Anyone who has ever visited France will know that life very much revolves around food and drink, with bread and red wine being at the center of almost every meal. There is a Boulangerie in almost every village across France and the variety of breads on offer is simply astounding.
We still love making our own bread however, as there literally isn't a better smell than that of a freshly baked loaf cooling in your kitchen.
The Following recipe is for a free formed enriched loaf - meaning no loaf tin is used, and the dough is made using milk and egg for a richer flavour...
Makes 2 loaves
650g Strong white bread flour
2 sachets of fast action yeast
300ml whole milk - tepid
300ml tepid water
Please note: All cooking and rising times are approximate as all appliances differ...
Mix the Water, Milk, Sugar and Yeast in a large mixing bowl, cover with clingfilm and place somewhere warm - the airing cupboard or if you don't have one the oven on its absolute lowest setting (mustn't be above 40 degrees C)
Leave the wet mix until the clingfilm is domed (a sign that gas is being created) and the mixture has risen with a large foamy head on top
Once risen, pour the mixture into a stand mixer and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix with a dough hook for around 7 minutes or until the mix is elastic and of a good dough consistency. If you don't have a mixer, add the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and beat with the handle of a wooden spoon for 7-10 minutes, or until the desired dough consistency is achieved. If the mix seems a bit wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough is workable, but don't overdo it as if it is too dry the bread will be heavy and won't rise properly
Transfer the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and put back in the warm place for 15-30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size
Turn the dough out onto a well floured worktop and knead with your hands for a further 5 minutes. Cut the dough in half and form into 2 rugby ball-shaped loaves. Using a sharp knife gently score the top with your desired pattern, place on baking paper on a baking tray and return to the warm place uncovered for a further 10 minutes
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C (if you're using the oven as your warm place, remove the rising loaves after 10 minutes and place on the side whilst the oven pre-heats to 200). Once the loaves have risen transfer to the hot oven for 15 minutes, before turning the heat down to 150C and cooking for a further 15 minutes
When checking to see if the loaves are cooked, tap the base (be careful, it will be hot) and if it sounds hollow it is ready to come out. If not, return to the oven for a further 7-10 minutes
Once cooked, leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. This loaf will freeze very well, and if put in an air-tight container, will stay fresh for 2-3 days
We recommend simply dipping the warm bread in a mix of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or making a delicious open sandwich with Piccalilli, Gouda, Pastrami, Baby Gem and Cucumber