Recipe for a quick my "Ancient Kenwood mixer Artisan loaf".
Tools. You will need an oven, tinfoil and a baking tray, or a suitable loaf tin, clingfilm or a damp towel and a stand mixer (optional). Extra points if the mixer is ancient, made by Kenwood, and you just repaired it.
Flour - 3 to 4 cups. Any old flour will probably work, bread flour for preference, but for this particular run, I used the cheapeast Sainsbury's own brand, 55 pence for 2.5Kg, orage label stuff, since I was pretty certain I would run into technical issues (i.e. the mixer might blow up under the stress) and might need to take a second or third run at this. I would avoid self raising, since we are using yeast. Self raising + yeast can get be a little odd.
Was there a disaster?... Nope... it worked perfectly first time. No loud pops or smoke from the newly repaired mixer, and the own brand flour produced a remarkably good bread. Perhaps a little soft and fluffy for my tastes, but crusty and very tasty.
For the record "Flour - 3 to 4 cups", is about 1/3 of a 2.5Kg bag or around 500g to 600g would be my estimate, but I eye balled most of this, so measurements are approximate.
Sugar - 3 teaspoons or thereabouts of caster sugar or whatever other sugar you have lying about, we are going to dissolve it, so taste is more important than texture, honey works well too, about a table spoon full.
Given the softness of the flour, the sugar was probably not necessary, but it does speed up the yeast a little.
Dried or live bakers yeast - Dried.. about 3 to 4 teaspoons. For live yeast, use about a 1" cube (more if you feel the urge). More yeast = more fizz, quicker rise, but also more yeasty taste, and possibly oversized bubbles, so don't go overboard.
Sainsbury's bakery will provide live yeast, just ask at the bread counter. Most other supermarkets with an in store bakery will also oblige.
Salt - <1 teaspoon full. Probably you can leave this out, but that is up to you.
Olive oil - 1/3 cup, plus a little extra to grease the bowl and tinfoil.
That's it... Well it ain't rocket science, what did you expect? Lots of fancy stuff?
Place all of the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl, attach the "K" beater (ther mixers, other beaters, use the flat one), mix for 2 to 3 minutes, untill the mix is uniform... you want the yeast evenly distributed.
That was the easy bit, now comes the artistry.
Slowly add the olive oil, and the water, which should be hand hot, but not boiling. Don't believe all the nonsense about it must be exactly X degrees.
Rubbish, yeast is pretty robust stuff. The water should be warm, hot even, since the dough will absorb the heat, but not too hot to touch, or you will kill the yeast.
Mix like this until you get an even, sticky mess. it should stick to the bowl, and the "K" beater. Two minutes or thereabouts should do the trick. The mix should be sticky, but not wet. If its too wet, add flour, if at this point it is like modelling clay, add a little water.
Now swap to the dough hook. This is where the art comes in. We need to add just enough flour, slowly, for the dough to form a nice ball that the dough hook will gloop on to, and push round, and at the same time, lift the remaining sticky dough off the sides and bottom of the bowl. This is the same effect you aim for if kneading bread dough by hand, and the above recipe and method will work just as well with a bit of elbow grease in the place of the food mixer.
Once you are happy with the dough, and it is clinging to the dough hook and generally getting bashed about without gluing itself to the bowl (add flour or water as necessary), let the dough hook do the kneading for you. Six to eight minutes will do the trick. You can knead it longer if you want, but I doubt if it will make much difference.
Once kneaded, scrape the dough from the dough hook back in to the bowl and remove the dough hook and clean it. We will need it again shortly.
Cover the dough in the bowl with cling film or a damp towel (or kitchen paper, or pretty much anything clean in fact that keeps the flies out and provides a loose seal, and won't be damaged by coming in to contact with the rising dough, in the event that the dough fills the bowl as it rises).
Place it in a warm corner to let the yeast, feast.
Leave for an hour or there about. The dough should rise... in fact it should roughly double in volume. You don't need to measure this, just estimate it by eye.
Does it look roughly twice the size it was before, and perhaps have evidence of one or two burst bubbles on the surface, does it have a fluffy springy feel when prodded with a spoon or does it still look and feel like quick setting concrete?
Hopefully the former, if not, give it a bit longer. If your kitchen is cold, this might take two or three hours. If after 3 hours time, you still have concrete, then I suspect your yeast is dead.
Assuming your dough rose, now you "punch it down".. actually I just press the dough down gently with my fists or a spoon. You do not want to squash it too hard, we need to keep some of the gas in it, just not the large bubbles.
Next knead it again with the dough hook for a couple of minutes.
Now depending on what you want to do, you can either pop the dough in a suitably sized bread tin (it should about half to thee quarters fill the depth of the tin), or if you are lazy like me, pop it on to a baking tray on a sheet of tinfoil greased heavily with olive oil. The dough will form a very un-promising looking mound. Don't panic.
Cover again, with something suitable (oiled clingfilm or oiled greasproof paper, since this time, the cover will almost certainly come in contact with the dough).
Place back in the warm place for another 45 minutes. The yeast will do its business again.
When the 45 minutes is almost up, preheat the oven to 180 C.
If you elected for the baking tray method, we now move on to the "artizan" bit. If you went for the bread tin. Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Score the top with a sharp knife, and pop it in the oven at 180 C in a fan assisted oven, or 200C if its a conventional one.
Atrizans proceed as follows. Flour your hands well, and flour the top of the big blob. Tear it in to about 6 even chunks, and roll each out in to a sausage about 8" long. Use plenty of flour on you hands, to avoid sticking to the dough. Take 3 of your rolled dough strips, and plait them loosely together. Do the same with the other three.
This doesn't have to be particularly elegant, (we are not making a Vienna loaf here), since the next operation is to take the opposite ends of the plaits and press them back together to form a round ball. You will need to squeeze the ends together firmly to make them stick. You should now have two interestingly shaped roughly round, fluffy dough balls.
Flour them lightly to allow you to move them about, and place them about 3 inches or more apart on the baking tray.
Dust them with flour and place them in the oven at 180 C in a fan assisted oven, or 200C if its a conventional one
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, perhaps a little longer depending on the flour you used, and whether you like a dark crust. Initially the loaves will continue to rise, then after a while they will start to set, then brown. You don't need to fling the oven open to check, you can take my word for it, however bread is more forgiving than sponge cakes when it comes to opening the oven part way through, so you can take a quick peek every so often to see how things are doing.
Once the crust is your favourite shade of golden brown, remove the bread from the oven and pop it out of the tin, or off the tray, on to a rack to cool.
Once cool, if you turn the bread over and tap it on the base, it should have a nice hollow sound.