Good, old Spring Bloom: the traditional English white loaf

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Contrary to ongoing rumour, making bread does not need enormous technical knowledge.  Nor does it need undivided attention.  It will rise just fine on it’s own.  It just needs a patience and lots of love. If you spend ten minutes mixing and kneading, the dough will be patiently waiting for you when you are ready.  Then it requires another five minutes of care, 30 minutes to one hour to rest, and it’s ready to bake.  It takes less time than walking to the local cafe in the morning or waiting for a delivery of take-away food to arrive in the afternoon. Majority of the bread recipes are either very complicated, or emphasize how quickly they can be finished, both deceiving.  I’ve tried plenty of complicated recipes and I admit they have they place in the universe, however, this one is an unbeatable basic, yet with stunning result.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour
10g salt
15g fresh yeast
320ml water
20ml oil
20g butter, melted
extra oil and flour, for kneading

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Preparation
Mix the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl, let it rest for five minutes. Put in the butter, oil and rub it into the flour and salt mixture. Put the dough onto a oiled surface and knead for 8-10 mins until it feels smooth and elastic, only adding the minimum of extra flour if necessary to prevent the dough from sticking too much. Place the ball of dough in a lightly floured bowl. Cover with an cling film and leave for 45 mins-1 hr or until doubled in size and feels light and springy. Timing will depend on the warmth of the room.

Knock back the dough by gently kneading just 3-4 times. You only want to knock out any large air bubbles, so too much handling now will lose the dough’s lightness. Shape into a ball, then cover and leave for 10 mins. Shape by flattening the dough into a rectangle about 25 x 20cm using your knuckles. Fold both shorter ends into the centre like an envelope, turn half, then flatten again into the same size and roll up very tightly, starting from one of the short ends. Seal both ends by pressing down firmly with the side of your hand and tuck under. Lay the loaf on a baking parchment-lined baking tray or loaf tin with the join underneath. Cover and leave for 40-45 mins, or until about doubled in size. Finish by brushing between slashes with water, then Using a very sharp knife, make 7-8 diagonal slashes down the length of the loaf, deep enough to open up slightly.

Put a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven 20 mins before ready to bake and heat oven to 230C/210C fan/gas 8. Put the risen bread in the oven (on the tray or in the loaf tin it has been rising in earlier), carefully pour about 100ml cold water into the separated roasting tin (this will hiss and create a burst of steam to give you a crisp crust), then lower the heat to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Bake for 30-35 mins or until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack. If you tap the underneath of the loaf if should be firm and sound hollow.

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