The other week I helped run a session talking about Food and Mood, and we made food diaries for the previous day, discussed healthy eating and the problem foods in our diets, and what prevents us from eating well. It was really, painfully obvious that there must be so many people out there who just can’t be motivated to cook for themselves, or won’t prioritise good food in a tight budget or in their time. Especially those struggling with depression admitted to dusty saucepans and unused kitchens. Considering how many other barriers we already face to eating well – such as access to good quality food, misleading advertising and some pretty evil supermarket and corporate conspiracies, coupled with the dominance of industrial agriculture and its practises – it makes me really sad that we also create our own barriers.
Today’s recipe was going to then, in the spirit of it, be my basic make a quick everyday salad recipe but really, you probably already know how to make a tasty salad (mine involves grated carrot, toasted seeds, shredded lettuce, avocado and then any bits and pieces I can find in the fridge from vegan cheese chunks to bits of celery all smothered in a creamy engevita or miso dressing… mmm). However then I watched my friend Mike make bread, and was pleased to see how he will take the time to do so, to have the satisfaction of homemade bread. So here is Mike’s bread recipe instead, from our cookbook ‘Another Dinner is Possible‘. It looks long and involved but is less complicated than it sounds, and kneading the bread is good muscle-building exercise.
Basic Bread Recipe
Ingredients for 2 loaves:
- 1.2 kg strong bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 – 2 tsp dried yeast
- 2 tbsp oil
- 600ml warm water
This is a recipe for making simple loaves of bread. It is easy but does require you to be around for a few hours while it’s being made. If you get into a routine you can easily make all your own bread which tastes better, is cheaper and is better for you than shop bought bread. I usually double the quantities and make four loaves, freezing 2 of them and that lasts us a week. You can use all wholemeal, half wholemeal and half white or all white flour. If you use all white flour you should let it rise twice (see below). If you only use your bread tins for bread making they should not need washing and will become very non-stick.
1. If your dried yeast needs activating (check the packaging) do this first. This usually requires mixing it in a little warm water with some sugar.
2. Place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the salt. If your yeast doesn’t need activating stir this in now as well. The warm water is a good temperature if made with one part boiling to two parts cold. Mix the oil in with the water and the activated yeast (if using) and pour this into a well in the flour. Stir it in; after a while you will need to get your hands in and start mixing.
3. At first it won’t look like it will form a dough but persevere and it will eventually start to bind together. You may need to add a little more water or flour if it is too dry or too wet. This is something you get a better feel for after you have made it a few times and varies with the type of flour you are using. Keep kneading it until it forms a good ball of dough in the bowl.
4. If you are using wholemeal or half and half flour, skip to the next step. For white bread you will need to let it rise initially in the bowl. Cover with some greased plastic or cling film or a damp towel and leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it more. This stage is important and you should spend some time on it, it will build up your arm muscles too! To knead, squash the dough down and forwards with the heels of your hands, then pull it up, give it quarter turn, fold some of the dough on top of itself and push down again. Repeat this for a good few minutes until you have a nice smooth dough.
5. Oil two 1-lb loaf tins by pouring some oil in and rubbing it all around inside with your fingers. Cut the dough in half and form the halves into shapes to fit in the tins, place in the tins and press down.
6. Cover with some greased plastic or cling film or a damp towel and leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour or until the bread has at least risen to the top of the tin (white bread will rise more than wholemeal). Turn on the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
7. When the oven is hot, place the bread on the middle shelf and cook for half an hour. When done, take out, turn out from tins and cool on a wire rack or standing across the top of the tin. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom if properly cooked, if not, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.