Makes: 1 small loaf
Time to mix & knead: 25 minutes proving
Time to cook: 40-50 minutes
1 × 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
250ml lukewarm water
3 tablespoons loose molasses sugar
250g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g strong white bread flour
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
olive oil, for greasing
This bread makes great toast as soon as it goes a little stale, giving you an outrageous combination of sticky, sweet and crisp. Spread it thickly with Marmite, caramelise it for brown bread ice cream, or slather it with smoked salmon, beetroot and soured cream.
Wholewheats absorb water in a different way from white bread flour, which means you may need to add more liquid to your dough. The more wholewheat flour you use, the more water you’ll need. The dough will feel gummy and be less manageable to knead, but will produce a much better crumb. Add the water a little at a time so you can judge how easy your dough is to handle. To give more rise to a wholewheat dough, or to make it easier to wield, blend it with strong white flour. A pure wholewheat loaf will be smaller but just as delicious.
Adding a little bit of dark molasses sugar adds starch to your wholemeal flour and gives a smooth caramel flavour while also kicking the yeast into action.
1. Mix the yeast with 2 tablespoons of the warm water and the sugar and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes to fizz and froth. Sift the flours together into a large bowl and sprinkle the salt to one side. Push the flour to the sides of the bowl to form a well in the centre. Pour in the warm yeast mixture and slowly fold in the flours and sugar with your hands. Add the remaining warm water a little at a time so you can manage its texture – it will be wet, so be prepared to get a little sticky.
2. Once combined, bring the dough on to a lightly oiled surface to knead. Knead it by pulling it towards you, pushing it away and folding it back in with the heel of your hand. Do this for 10 minutes, until the dough feels soft and begins to bounce back when you press it with a finger. It will feel more dense than a white bread dough. Alternatively, knead the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, loosely cover with clingfilm, then set aside for 1–2 hours in a warm place or overnight in the fridge until it has almost doubled in size.
4. Bring the dough back on to an oiled surface and knead again for another 5 minutes. Gently form it into a ball shape, gently folding the sides of the dough under itself. Replace in the oiled bowl, folds facing down, and leave to prove for another hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 230°C/fan 210°C/gas 8. When the dough has had time to prove and rise, gently tip it, without knocking the air out, on to a floured baking tray, and score the top of the dough a few times with a very sharp knife or a Stanley blade. Slide into the oven. Throw a glassful of water into the bottom of the oven to help a good crust develop and shut the door. Bake for 40–50 minutes, until golden and the bread is cooked – you can test this by knocking on the underside of the loaf or by checking the inner temperature with a thermometer (see tips, here). Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before slicing.