Having finally got a fully functioning full-sized oven for the first time in years, I've returned to breadmaking and baking with a vengeance.
Making your own bread is pretty quick and pretty easy, and most of the actual time involved is spent waiting around (drinking tea, smoking, listening to punk rock, that kind of waiting around). I can knock up a loaf of bread in less time than it would take me to walk to the shops to buy one. And I can customise it to suit my particular fancy of the day.
This is a ciderfied adaptation of a beery bread recipe I came across years ago. The end result is a roll with a nice crust, a soft and chewy inside and a slightly herby sweet-sharp flavour.
500g seedy grainy bread flour (the one I use is 20% seeds and grains)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried sage
A grind or two of black pepper
2 tsp fast-action (instant) yeast
Around 300ml vegan cider (a fruity medium dry is ideal)
1 tbs sunflower oil plus a bit more for the kneading
1 tbs malt extract
Mix the flour, salt, sage and pepper together in a large bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and mix again. Add the tablespoon of sunflower oil and briefly stir through, then make a well in the centre of the flour.
Pour in about half of the cider and add the malt extract. Use a spoon to start to bring the mix together then get your hand in there and start squidging it together properly. Add more cider until there's no dry mix left and it's formed a ball. The dough needs to be soft but not too sticky.
Now to knead the dough. Describing how to knead would be a bit long-winded. Luckily there are a couple of great vids with instructions on the BBC website, one that describes using oil instead of flour to stop the dough sticking to your worktop (sunflower oil is fine for this mix), and one that goes through the 'how to' basics. Using these methods, get kneading. You need to be fairly lively about it if you want to get great bread, so don't slack! I find this dough takes around 8 mins to get there, but your mileage may vary.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces of roughly equal size and shape into roundish roll-shaped balls. Put onto a lightly oiled tray or unoiled silicone baking sheet, roughly equidistant apart, and cover with a piece of lightly oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise in a warm room until doubled in size (around 2 hours in my house).
Heat the oven to 220°C, placing a metal tray in the bottom. Remove the clingfilm and place the rolls on the middle shelf. Pour half a cup of water into the metal tray and quickly close the oven door - the water produces steam which makes the rolls go crusty. Bake for 10 mins, reduce heat to 200°C and bake for another 10 mins. They should be now lovely and brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Great with something smoky and pickled inside (some sort of vegan 'bacon', salad and Branston is about as good as a bread roll gets) or with a bowl of my smoky cider casserole. In the last pic, I used some piri piri hummus and salad which hit the spot nicely.