I was never more proud of my cooking abilities than the first time I made bread. It had turned out so perfect in both flavour and texture and the whole house had the great smell of a bakery. Maybe I was even more proud cause everyone has been telling me that making bread at home with no bread machine is really really difficult. Well, the truth is it isn’t. It is time consuming, yes, but it is not hard at all, it is fun!
I have been following the recipe and instructions I found in this page (in greek), which is the page of a public school in Greece. In this school, some 10-year old students have been experimenting with cooking different traditional recipes of bread in the same way their grandmothers have been making it for many many years. It is really well explained step by step, the kids (and their teacher) did a great job!
The basic thing to know in bread making is that you need to plan ahead (at least for this recipe). There are two parts in the recipe and you need to start with the first part (the yeast preparation) at least one day earlier, so it is not something you decide and do the same moment. You may be able to make bread with normal yeast you buy ready from the super market, but I think this yeast is the secret for creating bread the way our grandmothers used to do.
INGREDIENTS (FOR 1/2 KILO)
For the yeast:
- 125gr. strong flour
- 7gr. fresh yeast
- 3/4 of a cup water
For the bread:
- 500gr. strong flour (you can use any type of flour, I used standard wheat flour)
- 1 – 1,5 cup of water
- 1/2 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- some oil
Step 1 (do this one day in advance): Prepare the yeast by mixing all the ingredients and let it rest covered with plastic film.
Step 2 (next day): Once you have the yeast prepared (you can see all the bubbles formed in the mixture), the real fun starts! You mix the flour with the yeast, the water and the rest of the ingredients and start kneading the dough. You first start in a bowl and when the mixture is more stable (when it leaves the sides of the bowl clean) you put the dough onto a floured surface and continue kneading. You must knead the dough quite some time, until it feels smooth and elastic. Add water or flour if it is too dry or too sticky.
You must then leave the dough covered with a towel in a warm place for at least a couple of hours. The dough will rise and it should result to something like this:
Smooth and elastic dough.
Now, divide this in two parts (at least I do that, you can also make a big loaf of bread instead of two small ones). If you want to add any additional material now is the time. I added some pumpkin seeds I had at hand at that moment, you can also add nuts or sesame.
You knead the two parts for a couple of minutes and let them rest again for about an hour until they double their size, covered with a wet towel and in a warm place.
You see how they rise?
And then comes the baking time.
Preheat the oven at 230°. Add a small pot with water in the bottom of the oven to create a humid environment for the bread to bake. Bake the bread for 40 minutes (remove the water pot after the first 20 minutes) or until you hit the top of the loaf and it makes an empty sound.
If you are not planning to eat it all in the next two days, it is better to cut in slices and keep in the freezer.
The best way to eat? Just coming out of the oven with salted butter! My favorite! 🙂