Perrrrrfect bread

Bread is so easy to make, and so versatile in that you can start with the basics and add any number of variations to suit your taste and budget.

Here’s a simple, failsafe bread recipe (well, almost failsafe!). To make two loaves you need: 5 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons active yeast, 1 cup cold water, 1 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. To start off, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the salt, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the cold water, boiling water and vegetable oil mixed together, and stir to form a paste. Leave to stand for a few minutes, then add the remaining flour slowly to form a soft – but not sticky – dough. Knead the dough for between 5 and 10 minutes, form into the desired shape, cover, and leave to stand in a warm place until it rises to at least twice its original size (usually around 45 minutes). Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for about 30 minutes.

The big dinosaur in the room type question is, how much will you save by making your own bread using this simple recipe? Heaps is the answer. Having done the math, the cost is about a quarter of the price of the same loaf bought at your local supermarket. In other words, you can make four loaves for every one from the supermarket.

What’s more, there are endless flavour variations to try:

– Herb bread. Simply knead mixed or selected herbs into the dough.

– Cheese bread. Mix 2 cups of grated cheese into the flour, salt, sugar and yeast mix, then lightly sprinkle with more grated cheese just before baking. Cheese bread tends to overcook, so watch it like a hawk, while baking!

– Marmite and cheese. Add 2 cups of grated cheese as above and spread marmite over the dough.

– Onion. Add an onion flavour by combining 2 packets of onion soup to the dry ingredients, or cheaper still, mix a diced onion into dough.

– Tomato, garlic and cheese flavoured bread. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, and 2 cups of grated cheese.

A reader from Masterton has sent through this Vogel-type bread recipe. “You will need 2¼ cups (315g) white flour, 2¼ cups (315g) wholemeal flour, ½ cup (75g) kibbled wheat, ¼ cup (35g) kibbled rye, ½ cup (70g) sunflower seeds, ¼ cup (22g) rolled oats, 2 teaspoons Surebake yeast or 1 teaspoon Bakels dried yeast, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon of sugar, and 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon of warm (30-35C) water (total, 765ml).Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix till a shaggy dough. Place in a loaf pan and leave on top of the hot water cylinder for 5 hours or until risen to the top of the pan. Bake at 220C fan bake for 45 minutes. The ingredients can be altered (e.g. different flours, seeds, etc) successfully. The cost including electricity is about half the normal retail price.”

And why not have a go at making your own pizza bases, since it’s pretty much the same as making basic bread. You’ll need 5 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp dry yeast, 2 cups warm water, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Dissolve the sugar in warm water, sprinkle over the yeast and allow the mixture to stand until bubbly – which should take about 10 minutes. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl then stir in the yeast mixture and oil. When mixed, knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. For those with a food processor they can slowly add the liquid mix to the dry ingredients until the dough forms a ball and clings to the side. Once the dough starts whizzing around the bowl like the ball on a roulette wheel you’ll know it’s ready.

Leave the dough to stand in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or zap it in the microwave – on the lowest setting possible – for about 5 minutes, and then let it stand for about 15 minutes. By this time the dough should have risen to twice its size. Push a clenched fist into the middle of the dough to knead – Mike Tyson type punches are best (but no ear biting please!). Divide the dough according to the size of the pizzas you want to make, then leave it in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes. Roll the dough out thinly for crispy bases, and not so thinly for pan bases. If you want to get really stylish, try tossing the dough into the air a few times – but make sure the floor is clean first before attempting the aerobatics! Add your toppings to the bases then slide onto pizza stones or baking trays pre-heated to 240C and bake for 10-12 minutes.