So after the success of my first white loaf, I decided to turn my hand to granary bread, having discovered Wessex Mill Six Seed Bread Flour in my mum-in-law’s local health food shop – where I also found poppy seeds and fresh yeast (I was very excited). I loved the sound of this flour, which contains linseeds, millet seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, plus it won three stars and a Great Taste Gold award in 2012. Yes, please.
Fresh yeast seems to make the dough rise even better, and Loaf 2 was more successful than Loaf 1. Once again, the Aga came into its own. Following the success of Loaf 2, I made Loaf 3 on Friday – without an Aga, back in London – and not only did it work, but I found it really easy to fit around my day – I made the dough after school pick-up and let it rise for a couple of hours, then kneaded for a couple of minutes and let it prove for another half an hour or so while the littles were in the bath, and then baked it when it suited me. Having originally been put off by the idea of making bread because it felt as though it would be a hassle, it actually feels as though I can fit bread-making into everyday life. Rising and proving times seem to be pretty flexible, which when you’ve got two small and unpredictable children in your care, is a Good Thing.
In term of eating the stuff, the Wessex Mill flour makes a fantastic loaf with a lovely springy texture and a great taste, and I am really happy with my Mermaid 2lb loaf tin. I like knowing exactly what is in our bread, and I highly recommend trying it. This granary loaf is lovely eaten freshly sliced, also toasted with butter or for sandwiches. The added bonus is the lovely smell of fresh bread baking in the oven wafting through the house.
So, the only challenge remaining is to not bore my entire family to tears as I endlessly discuss a) making bread b) the bread I made and c) what I’m going to make next.
(Cue Mutley laugh.)
So, here’s the recipe that has worked every time. It’s from The Aga Book by baking doyenne Mary Berry. The book is, as far as I can tell, out of print. I like this recipe as it’s worked three times in a row, plus it doesn’t really require much effort. Which we like.
Recipe by Mary Berry with notes by The One-Handed Cook in italics
Makes 2 x 1lb (450g) or 1 x 2lb (900g) loaf
What you need
1½lb (675g) strong white, granary or wholemeal flour (plus extra for flouring work surface and hands)
2 tsp salt
¾oz (20g) butter
¾oz (20g) fresh yeast
¾ pint (450ml) water, hand hot
Grease the loaf tins or tin. Measure the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, crumble in the yeast and then pour in the water. Mix by hand and knead into a ball in the bowl. Turn out onto a clean dry surface and knead for about 4 minutes (brown bread will not require as long). Return the dough to the bowl, cover with loosely oiled clingfilm, or an oiled polythene bag, and leave to rise near the Aga – or any warm place – for 1–1½ hours until double in size.
Put the greased tins near the Aga to warm (without an Aga, just basically find somewhere warm – I put my tin in the top oven to warm, as it retained residual heat from the bottom oven in which I was cooking the kids’ supper at the time), knock back the dough and knead again for 2–3 minutes then divide in half if making two loaves. Slightly flatten the ball of dough with the heel of your hand and fold in two opposite sides, slightly overlapping, roll up like a Swiss Roll. With the fold underneath, put in the loaf tin, or tins, cover with oiled clingfilm (I reuse the bit from last time) and leave to prove for about 30 minutes. Remove clingfilm. Brush the top with whisked egg yolk, and sprinkle with poppyseeds, or sunflower seeds, or whatever you fancy.
If you have an Aga, put in the Roasting Tin with the grid shelf on the floor of the oven and bake for 20–30 minutes for two tins, 35–40 mins for a 2lb loaf until evenly browned and when the loaf is turned out a hollow noise is made when the loaf is knocked on the base. Not sure if my mum-in-law’s Aga was turned up high, but my 2lb loaf cooked in 20 minutes.
At home, I put the fan oven on to 200°C (which would be 220°C in a normal oven) and baked my 2lb loaf for 35 mins (checked it after 30) and it came out perfect.
Try making bread; it’s not as hard as you might think!