The ideal flours to use for yeast-risen breads are milled from hard wheat and are called strong flours. All wheat flour contains a sticky protein called gluten, which stretches like elastic and captures the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast. The gluten then hardens and forms the bread’s structure. Several types of strong flour are available: white flour, where the bran and wheatgerm have been removed during milling; wholemeal flour which contains 100 per cent of the wheat; brown flour where some of the bran is removed during milling and malted wheat grain flour, such as Granary, which is a brown or wholemeal flour with added malted grains.
After mixing, the dough needs kneading to strengthen the gluten in flour. It is not as difficult as it may sound. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Fold it towards you, then push the dough down and away from you in a ‘scrubbing’ motion with the heel of your hand. Give a quarter turn and continue kneading for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough is ready when you press it and an impression remains.
To make a 1kg (2lb) loaf, you will need 750g (1½lb) strong flour, 2teaspoonssalt, apinch of sugar, 15g (½oz) butter, 1 sachet easy-blend yeast and about 450ml (¾pint) warm water.
Put the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the easy-blend yeast. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm water, mixing so all the flour is incorporated. Add a little extra water if necessary. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until the dough comes away clean from the side of the bowl. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface to knead.
Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, working in extra flour if necessary. Shape in a ball, put in a large bowl and place inside aplastic bag. Fold the bag under the bowl, trapping in plenty of air. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until doubled. Knead again for 2-3 minutes to knock out all bubbles.
Pat into an oblong the same length as a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin and 3 times as wide. Fold up in thirds, smooth the top by rolling it on the work surface, then place in the lightly greased tin, seam side down. Cover the tin and set aside to rise again in a warm place until the dough just rises to the top of the tin.
Bake at 230°C, 450°F, Gas Mark 8 for 30-40 minutes until well risen and brown. When baked, the loaf will sound hollow if you turn it out and knock the base with your knuckles. Cool on a wire rack. If not fully baked, return it to the oven without putting it back in the tin. After a couple of minutes test again.