2tsp caster sugar
425ml warm water
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
750g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
40g butter or 4 tbsp olive oil ( I prefer to use olive oil, I think the flavour really comes through in the bread)
*this will make 2 loaves, or place on a sheet pan if you're having a dinner party to make one large, beautiful free-hand loaf.
Call me lazy, but having kneaded dough by hand as well as in the Kitchen Aid using the dough hook, I don't really find any difference in the end result if you use an electric mixer. However, I do like to start the whole process in a bowl using my hands. This way, you can be sure all the ingredients are incorporated evenly before setting it to knead. Once the dough comes together, I transfer it to my Kitchen Aid and on a medium-low speed, I let it knead itself for about 5-7 min. Depending on how humid/cold/hot the weather is, I stop the mixer and check the dough for it's springiness. If it doesn't seem to bounce back as fervently as it should, I'll pop it back in the mixer or just give it a good whack by hand for another minute or two. Sometimes it's good to finish it off by hand as it's easier to tell when it's done and ready to chill out and rise.
Cover it up with cling film and set to the side (somewhere not ice cold is always a good option!) and let rise for a few hours, until it has at least doubled in size. tip: I try to make this bread after I've cooked something in the over for dinner. Once the oven has been off for a little while, the residual heat is the perfect place to put this little doughy bowl of love to rise. Of course, if it's to warm to stick your hand in a touch the racks, then it's too hot!
Once it's biiiiiig and fluffy, poke it a few times if you want...go on, you know you want to!...punch it back and pull it away from the sides of the bowl. Knead it for another few minutes and then let it set to the side while the oven preheats to 220C. Shape the dough however you want. I always just go for a normal tin loaf (it's easier to cut up for sandwiches, toasting, etc. I brush mine with a little water and sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or just plain rock salt (it looks lovely when it comes out of the oven). Let it rise again until it has doubled in size. by this time, the over should be hot and ready to go! Bake for 15 minutes at 220C and then turn the oven down to 200C for another 25 minutes.
Get out the butter!!!!!!
In my previous post, I made some almond paste. I got some really good ideas, especially from VIMWAC who suggested Christmas Cake, for ways to use it and I can't wait to try them out! In the meantime, I made a tart from a recipe I found on Two Tarts. I substituted apples for nectarines because, well, I just did...and it came out pretty darn good if I do say so myself!