When I was in graduate school I became obsessed with cooking and cooking shows (Great Chef, Great Cities anyone?). In my free time, I made everything I ate from scratch, from the tomato sauce to the bread and the pasta. I even got a part-time job during the holidays at Williams-Sonoma so I could get a discount on all my cooking tools. Then Baking with Julia came out, and I thought my life was complete! I was addicted to so many recipes in the book, but especially the recipe for white bread. The Little Loaf blog by Kate Doran took me down that memory lane, and her beautiful new cookbook, Homemade Memories: Childhood Treats with a Twist, has delivered a new recipe for my beloved loaf of white bread. I think everyone should treat themselves or their family to warm, thick slices of homemade white bread every so often. They can be slathered with butter and jam, or made into the most divine BLT that soaks up all the juices of the tomato and bacon, or a PB&J, or a heaping pulled pork sandwich — or just about anything you long to put between two thick slices of pillow-soft bread. Please note that Kate’s recipe calls for a 2 pound loaf pan, but you may divide the dough in half and make two 1 pound loaves. Kate’s recipe also offers a wholewheat option! —Kristina
Why Kate loves this recipe: With a loaf of bread you’ll never go hungry — I find it can be an inspiration for so many meals, whether savory or sweet. While I love experimenting with sourdough starters and different flours, sometimes all I want is a simple sandwich loaf that comes together quickly. This fuss-free loaf is exactly that and also works wonderfully made with a mixture of wholemeal and malted wheat flour instead of white. And when it starts to go stale, the blitzed up crumbs can be used as the base for the ultimate comfort pudding, treacle tart.
Photography by Helen Cathcart
Growing up, making bread wasn’t something my family did with any particular skill, but I can still remember the excited anticipation as we waited for a loaf to bake. Just as the kitchen began to smell more delicious than we could stand, the bread would be ready. Fresh out of the oven we’d fall on it with glee, slathering salty butter into round after round of still-warm slices and disregarding everything the experts say about leaving a loaf to cool before cutting into it. Homemade bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I started the Little Loaf blog as a way of documenting my journey in learning to bake real bread at home, so it feels fitting to open this final chapter by encouraging you to do the same. Hot buttered bread is hard to beat, but for when you want something more exciting, I’ve included a handful of my favorite spreads, too. These can be used in all manner of recipes and, along with basics such as Whipped cream and Hot chocolate fudge sauce, are absolute essentials in “the Little Loaf” kitchen.
A Little Loaf
Made with milk, honey and butter, this bread is delicately soft with a hint of sweetness, making it perfect for using in desserts. If a freshly baked loaf turns any meal into a celebration, a stale one can end it in style. Slice, toast and serve with any of the spreads in this chapter then use stale bread in all manner of treats from Fig and hazelnut bread and butter pudding to Pear and pecan treacle tart and Cinnamon breadcrumb ice cream.
Makes one 2.2 pound (1kg) loaf
– 1 cup plus 1-2 teaspoons (250–260ml) milk
– 1 tsp honey
– 2 tablespoons (25g) cold butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
– 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (400g) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
– 1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons (7g) fast-action yeast
– 1 rounded teaspoon (7g) salt
– sunflower oil, for greasing
1. In a small saucepan, gently warm 3/4 of the milk (200ml) with the honey until the honey has dissolved. Take the pan off the heat. Place the butter and flour in a large mixing bowl and use your fingertips to lightly rub the butter into the flour until you can no longer feel any lumps. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other.
2. Pour the lukewarm milk into the flour and mix together using a plastic dough scraper or your fingers. Slowly add the remaining milk, a little at a time, to form a sticky, but not soggy, dough. You may not need it all.
3. Scrape the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for 8–10 minutes until soft and smooth. At first it will feel impossibly wet and sticky – have faith and try not to add extra flour as this will dry out the dough. After several minutes of kneading, you’ll start to achieve the silky texture you’re looking for.
4. Shape the dough into a round and place in a bowl greased lightly with sunflower oil. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. This should take about 1 hour: if your kitchen is cold it could take up to 3 hours.
5. Grease a 2 pound loaf pan (pullman loaf / 1kg loaf tin) with butter. Tip the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Stretch and flatten the ball into an oval disc the same length as your tin. Fold the outside edges of the oval into the middle to form an oblong, pressing down firmly where they join. Transfer your dough to the tin, tucking the ends under slightly and making sure the join is underneath.
6. Cover with a tea towel and leave for a further hour, or until the dough has almost doubled in size again. Preheat the oven to 460°F/240°C/220°C fan/Gas mark 8.
7. Dust the risen loaf with flour and slash the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 425°F/220°C/200°C fan/Gas mark 7 and bake for 15–20 minutes more. To check if it’s ready, tip the loaf out of its tin and tap the base – it should sound hollow. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack out of the tin.
8. The loaf will keep for 3–4 days. After that your bread will be stale, but don’t throw it away – there are lots of lovely recipes you can make with stale bread in this book.
Little Wholemeal Loaf
Make a wholemeal loaf using the directions above but with the following alterations:
– Replace the strong white bread flour with 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (325g) strong wholemeal bread flour and 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75g) malted wheat flour.
– Omit the butter and honey.
– Replace the milk with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (270ml) lukewarm water mixed with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (25ml) olive oil.
“A Little Loaf” recipe from HOMEMADE MEMORIES Childhood treats with a twist by Kate Doran is published with permission by Orion Books.
About Kate: Kate Doran is the blogger behind The Little Loaf blog, and has been named one of the UK’s top food bloggers by the Sunday Times magazine. The Little Loaf blog was also named one of the UK’s best baking blogs by Channel 4. Her recipes have been featured in The Guardian, Stylist, and Huffington Post, to name a few. Kate also develops freelance recipes for Why Nut Ltd and, when she isn’t baking or blogging, she works at Little, Brown Book Group. She lives in southwest London with husband, aka chief-recipe-tester for The Little Loaf. The Little Loaf can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.