By Emma Chow
I use this basic recipe for both sweet and savoury bread. It is easy to add to and very forgiving. The only time it didn’t rise was that fateful day I forgot to add the yeast. Truly annoying it was; however I’d had absolutely no sleep having just had baby. I keep our dry yeast in the pantry though many people recommend keeping it in the fridge. I make bread so frequently that the yeast is used long before it gets too old and dies.
550 grams flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons oil
370mls warm water
In a stand mixer bowl I add the flour, yeast, salt and oil. I attach the dough hook and mix it on the lowest setting, gradually adding the warm water. I allow the dough to knead for 8 minutes. Otherwise if you are doing this by hand, you’re going to have to knead it by hand for nearly 3 times as long. I would mix the ingredients in a large bowl until the dough comes together and then knead it for at least 15-20 minutes on a well floured surface until the dough is elastic and silky.
I scrape the dough into a large metal bowl greased with a little oil and cover with a tea towel. On a warm day it takes one hour to rise, on a cold day 2 to 2.5 hours.
Once the dough has risen to twice its original size, I scrape it out onto the well-floured bench. I generally make bread rolls because they bake the quickest and I don’t ever have to worry about that business of getting an unlovely, dough-y centre. From this recipe I can get 16 rolls of about 10-12 centimetres in diameter. Just cut the dough up with a knife or scraper into reasonably similar sizes and roll against the bench with the palm of your hand. Heat your oven to 190 degrees celcius.
Space at least 8 cm apart on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and they sound hollow with a little knocking on the bottom.
I did say that this recipe is forgiving, and it really is. If you fancy a brioche like bread, add one whole egg and 3 tablespoons of sugar to the dough before you start adding the water. Once you’ve formed the dough into rolls or whatever shape you like (say a plait or a twist) and brush with a mixture of egg yolk mixed with a little milk. It will be a lovely pale yellow, rich and slightly sweet.
Feel free to change the liquid component; so long as it is warm, it will work. Swap water for warm milk for soft, milk-sweet bread. I once could not be bothered heating some water to make bread, so I poured in the rest of my pot of Earl grey. It wasn’t strong enough to alter the taste at all.
Adding Fruit, Nuts, Spices etc.:
When adding seeds, spices, dried fruit, nuts, or any other add-ins that you might fancy, don’t worry about changing any ratios. If you’re unsure how much to add, pour in your add-ins gradually as the dough hook mixes. Stop adding once you think the dough has a good amount of the extra ingredient.
Hot Cross Buns:
I use this recipe to make hot cross buns yearly. I add an egg to the dough and use a mixture of warm milk and water for the liquid. I add a teaspoon of mixed spice, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and a combined 2 cups of citron peel, dried apple, currants and sultanas.
Filled Savoury Buns:
You can make great filled buns with this recipe. Divide the dough balls as usual but roll them to about 1cm thickness. Fill with a tablespoon and a half of filling, such as pulled pork or some shaved ham and tasty cheese. Pull up the sides and squeeze together to cover the filling completely. Bake with the seam side down. Brush the buns with egg wash and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I once did filled buns with pumpkin cooked with miso and then an outlandish version filled with leftover spaghetti Bolognese and mozzarella cheese. They were crazy but delicious. If you want to do a cheesy volcano version of these, make sure you put the cheese down first and then the rest of the filling on top, and then seal it. When you flip the buns smooth side up, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut a slit in the top; as the bun bakes, the cheese will ooze out the top.
You can also use this dough to make toasted flatbreads. Divide the risen dough into about 20 balls, roll flat on a well-floured surface and toast in a griddle pan or ordinary frying pan in a little oil for a couple of minutes each side.