Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Really, really good bread

I’m ba-ack! Did you miss me?

(Was that tumbleweed?)

We’re home after a great week up in Yorkshire first in the lovely city of York with babysitters parents*, then in the wilds of West Yorkshire for a weekend of great friends, lovely walks and outings, the traditional fiercely competitive session of the name game, and of course great food. I made roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for my contribution and some day I’ll blog about that, but for now I’d like to share a recipe I’ve been working on and LOVING for a few weeks.

The best granary bread, ever. At least, I think so. 

Of course I can’t claim this recipe as my own – it’s bread! Staff of life and all that. But this version is considerably adapted from one I have written down from who knows where. Delia, maybe? It yields a satisfyingly chewy, nutty, crusty loaf that tastes perfect simply buttered and sublime topped with pickle and molten, bubbling Cheddar. Or wobbly scrambled egg. Or goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of chives. You get the picture – it’s not a sandwich loaf as such, but makes a brilliant base for whatever you care to top it with.

Makes one large loaf, enough for maybe 15 thick slices? 20?

500ml warm water
1 tsp dried, active yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
700g granary flour, plus extra
50g jumbo porridge oats, plus extra
50g mixed sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds
1 tsp salt

Place the water in a large bowl with the yeast and olive oil, stir to combine and leave in a warm place, covered with a tea towel (obviously a clean one, though nobody’s going to come around and inspect – don’t you hate it when a recipe specifies a ‘clean’ such-and-such? What am I, some kind of slob?) for 20 minutes, or until the surface looks creamy and uneven. Meanwhile weigh out and combine the dry ingredients, then add to the yeast mixture and work with your hands to get everything mixed up. You may need a little more flour; you’re aiming for a workable, not-too-sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until it’s evenly textured and elastic. Try to give it 10 minutes or so – but at least do it until you have to go and resolve a dispute, answer the door, or get the kids from school.  At this point put it back in the bowl and leave in a warm place covered with a tea towel, or some cling film, until roughly doubled in size – say, an hour and a half, depending on how warm the room is. (Why do I seem to develop instant amnesia around bread dough and never remember what size it was when I first put it in the bowl? Doesn’t seem to matter, though.)

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it again, briefly, on a floured surface. Then shape – rolling in oats, if you like – and place in a large loaf tin that you have greased and lightly floured.

Leave to rise, covered, for another hour before baking in a hot – 220C – oven for 35-40 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when you rap it on the underside. Cool on a wire rack for as long as you can before cutting off a crust, slathering with butter and devouring.

Family-friendliness rating: This is probably a teensy-bit hearty and seeded for my guys. A little less granular and they’d go for it… But I like it like this!

Cleanup rating: Not too bad. This is a slow, steady activity. Good for when you’re waiting in for the gas man.

Can you freeze it? Yes. I generally enjoy it fresh for a couple of days then as the week goes on I slice it, double bag it and chip off slices for toasting as I need them.

 *I'm being glib for 'humorous' effect... of course we also had a brilliant time with my folks who are fantastic hosts, great company and... yes, enthusiastic babysitters.


  1. Your bread beats mine hands down. I need to use your recipe clearly. (There's a reason mine wasn't photographed in the tin...)

  2. Aw, you're very kind. But my kids won't touch this with a bargepole. I have been working on a more kid-friendly loaf, though, which I plan to post about soon.