Bread is one of life's simple pleasures. Everyone should enjoy the smell of freshly made bread at least once a week, it is good for the soul. I am happy to die on this hill.
You may have considered making your own bread but been put off by the idea of endless kneading and kitchens covered in flour. I was also skeptical of jumping on the bread-wagon until my friend introduced me to Dan Lepard.
An Aussie who has made his home in Britain, Dan Lepard is all about the bread. He has released numerous books on the subject of baking bread easily. What makes Dan so special is that he has really focused on simple homemade bread recipes that anyone can pick up. Even a novice like me!
Low knead bread making
Low knead bread was Dan Lepard's unique and signature method when he first introduced it, but now it is much more widely used. Most bread recipes call for long stretches of kneading and resting but this method uses the gas created by the yeast to stretch the gluten in the flour during shorter breaks in the process (which is what lengthy kneading is usually for) making it a super simple recipe that anyone can pick up and use.
The reason this recipe resonated with me were the gaps built into the method. When I make bread I am able to do something else as well - multitasking means time for more hobbies!
Following this recipe, I have made impressively tasty bread to share with friends and family, and you can too.
A simple white loaf.
Here is my version of this recipe - Simple white loaf - and all credit for this goes to Dan Lepard. I wanted to share my experience using this recipe for a few months and the changes I enjoy.
I have made a demonstration video of me making bread with this recipe just the other day. Hopefully this will show you just how easy it is!
- 350g Strong white bread flour
- 50g Strong wholemeal bread flour
- 225 ml room temperature water
- 75 ml 40 degrees C water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp (3.5g) fast action yeast (typically half a packet)
Olive oil (for the worktop)
Method at a glance
If I were to give a tagline to this method it would be "mix it and leave it". Almost every stage of the process boils down to this simple catch phrase.
There are four basic steps before baking, and after each one you will have to leave the dough. This might be where you fit another hobby in!
The steps are:
- Activate the yeast
- Mix the ingredients
Simple right? Read on for more detail!
Method - Step by Step
If you do not have a thermometer to hand you can make the 40 degree water by mixing…
- 55 ml of room temperature water
- 20 ml of freshly boiled water
Step 1: Prep the ingredients.
Mix the yeast with the warm water, stirring well. Leave to activate for 20 minutes. In the meantime, weigh out your flour into a large mixing bowl. Fill a jug with cold water from the tap and leave on the side to reach room temperature. Wait for the yeast to be ready.
Step 2: Initial mixing
Combine 225ml of the room temperature water, the yeast mixture and flour in the bowl with your hands. When you have worked in the yeast, add the salt (salt can kill some of your yeast so it is best to keep them separate for as long as possible.) MIx the dough together until you have a sticky scraggy mess, cover with a towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Step 3: First knead
Prepare a spot on your countertop by spreading a small amount of olive oil across it with your hands so there is a thin covering over the whole area. Take the dough out of the bowl and gently knead it for 10-12 seconds. Fold the dough in half vertically and gently push the fold together, then turn it 90 degrees and repeat 8-12 times.
If you are worried about this bit watch this short clip of how Dan Lepard does this knead you will see just how easy it is!
Make sure to get any lumps of flour and stretch and mix them to incorporate them with the rest of the dough. When you’re done with the kneading, cover the dough on the side with your towel and clean the bowl. Line the bowl with olive oil (start small and add more, it is easy to make it too oily). Place your dough inside, cover and leave for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Second/Third knead
Check your surface and add more olive oil if needs be. Take the dough out of the bowl and do the mixing procedure again - 8-10 kneading folds gently mixing and stretching the dough. Make sure to find and incorporate any lumps. Don’t worry if you go over the allotted amount of folds, it won’t hurt your dough. It is more important that it is well mixed. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat the knead when the time is up.
Step 5: The first rise
Instead of leaving the dough for 10 minutes after the third knead, you’ll want to leave it for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. While you wait for it to rise you can watch one of the many handy video tutorials available online about shaping dough in preparation for the next step - this is one of my favourites from The Bread Kitchen.
Step 6: The second rise
It is time to shape the dough! Follow the process you learned in the video tutorial as best you can; shaping is one of the hardest parts of bread making and you will improve over time. When you are done place your loaf on your baking tray and let it rise at room temperature for a further 30 minutes.
Step 7: Oven on and bake time
When your dough has risen for a second time, turn your oven on to 180C/~360F. Leave the oven to heat up for 15 minutes (This is how long mine takes - yours may be quicker so you can adjust the times. Just make sure it is good and hot before placing the bread in!)
You can check the rise on your bread by poking it. As bread rises the gluten in it becomes stretchy and bouncy, so when you poke the loaf you are looking for the perfect amount of "spring back". Essentially you want the mark your poke leaves to bounce back mostly, but not completely. If the mark stays and only springs back a little, the dough needs longer to rise - check back in 5. If your poke does not spring back completely, you may have over proved the bread and it should go in straight away (don’t worry it happens to all of us sometimes, it will still be delicious).
Before baking, it is best to score the dough. This is a cut across the top that allows the dough to spring up and expand. Use a razor blade or a very sharp knife for this. When you are happy with the rise and the score, place the loaf in the oven to bake for approximately 35 minutes.
You can tell your loaf is done when you knock on the bottom of it and you hear a hollow sound. Make sure to check the whole loaf.
That is it! You can see there is a tonne of time between the steps here for you to fit in another hobby - I love listening to audiobooks while I bake or working on a programming project. The built in breaks let you think and absorb what you are doing.
Let us know what you think of the recipe, and what you managed to do in the spare time around the process. If you have some pictures of your bread we would love to see them. Send us a message on your social media platform of choice.