.
Mix the flours and the salt in a bowl and add the cider and yeast mixture. Bring together into a dough and knead until elastic and smooth. Cover in a bowl with cling-film and leave to prove until doubled in size (About an hour).
Knock back dough by pressing into a rough rectangle and cover evenly with the grated cheese. Fold from one side to the centre and then cover from the other side, so the cheese is evenly distributed. Knead briefly to mix, then shape your loaf. Leave to prove again until doubled in size.
Bake on a tray in a pre-heated oven at 220C for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 200C and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the loaf has a hollow sound when tapped underneath.
Cool on a rack.