The first bread that I baked resembled a house brick, fortunately I persevered. My bread improve when I discovered the following principles:
Choose strong flour that is within its best before date and sieve it before you use it. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than general baking flour. That is why it is called strong flour. Canadian wheat will be 13% or over. Organic strong flour will be about 11-12% gluten. Baking flour will be 9-10% gluten.
Use either fresh yeast or dried powdered yeast. Always add powdered yeast dry and always activate fresh yeast or granules with warm water and honey or sugar. It is better to use less yeast and prove it for longer than make yeasty bread.
Mix everything in a warm room. If you want to cut down the time don’t touch the dough. Try a mixer or blender and use metal spoons. If wholemeal bread is too heavy try the following recipe, it makes two good sized loaves:
Sieve 900 gm of white organic bread flour. Mix in 100 gm of wheatgerm. Wheatgerm contains the B vitamins, and vitamin E. Wheat bran is not that good for you as it contains phytic acid that binds up calcium and other minerals reducing their absorption. Adding the wheatgerm and leaving out the bran makes a lighter, nutritious loaf. You find more digestible soluble fibre from sources such as oatbran, pectin (the fibre in fleshy fruit), linseed (flax), and vegetables.
Dissolve 2 level teaspoons of salt into warm water. Add into more warm water to make 700 ml in total. Add 6 tablespoons of oil. I use a mix of organic rape seed and extra virgin olive oil.
Mix the dried yeast well into the flour or add the starter yeast mixture. Pour the oil, warm water and salt mixture into the flour and yeast mixture. Set the mixer or blender on slow for up to five minutes or until the dough is sticky and elastic. Or lightly flour a board and Knead by hand until the dough is elastic. Cover with a lightly oiled bag (I use a shopping bag), and leave in a warm place for several hours. Once the dough has risen at least double, Knock it back and cut into two parts. Lay each part into a greased 2lb load tin. I rub butter around the sides of the tins, it gives a good crust.
Leave to rise again in a draught free place until the surface feels light and some bubbles appear under the surface.
Carefully place in a pre-heated fan oven at 180 degrees C. and bake for 40 minutes. A non-fan oven might need 190 to 200 degrees. Knock the bread out of the tins and leave on a wire rack to cool. Cover with a clean tea towel if you need to leave it.