The Most Versatile Bread Dough

There is no doubt that being a parent reduces the amount of time you can spend in the kitchen. I like to get Will involved in cooking where possible but at 10 months old  what he can safely do is rather limited. He is pulling himself up on all the furniture at the moment and we have stone floors so I’m terrified of him hurting himself! I am wondering about buying a playpen so I can pop him somewhere and know he is safe. Regardless of his new  found independence,  I still believe its important for him to get used to spending time in the kitchen. I have found that his highchair is a great place for him to sit and observe what is going on; he is high enough to see the worktops. I tend to give him kitchen implements to play with as I cook – he adores silicone baking trays, the sieve and  wooden spoons! If this fails there is always food- a strawberry tends to keep him happy for 5 minutes or so! Bread making is, as cooking goes, rather baby friendly as it only really takes 15 minutes at a time, which even the most impatient little one should hopefully sit through. This dough in particular is a fantastic thing to make as from one batch you can make a whole variety of bread-types! I have used it to make pizza bases, pitta breads, flatbreads, bread rolls and even bread sticks. I have reduced the salt as much as is possible to ensure it is suitable for little ones, and because of the flours used it requires no sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g wholewheat strong flour
  • 50g strong white flour
  • 250g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 20ml virgin olive oil  plus a little extra for the proving bowl
  • 340ml of warm water (could be more or less depending on the weather that day)

Method

  • Add the flours, yeast and oil to a large bowl
  • Add the salt to a well in the flour, ensuring it is kept away from the yeast
  • Add some of the water and combine, keep adding water until you have a slightly sticky dough. It is meant to be more hydrated than a traditional bread dough but this is correct, it becomes less so as its kneaded.
  • Knead for 10-15 minutes by hand or 15 minutes in a mixer. The dough should be springy and stretch-able.
  • Oil the mixing bowl, and place the dough in the bowl, covering with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  • Leave somewhere warm for 1 1/2 hours or until its doubled in size, it may take 2 hours

At this stage you can make different things:

Bread Rolls

This recipe makes 8-9 bread rolls

  • Roll fist-size balls of dough and place on a baking tray, let them prove until they have doubled in size again; this will take 45 minutes or so.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes until they are golden and have a hollow sound
  • To add a crusty top sprinkle a little water on each one directly before popping them in the oven

Flat breads

This recipe makes 10 flatbreads

  • Take a fist-size ball of dough and flatten out on a floured surface until they are around 3 mm thick.
  • Leave to rest for 10 minutes
  • Get a frying pan as hot as you can (open the windows!)
  • Lay one flat bread in to the hot pan and cook on one side for around 2 minutes or until it is bubbling up and browning. They will get a little scorched but it tastes wonderful
  • Flip and cook the other side for a further minute
  • These can be eaten straight away or left to cool under a tea towel. The tea towel ensures the steam circulates around the flatbreads and keeps them soft.

Pittas

This recipe makes 12-14 pittas

  • Follow the flatbread method but make them slightly smaller and oval shaped.
  • Place them on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 200C for 5-10 minutes until they are puffed up and gaining a little colour.

Bread Sticks

These are a real favourite in our house! Brilliant with dips and great for teething babies to gnaw on.

  • Roll out small balls of dough, about the size of a strawberry
  • Roll these out until you have long breadsticks
  • Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rest for 5 minutes
  • Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for about 10 minutes until they are crisp and golden

This dough really is a’jack of all trades’. I often double the quantity and make a few things in one go, today I made some rolls for lunch and some flatbreads for supper. I added some cumin seeds and nigella seeds to the flatbreads when I shaped them to add a little Middle-Eastern influence as they are accompanying a tagine. As with all home-made bread, because there are no nasty preservatives it doesn’t last as long as shop-bought alternatives, but the taste is so superior it won’t last long enough to go stale anyway!

I’d love to hear from you if you try the recipe, Happy baking!

 

Wholemeal Loaf

My first job was at a hotel and restaurant in a local village. I was employed there to work at the reception desk in the mornings. One morning I arrived to find the head chef having a blazing row with the owner as the breakfast chef had walked out. The owner, in a bid to calm down the chef volunteered me to help in the kitchen. I was terrified as I hadn’t ever set foot in a professional kitchen and the restaurant was chasing a Michelin star. I was taken to a blisteringly hot corner, shown an enormous mixer on the floor and told to make bread; 20 loaves of bread to be exact! To cut a long story short, my terror turned very quickly to enjoyment and 10 years later I still love making bread.

Bread-baking lends itself brilliantly to life with a baby. Although it takes a while to make, the work isn’t constant. You can spend 10 minutes with it and then walk away for an hour. The taste of homemade bread is unlike anything you can buy pre-sliced, and it contains far less ingredients. I checked a loaf of supermarket wholemeal bread yesterday and it contained 22 ingredients, including more sugar and salt than I am happy to feed Will. I don’t pretend that he is never exposed to sugar or salt, he is. But as far as possible I try to limit these, frankly unnecessary ingredients.

This wholemeal loaf recipe contains six ingredients and absolutely no nasties. It is a modified version of the recipe I used to follow before I became a Mum. This one has as little salt as possible (you need some for flavour and to inhibit the yeast). The same goes for the sugar content; I use light brown sugar as it is less refined than white sugar, and I have reduced the quantity as much as possible. It is a wonderful ‘every day’ bread with a great texture and a lovely taste. I do use a mixture of wholemeal and white bread flour to make the texture soft enough for little mouths.

Ingredients

  • 400g Strong wholemeal flour
  • 100g Strong white bread flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2tsp fast acting yeast
  • 10g light brown sugar
  • 30ml olive oil plus a little extra for your proving bowl
  • 310ml-330ml of water (the water quantity you need to make the dough will vary depending on the day, on a wet day you will need less water than a hot dry day. Be led by the dough and stop adding water when it holds together as a nice ball of dough

Method

  • Weigh your flour and add to a large bowl
  • Add the salt, yeast and sugar ensuring the yeast and salt are kept apart
  • stir the dry ingredients together and make a well
  • Add the oil and some water (around 50ml)
  • Start mixing by hand or if using a mixer with a dough hook, start mixer on low
  • slowly add water until the dough holds together and is play-dough like
  • knead for 10-15 minutes either in mixer or by hand until your dough is elastic, you want to be able to pull a section of it until it is thin enough to see through
  • At this stage grease your mixing bowl, place the dough back in it and loosely cover with cling film
  • Leave to prove somewhere warm if possible for an hour or longer, until the dough has doubled in size and bounces back if you push a finger into it
  • Knock the dough back for 5 minutes and shape your loaf, I tend to make this load round or oval.
  • If you want to have any pattern on the loaf use a serrated knife or a lame if you have one to cut the design into your loaf
  • Re-cover with the cling film loosely and put back somewhere warm for 30 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 200 C.
  • Put loaf in and bake for 30 minutes, the loaf should be a gorgeous brown and the bottom should feel hollow to tap.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack, or enjoy a hot slice with lots of butter!

Your house will smell amazing as this cooks and it will keep (thanks to the addition of the olive oil) for at least 3 days, not that it ever lasts that long in my house! This loaf has a nice crust but to make it a crisper crust spray some water into the oven to create steam when the loaf goes in.

It may seem time consuming but I promise its relatively low effort cooking and the reward you get it phenomenal. Once you start making bread you won’t be able to stop!