Baking your own bread is a really good fun and it makes your house smell amazing and people flock to you like some kind of messiah. Yes you can use a bread machine but they are quite error prone and once the tin gets scratched its useless at which point its landfill or ludicrously expensive spare parts. If you have somewhere that is usually warm in your house (an airing cupboard or a surface above your boiler will do) and about 10 minutes a day the results are well worth it.
- Flour , 650g
- Salt , 2 tsp
- Sugar, 2tsp
- Dried Yeast, 1tsp
- Warm water , 600ml
Get a large bowl , i recommend a flexible plastic bowl , and pour in the flour then add the salt , sugar and yeast , give it a stir with your hand to get a smooth mix then add the water. Keep squashing and stirring until you get a fairly loose mix that a spoon can just about stand up in , kind of like a cake . I found that mixing is easiest if you use one hand like a paddle and the other to rotate the bowl , this also stops you getting dough on things if you need get more flour. If you used wholemeal flour you may need a little more water.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and put it in your warm place until the mixture has doubled in size, i usually put it on just before bed and bake it first thing for really fluffy loaves. Before you handle the dough cover the top of it with flour and rub some flour into your hands otherwise it will stick. I just cover the edges of the dough with flour and pour it into the tin , no kneading required.
To bake it you can use either a greased bread tin or a flat tray either works well but the tin makes more toaster compatible loaves but can some times refuse to let the bread out again. Bake at a moderate temperature (200 centigrade) for about an 1hour or so until you can tap the top and it sounds hollow. Remove it from the tin or the tray then leave to stand for a while after cooking as the loaf is usually quite soft , then scoff it :)
You can make all sorts of variations to this recipe , for cibatta add pesto and olive oil (more than you think you will need), blend some wholemeal and white flour for a healthy but light loaf , double the amount of yeast for more fluffyness or even add coconut powder and vanilla essence for breakfasty brioche type of thing.
Home-baked loves won't keep as long as commercial ones unless you add preservatives. I found that freezing works fine , you just part bake your loaf until the crust has just formed then freeze it , when you are ready for it just pop it in the oven for a 15/20 minutes (don't defrost as it will go soggy) on high heat and bingo.
This recipe is really a ratio , so if your loaves are too big just reduce the flour and water content equally , the others ingredients are pretty much constant. You can also use the dough as a pizza base if you cover it with flour and roll it out thinly enough and douse liberally with flour to stiffen it. I often do 1 and 1/2 times the recipe and the remainder to make 2 pizzas.