How to make your own bread
Ever wanted to have a go at making your own bread? Louise Johncox's simple recipe for white bread, passed down to her by her master baker father, is the perfect place to start.
Lightly grease your loaf tin (or a baking sheet).
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar (if using) and salt. Rub in the margarine and stir in the yeast. Stir in the warm water and mix into a soft dough by hand.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes in a freestanding food mixer fitted with a dough hook, or turn it out onto a floured surface and knead well by hand for about 10 minutes.
To best achieve this, flatten the dough with your knuckles and pull both edges apart before folding them inwards on top of themselves so you have 3 layers of dough. Tightly roll the dough forwards on top of itself in order to form a giant swiss roll shape. Keep kneading in this way for 5–10 minutes.
When your dough feels smooth, place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it with a clean, damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove or until it has almost doubled in size (an airing cupboard has proved fine for me). Be mindful that the proving stage can take up to 1 hour so don’t be in a rush. Alternatively, leave the dough to rise in a warm corner of the kitchen, but this will take longer.
Tip your dough onto the floured surface. Divide the dough in half if you are making 2 small loaves.
Shape the dough into a ball, folding the dough inwards repeatedly until the air is knocked out.
Form the dough into an oblong, flatten out the dough and fold the sides into the middle. Ensure the join runs along the base and the top is smooth.
Place the dough in the prepared tin or on a baking sheet. Leave the dough to prove for about 1 hour or until the dough has almost doubled in size.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas mark 7.
Bake for about 25–35 minutes or until the bread is baked through.
To check if the bread is baked, take a loaf out of the oven, tip it upside down and tap it on the base. If it sounds hollow, the loaf is perfectly baked. If it is not baked, replace the bread in the tin, place it back in the oven and test again in a few minutes.
Cool the loaf by removing it from the tin and placing it on a wire rack.
Louise Johncox's The Baker's Daughter, a beautiful book full of timeless recipes from four generations of bakers and confectioners is out now.