The sun shone brightly in a clear cobalt sky. A sweet, cool breeze wafted through the house, making a warm day comfortable. The kitchen was a flurry of activity; flour was strewn liberally, providing a buffer between the dough and the laminate bench. The room was laced with a faint scent of sugar and yeast.
“What are you making?” he asked.
“Bread” was her reply.
“Geeze, you’re persistent.”
I don’t have a wonderful history with bread. Many of my past attempts may have been best employed as door-stops.
But I am persistent. Determined. Stubborn. And upon consulting the Google Gods, I have discovered the error of my ways: kneading. More specifically, not enough of it. Even though I was using my Kitchenaid for kneading, I wasn’t running it fast enough. Vigorous kneading is what’s required. In conjunction with some kneading by hand to get a feel for when the dough is ready.
How do you know when the dough is ready for the next step? Well that is the million dollar question. I discovered a few good tips in my Google travels, namely these lessons from The Fresh Loaf. When ready, the dough will be elastic and pliable. You should be able to perform the window pane test; the dough will allow you to stretch it thinly without tearing.
I use my Kitchenaid to do most of the kneading, but you could also make this recipe by hand, just increase the kneading time by about 20%. Even if you don’t have a stand mixer, go on and give it a go. The kneading is really good exercise!
This recipe has a bet both ways; it contains some wholemeal flour, but not enough to ensure that the kids will refuse it. It would be a nice way to ease them into a healthier slice of bread. The mixed seeds on top toast deliciously well, but could be readily altered or omitted.
- 310ml warm water (about 40°C – just slightly warmer than skin temperature)
- 1 tbs dried yeast
- 1 tbs caster sugar
- 2 ½ cups bakers flour
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbs sunflower oil + extra for greasing
- 1 tbs seed mix (sunflower & pepita)
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- A pinch of salt
- Milk for glazing
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a container. Cover and set aside for about 10 minutes. The mixture will foam up. If it doesn’t, find some new yeast and start again.
Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the sunflower oil and yeast mixture. With the dough hook on your mixer, mix ingredients at the lowest setting. If you’re having trouble bringing the dough together, add more warm water, 5-10ml at a time.
Once combined, increase the speed of the mixer, and continue to ‘knead’ for another 8 to 10 minutes. Test the dough consistency; if it’s feeling a bit sticky, transfer to a floured surface and knead by hand. If the dough tears easily, continue to knead for a further 2-4 minutes, until you’re happy with the dough.
Transfer to a large greased bowl. Cover and set aside until the dough has doubled in size. Depending on the heat of the day, this will take about 45 minutes. Once risen, punch the dough down and return to the bowl of your mixer for a further 8 minutes kneading time. When the dough is smooth and elastic, it’s ready to be shaped.
Making a Loaf...
To make a loaf of bread, roll and stretch the dough to the length of your loaf tin. Lightly grease the tin and fill it with the dough. Cover and set aside to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size again.
To make rolls, divide the dough into eight, equal by weight. Each roll will weigh approximately 150g. Once divided, lightly knead each portion of dough, and form into a rough ball. Place on a floured baking tray, cover gently with a tea towel and set aside to rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size again.
While the dough is rising for a second time, preheat your oven to 220°C for the loaf or 200°C for the rolls, and prepare the seed topping. To do this, place the seed mix, sesame seeds, and salt in a mortar and pestle. Lightly pound to crack some of the seeds.
Once the dough has risen, very gently glaze with milk and top with the seed mix. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.