Making Bread

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Appears in

The Sugar Club Cookbook

By Peter Gordon

Published 1997

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Making bread is both easy and very rewarding. It’s something we always do at the London Sugar Club, and it was the same in Wellington. So if you visit you’re likely to find the bread different each time as we tend to let our fancy fly! I remember one loaf we made in New Zealand from fresh, chopped peaches and some over-dry blue cheese lying forgotten at the back of the fridge. It was delicious.

The guidelines I give to anyone making bread for the first time are as follows. Leavened bread is made from yeast, water and flour, and that’s all. There are many types of flour, and the one usually preferred for bread is called ‘strong’ flour, which means it has a high content of gluten, the protein that gives flour its strength. I have made quite fine bread using flour, though, so don’t despair if you can’t get the strong stuff.

Yeast is a living organism, and the things that kill it are salt and water that’s too hot. You could make a 100kg (220lb) loaf with just 1 teaspoon of yeast, but it would be a few days before it rose properly. The same loaf could be made using 20kg (451b) of yeast, but this would taste too yeasty. So the balance of yeast to the other ingredients must be judged correctly to produce a satisfying loaf or bun. It’s also important that the liquid you add to the yeast is neither too hot nor too cold. Too cold and it will take forever for the yeast to become active. Too hot and it dies. Add salt when you add the flour or this too may kill the yeast. After making, the dough should be covered with clingfilm and left in a warm place to prove. If left uncovered it will form a skin. If it is left in too hot or too cold a place it just won’t work that well.

So here are four yeast-based bread recipes, all quite different. I’ve used white flour in each of them – at the Sugar Club we use only organic unbleached white flour and throw in polenta, rye flour or wholemeal to provide variety. Remember, though, that you can easily knock up a batch of great-tasting bread using nothing more than warm water, yeast and flour.