The first recipe I ever posted on this blog was a simple malted loaf. Back then it felt like such an achievement – a whole afternoon of weighing, mixing and kneading, praying that it would rise, that the oven was the right temperature and that I’d end up with something edible after all that effort.
Nowadays, after nearly two years of baking my own bread, it feels like second nature, a simple Sunday afternoon task to set me up for the week. But however confident I’ve become, underneath it all there’s still a small sense of joy when I remove a beautifully baked loaf from the oven, an excitement that this is something I can create in my own little kitchen and a wonder at the magical alchemy taking place.
Going back over early blog posts is a little like looking at photos of yourself as a teenager. Some bring back fond memories, others make you wonder what on earth you were thinking and realize that what you felt was acceptable back then doesn’t really cut the mustard in terms of how you see yourself today. I’m not saying I’ve reached a place where I’m 100% happy with my photos or writing or recipes, but take a look at that very first blog post in comparison and I think you’ll see what I mean.
I’m posting this recipe today because, after a couple of years of experimenting, it’s the best simple, straightforward, everyday wholemeal loaf that I’ve found. A little malted wheat flour keeps it light, olive oil keeps it soft and fresh for several days and it takes just minutes to mix, knead, shape and bake. I’m not suggesting that it’s going to blow anyone away in terms of taste and texture but it’s a delicious everyday loaf and perfect for sandwiches or toasting.
One of my favourite ways to eat this bread is toasted and rubbed with garlic, spread with mashed avocado and sprinkled with chilli, coriander and lime. Avocado with poppy, pumpkin or sunflower seeds is a lovely, crunchy alternative, or replace the avocado with silky scrambled eggs or herby homemade hummus and you’ve got the simplest and most delicious of suppers. It toasts beautifully and sliced thin, spread with butter and filled with cheese this bread also makes an amazing toastie, toothsome bread giving way to a molten middle with those lovely little crisp bits where the cheese spills over the edge and melts into a salty golden crust.
This recipe makes one medium sized loaf, enough for a couple of lunchtime sandwiches and several slices at breakfast each for the two people in the little loaf household. If you have a bigger appetite, a family, or simply fancy halving your workload and making one for the freezer, double the quantities to make two loaves.
Simple Wholemeal Loaf (adapted from Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake, a book that comes highly recommended)
(makes one 1kg loaf)
350g strong brown bread flour
50g malted wheat flour
7g instant yeast
25ml olive oil plus extra for the tin
265ml luke warm water
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other (salt in direct contact with the yeast could kill it or slow it down).
Add the olive oil and 200ml water and, using a plastic dough scraper or your fingers, work together the flour mixture and water. Slowly add the remaining water until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl and the dough is soft, but not soggy. You may not need absolutely all the water.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 5 – 10 minutes until the dough forms a smooth, soft skin. At first it will feel wet and sticky – continue kneading and you’ll end up with the smooth texture you’re looking for.
Shape the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size. This could be anything from one hour to three, depending on how warm your kitchen is but don’t worry too much about leaving it too long, the dough should be fine left for up to three hours.
Rub a thin layer of olive oil into a 1kg loaf tin. Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock the air out of it by folding inwards repeatedly. Then flatten the dough slightly and form into an oblong by folding the sides into the middle. Press firmly on the dough where it joins to create a good structure then place your dough in the prepared tin, making sure the join is underneath.
Place the tin inside a black plastic bag and leave to prove for about one hour, or until the dough is doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it with your finger. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees C and fill a roasting tray with hot water, placing it on the bottom shelf. This will create steam to help your loaf rise with a lovely crust.
Dust the risen dough with flour and slash the top with a sharp serrared knife or razor. Bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is cooked through. Check by tipping the loaf out of the tin and tapping the base – it should sound hollow.
Remove your loaf from the oven and cool out of the tin on a wire rack.