When I had just rediscovered my Mum’s recipe book from 1977, I wrote about this loaf. I was struck by how similar it is to the seeded spelt bread I found myself cooking regularly for the first year of my little girl’s life. In true Chloe style, however, I rushed to admire the romanticism of the recipe, and then I waited a fabulously long time to actually try it out. The reason being that I have been setting aside less and less time for bread baking. It’s silly really, because making bread is REALLY EASY, and unlike the airy, floppy, salty sliced loaves you buy at the supermarket, homemade bread is more substantial and it tastes like it’s doing you some good.
Bread baking is also a wonderful thing to do with children. S really enjoys shaking the flour around, feeling the different textures and pulling off chunks of dough to play with in her hands. It’s also a cheaper activity than making a revolving selection of cakes and iced biscuits. As you can see from the picture, while the medium doesn’t lend itself as a canvas for tiny silver balls, it doesn’t prohibit a little bit of decoration.
If you’re not into worthy bread, however, this recipe is probably not for you. This is a good, sturdy, flavoursome wholemeal loaf that suits strong cheeses and a good toasting. I like to think of it as a bit of a Yorkie.
I like to imagine that this bread is called the ‘Local Loaf’ because Mum would make it with fresh yeast from nearby Harveys Brewery. She did joke that our little family always chose homes near to a prison and a brewery. While I love the thought, it seemed kinder to adapt Mum’s recipe to suit fast action dried yeast because it is the sort most readily used these days. If you live near Lewes, you can buy brewers yeast from the Harveys Shop, and I imagine other breweries will offer the same. Still, unless you are baking different sorts of bread regularly, I see little point in buying and storing various types of yeast because they are best used quickly.
I have also done away with Mum’s advice to allow the dough to rise in an open oven. I’d like to say this was for reasons of health and safety but it has more to do with the fact that I am lucky to have a Rayburn which offers a wonderful warm place in which to leave dough to rise. If you don’t have a Rayburn an airing cupboard works well, or a shelf near a radiator. I haven’t yet tried making this loaf with spelt flour, but I think that would work very well in this recipe as an alternative to wholemeal for people with wheat sensitivities, and those who like to mix it up a little. The better the flour, the better the bread.
The Local Loaf
900g/2lb good strong wholemeal flour
2 tsp salt (I use Maldon)
3.5 tsp or 14g fast action dried yeast
600ml/1.25 pints warm water
A little oil for greasing
Heat the flour in a low oven until warm but not hot to the touch. Tip the warmed flour into a cool mixing bowl and add the salt and dried yeast. Pour in about 500ml of warm water and mix well, adding more as necessary to create a sticky, slightly damp dough. (Flour absorbancy varies so it is best not to add all the water at once.)
Remove the dough and lightly grease the bowl with a piece of kitchen paper steeped in a little vegetable oil. Return the dough to the greased bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
Grease two 20cm loaf tins with butter then dust lightly in flour and set to one side. Tip the risen dough onto a heavily floured worktop and knead vigorously for 2-3 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until firmer and no longer sticky to the touch. Slice the rounded dough in half and place in the tins, cut side down.
Cover the tins with a damp cloth and return to the warm spot for 10 minutes while you heat the oven to 230c.
When the dough has risen for the second time, place the loaves in the top third of your pre-heated oven and bake for about 35 minutes or until the loaves are browned and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack and then eat within two days. This bread works very well as toast if you can’t finish it all when freshly made.
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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