Of all the bread I make regularly, this is probably my favourite. It fondly reminds me of the kind of bread that my parents would buy when I was growing up, which we would cycle into town on a Saturday and buy from our local wholefood shop.
I decided that I would dedicate this recipe to the 85,000-year-old footprints that were unearthed last February by stormy weather pummelling the Eastern coastline of the UK. Said to be the oldest human footprints found anywhere outside of Africa, they prove that Northern Europe was inhabited or explored by our ancestors much earlier than previously thought by scientists and historians. Almost as soon as they were discovered, the prints were sadly destroyed and reclaimed by the sea. Nevertheless, they remain a remarkable discovery and were found less than 20 miles from where I sit and write this today.
As I’ve said in the past, I always buy my flour from Letheringsett Watermill, which is local to me and mills grains that are grown in Norfolk. For this recipe, I highly recommend buying a stone-ground flour, as the process of milling is cold (therefore preserving the natural oils in the whole grains, which are really good for you) and because you usually get a coarser end product, which I prefer baking with.
“North-Folk” wholemeal bread
- 300g wholemeal flour
- 200ml water
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of dried yeast (approximately 6g)
In a roomy bowl weigh out 300g of wholemeal flour. Make a small well in the middle of the flour and spoon in 1 teaspoon of dried yeast before covering it with around 50ml of tepid water and covering the bowl with a tea towel. Set aside for about half an hour to let the yeast activate. If you’re me this is when you pop the kettle on and sit down to watch something on the telly for a bit. When making bread, you don’t really want to be in a rush. For a good handmade loaf, it’s all about taking your sweet time.
Leave the yeast waking up for about 20 – 30 minutes. When you check on it, it should look bubbly and sludgy – which means it is awake and happy. Pour on the remaining water, and at this stage add the salt, and bring all the ingredients together to form a wet and shaggy dough.
Turn it out onto your counter top or a board and knead it gently for about 10 – 15 minutes until it’s stretchy and holds together well. When you’re happy with its consistency, put it back in the bowl, cover it again with the tea towel and leave it for around 30 minutes to prove, until approximately doubled in size.
In the meantime, butter a 1LB loaf tin and set it aside.
When your dough is ready, turn it out and shape it. Scatter your countertop or board with a little flour, hold your dough in one hand and let its own weight stretch it out a little. Put the dough down on the surface/board and use your fingertips to lightly pat it down flat and create dimples, before taking each corner and folding it towards the middle. Repeat this step, folding the edges into the middle, until you are unable to do so any further and you have a ball of dough in front of you. Fold the dough in half again and place it seam-side-down in the pre-greased tin. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade and cover everything again with a tea towel, leaving it to rest for about 20-30 minutes – depending on how hot your kitchen is – until the dough has risen to the top of the loaf tin.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes, rotating halfway through so that it colours evenly. To test whether it is baked, slide it out of the tin and give the bottom a tap with your knuckles. When baked properly the bread should have a hollow sound.
To store, wrap the loaf in a tea towel and it should keep fresh for about a week.