500g strong white bread flour, 7g yeast, 100ml apple juice, 200ml milk, 2 tbsp peanut butter (I like Whole Earth peanut butter), olive oil.
Preparation: 3 hours minimum
That phrase "the best thing since sliced bread" is such a misnomer. Anyone who makes their own bread will agree that the worst thing to happen to bread was the Chorleywood bread press. Processed bread has no soul and if you care about what you put in your body you will be horrified to read the ingredients on your shop-bought bread and discover that it's not just flour, yeast, salt and water but a whole host of preservatives, rising agents, bleached flours and even bread flavourings! It makes a person wonder if the reason we are the generation of food intolerances that you never heard about from our ancestors is because the food we eat bears such little resemblance to actual food.
But hippie rant over... this recipe makes utterly delicious bread. Fact!
1) Warm the milk gently in a pan, stirring the peanut butter into it until melted, then add the apple juice. If you want to use chunky peanut butter, this will leave you with a bit of texture in your bread - but sieve the chunks from the milk to add back in later.
2) By hand: Sift together the flour and yeast in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Slowly add the milk mixture, stirring with a spoon until a sticky mass has formed. Tip out onto a work surface and rub your hands with olive oil. Work the dough - kneading and stretching out the glutens in the flour until you have a silky, smooth ball of dough that is no longer sticking to the work surface. By processor: add your dough hook attachment and add the ingredients. Personally I still think this dough benefits from being hand manipulated but if you prefer to use a machine that's up to you! If you are using chunky peanut butter, at this stage add the chunks back to the mixture by flattening out the dough a little, tipping them on and then working the dough back into a ball to spread them out evenly
3) Rub your hands and a clean bowl with a little olive oil, stroke the surface of the dough until lightly oiled and then add to the bowl. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag and leave somewhere warm for about 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
4) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and "knock it back" - this doesn't mean pummel it violently, it means deflate it gently with your fingertips and then form it back into a ball for a second rising in a proving basket.
5) After knocking back the dough, you can leave this for a third or fourth rising (this gives it a better texture and flavour, but honestly this means staying in the house almost all day!) or get baking. Slash the top of the bread twice to allow it to rise, then boil a kettle of water and pour it into a roasting dish. This needs to go on the bottom of your oven to keep it steamy and moist. Now pre-heat the oven to 9 or 10 (basically your highest setting!) with a tray or baking stone in the oven and quickly transfer your ball of dough onto the baking tray/stone and shut the door.
6) After 8-10 minutes, turn down the oven. If a dark crust is forming quickly then bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 3. If it has just begun to colour bake it for 30 minutes at gas mark 4. If the dough looks the same colour then your oven is rubbish (sorry! Buy an oven thermometer and this will really help) and you will need to bake it for 40 minutes at gas mark 6.
7) When your time is up, carefully take the bread from the oven and shut the door to keep the heat and steam in, in case it needs further baking. You'll know it's ready if there is a firm crust on the top and the softer bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Transfer to a cooling rack and don't be tempted to carve straight into it because you'll squish it and the remaining moisture in the dough will create a soggy layer at the bottom which will never go away. Sad bread. SAD BREAD! Once the bread has cooled for 20-30 minutes and is no more than a little warm to the touch you can dig in!
This makes amazing toast, lovely bacon and fried apple sandwiches but personally I like it spread with a good chocolate hazelnut spread.