A little background
As part of my work with Homepride Flour I was asked to test their new Strong White Bread Flour by baking a basic white loaf with three different flours. This comparison test would allow them to trial the product against two leading brands. It was a task I took very seriously and of course enjoyed every moment. I love baking bread by hand and still see this as a treat even though I bake 2 loaves every Friday and have done for the past 10 years. There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly baked bread and of course the aroma that fills the house when baking is worth it alone. Most often I will bake a basic white loaf – flour, yeast, salt, water and a little extra-virgin olive oil. I find the white loaf is the most useful for the weekend and week ahead. If I’m having friends to stay or a dinner party then I mix it up and use more varied flours and shapes for the loaves but white flour is my mainstay.
The recipe I’m using for this test is for one loaf using the ‘low-knead’ method. The recipe can be easily doubled and split at the ‘loaf forming stage’ before the final prove. (I always find it makes sense to make two of something instead of just one if it takes the same effort and energy.)
I’ve gone for the low-knead method as I find it produces a perfect, easy loaf every time. By leaving the ingredients alone before the first low-knead you can genuinely feel the yeast get to work straight away and I love how soft the bread is when it’s ready to eat. Plus, I had three loaves to bake and I didn’t want any repetitive wrist injury for the sake of baking and I think this method saved me slightly!
I was sent three flours, Tesco Strong White Flour, Allinson Strong White Bread Flour (my current flour of choice) and Homepride Strong White Bread Flour.
I used Allinson Easy Bake Yeast
I made 3 ‘free-form’ loaves, firstly because I prefer this shape but also I felt I would be able to see how well the loaves kept their shape after the second proving.
If you’re looking for some incredible taste sensation from one clear outstanding winner then I hate to disappoint… I have to say that the differences between the loaves was negligible. From taste, to texture, to aroma they were all delicious and made a great loaf. Out of the 6 people who tasted them, none of them could tell a marked difference (and people really wanted there to be!) I guess for Homepride this isn’t a bad thing. It means they compare favourably with the top selling flours and this must be a good thing so if you’re a bit of a brand junkie like me, it’s good to know that one of your favourite brands produces very good quality all British wheat, bread flour… and if you’re not so worried about your bread flour then you can stick with your favourite, safe in the knowledge that it’s unlikely to be rivalled by another… which I think is what they call a win-win!
- 400g strong white bread flour
- 1 sachet or 1 heaped teaspoon of fast-action dried yeast
- 1 heaped teaspoons salt (very important – don’t leave this out or your bread will not taste nice)
- 300ml regular tap water
- olive oil and extra flour for dusting
place the flour, yeast and salt in a very large ceramic bowl and stir together, then pour in the water and bring together using a rubber spatula – scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix the dough until all the dry flour is gone and you’re left with a sticky, shaggy mess – cover with a tea towel and set aside for 10 mins. – wash and dry your spatula as you will need it clean for the next stage.
oil your work surface with a generous glut of olive oil and using your right hand, wipe the surface in a circular motion to coat the surface in oil. Then, use your oily right hand to remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the oiled surface then take the spatula and scrape clean the bowl, then drizzle the bowl with a little olive oil and using your right hand again, wipe the inside of the bowl to coat it in oil.
knead the dough with your oiled hand 8 times… it doesn’t even need to be a sophisticated knead, just a fold, push and quarter turn… you should, even at this stage be able to feel that the dough is soft and light… then place it back into the oiled bowl, cover in a tea towel and set aside for another 10 minutes.
Repeat this twice more and then after the final quick knead, cover the bowl in cling film and set aside until the dough has proved to double the size… this should take roughly and hour but it depends on the warmth of the room
pre-heat the oven to 220C and place an empty baking tray at the bottom of the oven
oil your work surface and tip the dough out onto it. Punch the dough down and make a rough oval shape… you’re now going to do some folding and turning that will put air back into the dough and create layers which in turn should create a beautifully aerated loaf… fold down the dough halfway from the top and then fold up the dough over from the bottom. A classic ‘gatefold.’ Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the gatefold.
you essentially now have your loaf and can do with it what you like. It could be tucked neatly into a classic loaf tin or you could form it into a round ball or any shape to bake, it’s up to you. Whatever shape you decide upon, once it’s shaped – cover it in either a plastic bag or upturned plastic container and let it rpove once more for 30 mins.
once you’re ready to bake, spritz the top of the loaf with a spray of cold water, then pat some flour over the top and slash a couple of cuts in the top
quickly open the oven and pour a jug of water into the baking tray in the bottom and then place your loaf into the oven… bake on 220C for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 180C for a further 20 minutes… the bottom of the loves should sound hollow when tapped… hard as it may be, set aside to cool completely before eating!
Homebred Strong White Bread Flour is available exclusively at tesco stores.
eat and of course, enjoy!