Trying to make bread: Lisa’s milk bread recipe

When I was about 13, I went through a phase of making bread all the time. I loved the magic of putting dough into the airing cupboard, and taking it out, twice the size, an hour later. I was entranced by the ritual of mixing, kneading, rising and kneading. Most of all, I was hooked on the smell.

I can’t remember why I stopped making bread. Think I got distracted by boys and skateboards and flared jeans. But last week I tried my friend Lisa’s milk bread, and it reminded me why bread making is so fab.

My first attemptLisa is a Bread Angel, and she runs community bread making workshops in Leicester and London through Eventful Bread and Virtuous Bread. These two bread-based social enterprises use bread making to effect positive social change in the UK. They teach people how to set up and run home baking businesses so that they can provide fresh, wholesome bread to their communities. Sometimes I can’t believe that organisations like these exist – it’s almost too good to be true. Imagine if your job was making bread and doing good, all the livelong day? It sounds like pure heaven.

Anyway, back to the milk bread. Lisa is always an inspiration, but her milk bread was something else altogether. Wonderfully light and fluffy, it was just the right level of wholesome and comforting – so much so that I’m pretty sure I managed to eat half a loaf in under an hour. Yep. Half a loaf. Just sliced up, loaded with butter and gobbled down.

Lisa tweeted me this very simple milk bread recipe, and I was beguiled by its simplicity. It’s quick enough to make on a Tuesday evening after work, so it gets a massive thumbs up from me.

However, my first go at making this turned out heavy and doughy. I’m not sure what I did wrong! The dough didn’t rise massively – perhaps it needed somewhere warmer (a bit tricky in our drafty house)? Perhaps I had the oven up too high? I remember bread making being EASY when I was thirteen…

So I definitely don’t have the art of making bread nailed yet – Paul Hollywood would certainly not be impressed by my first attempt at milk bread. I’m sure he’d have lots to say about my crumb structure (which was distinctly un-crumb-like).  But doughy or not, it was delicious spread with butter and jam. Just not very much like bread…

Here’s to my next try…

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What you need

750g strong white flour

2 tsp salt

75g butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast

1 tbsp caster sugar

300ml milk, warmed on the hob or in the microwave to warm (it doesn’t need to be piping hot)

150g water

How to make it

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, then rub in the butter until you have the consistency of bread crumbs.
  2. Add the sugar and yeast, then pour in the warm milk and the water. Mix first of all with a spoon, then bring the dough together with your hands until it comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Dust your work surface with flour, then turn out the dough and knead for around ten minutes. You want a smooth, elastic texture when the dough is ready.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220˚C.
  5. Lightly grease a medium-sized loaf tin. Roll the kneaded dough into an oblong, roughly the same length as the tin. Cut into 4 equal pieces, roll into balls and place side by side in the tin. Cover with a piece of greased cling film, and put in a warm place. Leave to rise for 25 minutes, or until the dough is roughly doubled in size.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes, until golden and risen nicely. To check whether it’s done, tap the top and bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes.
  8. Devour.