Basic Bread Guide

The recipe below and its variations can be used in a number of ways. I’ve recently begun to bake bread in a cast iron casserole dish, which acts like a Dutch oven and gives great results: a lovely airy crumb and a crunchy crust.

How long you leave the dough for its first prove has a big effect on the flavour. Longer prove time = better flavour. I’d recommend an overnight prove combined with the use of only a small amount of yeast.

Another big factor is the room temperature. The cooler the conditions, the slower the rise. I’ve found that a 500g-flour dough with 2g – 3 g instant yeast proves OK when left overnight in our kitchen.

Here are the ingredients with variations:

  • 500g strong white bread flour (For a wholemeal loaf use 300g strong wholemeal flour & 200g strong white)
  • 10g salt
  • 2g – 3g dried instant yeast (for a long prove, maybe overnight), 7g for a shorter prove (upto 2 hours in a warm kitchen) You want the dough to double in size.
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened. (If you’re counting calories this can be left out, but the flavour won’t be as good)
  • 290ml – 300ml water (300ml – 310ml if using wholemeal flour)

I’ll give two sets of instructions, one for mixing by hand, the other using a stand mixer with a dough hook.

By hand Stand mixer, banneton &
Casserole dish
Put the flour, salt, yeast and butter into a bowl. (Keep salt & yeast well apart) Add the water in stages, folding into the mixture by hand until all the flour has been picked up. Tip out onto lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 – 12 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.   Put the flour, salt, yeast and butter into the stand mixer bowl. Mix briefly using the dough hook attachment on slow. Add the water and carry on mixing/kneading on slow until the dough comes together as a ball. About 5 – 7 minutes.    
Lightly oil the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover with cling film and leave for the appropriate time. (see above)   Use a cooking oil spray to lightly oil inside the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove.  
Tip the risen loaf out onto a lightly floured surface and punch out any air. Knead for a couple of minutes then shape the dough into a ball, dragging loose ends under the ball and pulling the surface taught. Flatten it a little.  See opposite.  
Place on a large oiled/lined baking tray and pop it all into a white swing bin liner. Inflate to create a micro climate for the second prove – usually about 30 – 40 minutes.  Turn the oven on to heat up to 230C/fan 210C/Gas 8   Flour a banneton and drop the dough ball in before it goes inside the swing bin liner. See opposite + put the cast iron casserole dish in the oven to heat up
When the loaf has risen again, dust the top with flour and cut 2 – 3 slashes across the top. (I use a razor blade)   Put the tray + dough into the oven and spray a few jets of water vapour in before quickly shutting the oven door.   Take the hot casserole dish from the oven and tip the risen loaf from the banneton into it. Dust the top with flour and cut 2 – 3 slashes across the top.    
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes. (Test for “doneness” by tapping the base with your knuckles. A clear hollow sound indicates it’s baked.)  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.   Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on then a further 15 – 20 minutes with the lid off.