Beat the February blues by pummelling some bread dough. David Woods, executive head chef of the Sofitel Hotel, based at Gatwick’s north terminal, finds therapy in the art of kneading.
“There is something very satisfying about making your own bread and it is a myth that it is difficult to do. Kneading dough can be therapeutic and just what we need at this sluggish time of year. My latest ‘fix’ is making bread using beer. It produces a golden brown loaf and a cooking smell that is pure heaven – and you get to drink the rest of the beer while you are waiting for the dough to rise.
Always knead the dough for a good eight minutes to help develop the gluten in the bread. If you don’t, the bread won’t be so nicely structured when cooked and will bake into irregular shapes. It might sound like a long time, but I find the rhythmic action of folding and pushing the dough into shape is very relaxing and a good way to unwind.
Try adding cooked, chopped bacon and grated cheese at the shaping stage to create a loaf that is a meal in itself. Or keep it simple, and serve with soup, or a rich hearty casserole. You can use any beer but, with St Patrick’s day coming up next month, it is a good excuse to start practising your bread making techniques using a drop of the black stuff.”
Makes three small loaves
1 kg strong plain flour
65oml Guinness or any ale-style beer
25g fresh yeast – or 15g sachet of dried yeast
1 tablespoon treacle
Place the Guinness into a saucepan and heat gently until it reaches around 37oC or just warm to the touch (hand-hot). Stir the treacle into the warmed Guinness. Pour a little of the warm liquid over the yeast and stir until liquid.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the salt and add the yeast mixture and warm Guinness. Stir until combined, then use your hands to knead the dough for about 8 minutes until smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place until doubled in size – about 45 minutes.
Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into three equal pieces. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased and floured baking tray. Dust with flour. Cover again and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 45 minutes. Bake at 200oC for about 15 minutes. Serve warm.