Basic bread

Basic bread

2 loaves
Vanessa Levis


Quantity Ingredient
625g baker’s flour or plain flour, or for wholemeal bread a mixture of half baker’s flour and half wholemeal plain strong wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
30g compressed yeast
or 14g dry yeast
1 1/2-2 cups lukewarm water
60g butter, melted and cooled slightly


  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large warmed bowl, then take out 1/2 cup and sift it onto a work surface.
  2. Mix the yeast with 1/4 cup water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve.
  3. Run your fingers through the flour in the bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast mixture into the well and add the butter (which should be warm, not hot) and 1 1/2 cups of the water. Mix the flour and liquid ingredients with your fingers, then beat with your hand, adding a little more water if necessary to make a firm dough. With your hand, fold and slap the dough against the sides of the bowl until it begins to feel elastic and leaves the sides.
  4. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured work surface and knead by folding the far edge towards you, then pushing it firmly away with the heel of the hand. Turn the dough a little and repeat. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when you make a dent with your finger.
  5. Place the dough in a clean, warm, oiled bowl, turn it so that it is lightly oiled all over, and cover with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to 1 hour (or in a cool place for longer – see Note: Rising times for bread). Test by pushing a finger into the dough. If the indentation remains, it is ready.
  6. Knock back the dough by punching it lightly with your fist several times, squeezing out any large bubbles. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead three or four times.
  7. The loaves may be baked in two lightly oiled 23 cm x 12 cm bread tins, or the dough may be formed into any shape such as plaits, twists, cottage rounds or crescents and baked on a greased baking tray.
  8. For loaves baked in tins, divide the dough equally into two and pat each piece into a round, then fold the sides under to form a neat oblong. Press together to seal and place in the prepared tins. Alternatively, shape as desired and place on a prepared baking tray. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth and leave in a warm place until risen to the tops of the tins, or doubled in bulk if you are baking shapes on trays.
  9. During the second rising, preheat the oven to 230°C .
  10. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the tins or trays around, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake for a further 20–25 minutes for bread in tins and 18–20 minutes for shapes on trays, or until it is cooked; it should sound hollow when the underside is knocked with the knuckles. If not, return to the oven for more baking. If you want a crisp crust all over, take the bread out of the tins and bake directly on the oven bars for last 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the tins or trays as soon as it comes from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.


  • Vienna twist

    Break off about one-fifth of the dough and set aside. Pat the remaining dough into a rectangle and roll it up towards you from a long side, tapering the dough toward the ends with your hands to make a long shape with pointed ends. Squeeze the edges together to seal and place, seam side down, on a greased baking tray. Divide the reserved dough in half, roll each piece into a long rope between your hands, twist the ropes together and lay on top of the loaf, pressing the ends to seal. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake as for loaves in tins.

    Bread rolls

    Pat the dough out into a rectangle, cut into 24 equal portions and shape each into a thick round. Turn under all around to make balls, pressing the edges together underneath to seal. Place on a greased baking trays, cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk. Bake in a preheated 200°C oven for about 25 minutes, turning the trays round halfway through the baking time.


    These may be varied. For a crisp crust, brush the dough with cold water and repeat several times during baking. For a golden shiny crust, brush with a little beaten egg; for a cottage loaf, dust the bread lightly with flour; for a rich crust, brush with melted butter. Coarse salt, poppy, sesame or caraway seeds, or coarse wheat can be sprinkled over the bread before baking for an attractive loaf with good flavour.

Rising times for bread

  • Recipes usually say that yeast dough should be allowed to rise in a warm place, but if it suits you better, you can allow it to rise more slowly in a cool place or even in the refrigerator. A dough will take 30–60 minutes to double in bulk in a warm place, about 2 hours at normal room temperature, or up to 12 hours in a cool room or refrigerator. Keep the bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth, or place the dough in a plastic bag large enough to allow for expansion; loosely tie the mouth. A slow rise is considered by many experts to give bread a better texture and flavour than a quickly risen loaf.
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