Part of the reason Melissa and I moved down to Brighton was because we wanted to make a major change to our lifestyle. We wanted to lead a more simple life, taking less for granted and even though we would have a much lower income, we wanted to spend our money with local businesses and eating local food rather than blindly pushing a trolley down the aisles in the Saturday morning supermarket rat race.
Several months on, we've realised we can't cut out the supermarket completely - it's just not practical or affordable - but we certainly make more informed and considered choices about the food we buy. We buy most of our eggs, fruit and vegetables from local greengrocers The Park Farm Shop, we only buy sustainably sourced fish, fairtrade chocolate and coffee and we have boycotted nearly all processed food in favour of making everything from scratch.
Occasionally we do slip, but one rule we've stuck religiously to is our pact not to buy supermarket bread. It's not always been easy, especially because I'm a total toast fiend and breadmaking takes a long time, but we've not bought a single loaf since January. So I have now had plenty of practice to perfect my favourite bread recipe, which I thought I would share with you.
This loaf is my ultimate sandwich bread - it's got a lovely springy soft crumb, subtle malty flavour, and it always turns out lovely and light. Some bread recipes can be fickle, but this one always seems to turn out perfectly every time - it's pretty foolproof.
Everyday Malted Brown Bread Recipe
Makes 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 8 rolls
700g brown or wholemeal bread flour
200g white bread flour
80g malt extract (you can find this in heath food stores or Holland & Barratt)
80ml sunflower or vegetable oil
4 tsp dried active yeast (I use Allinson's)
30g demerara or light brown sugar
3tsp maldon sea salt, crushed (if you use regular table salt you will need to add more - try 4tsp)
1. Dissolve the sugar in 180ml boiling water in a large jug, then add 360ml cold water so you end up with a 540ml lukewarm sugar solution. Sprinkle over the yeast and give the mixture a good whisk then leave in a warm place for about 20 minutes. This gives the yeast the perfect wake up back to life ready to spring into action and create a lovely springy loaf.
2. If you have a mixer with a dough hook then this recipe is a cinch. While your yeast is reawakening, measure out the flours and salt into the bowl of your mixer and give it a quick mix. Make a well in the middle and add the oil and malt extract. Once your yeast mixture has a nice frothy head of about 1-2cm add this in as well and mix until combined. Leave the mix to stand for 10 minutes to absorb the liquid into the flour before kneading.
3. Knead the mixture using the dough hook on a low setting for 10 minutes. I'm sure you could do this by hand if you don't have a mixer, but it's quite a wet dough so be prepared to get your hands messy and try not to add much more flour during kneading.
4. Shape your dough into a round, then place into an oiled bowl and cover with a teatowel or dark plastic bag. Leave somewhere snug and draught-free to rise until doubled in size (mine usually takes less than an hour but will depend on the temperature of your room).
5. Once the dough has risen, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and press down all over with your fingertips to knock out the air. You can then form into a round and leave to rise a second time to improve the flavour and texture, but it's not essential.
6. Split the dough evenly into two and shape into rounds (or rolls if you prefer). I like the River Cottage Bread Book method which you can see here.
7. Place your shaped loaves onto a well floured teatowel and coat liberally all over with flour. Cover and leave to prove until nearly doubled in size (this usually takes about 20 minutes, but keep checking regularly).
8. Preheat your oven to 210C (195C fan assisted) and stick a large baking sheet in to heat up. When your loaves are ready to bake, it's best to work quickly! Get the hot baking sheet out of the oven (shut the door quickly to keep the heat in) and cover with baking parchment or sprinkle with flour to stop the bread from sticking. Transfer your loaves to the hot tray and slash the tops with a serrated knife - this helps the bread to rise evenly in the oven. Put the loaves straight in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (15-20 minutes for rolls), or until you hear a hollow sound when tapping on the base of the loaf.
The bread keeps well in the bread bin for a few days and also freezes very successfully. It's not too dense (unlike many homemade brown bread recipes) so makes it perfect for sandwiches. It does take a while to make, but if you have a mixer with a dough hook it really takes very little effort and is far better than any supermarket loaf.
As always, I love to hear your comments so if you give this recipe a try please let me know how you get on :o)