Makes 1 loaf
450g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 level tsp table salt
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp easy-blend yeast
300ml water, tepid
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds (or poppy seeds)
1 egg, lightly whisked with milk
Preheat oven to 220ºC/425°F/Gas 7
- In a large wide mixing bowl sieve the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Making a well in the center, pour in the extra virgin olive oil, and most, but not all of the water. Work the liquid into the flour with a wooden spoon, then bring it all together into a softy, sticky dough with your hands (add the remaining liquid or a little extra flour, if needed). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes, using a pushing and stretching motion until smooth and bouncy (if kneading with an electric dough hook, this will take 5 minutes).
- Return the smooth ball of dough to the bowl and rest a clean dry tea towel on top. Leave the dough to prove (it will double in size within 1 - 2 hours in a warm room, away from any draughts).
- Knock back the dough (lightly punch the dough to release some air) and knead again for 2 minutes. Leave to relax for 10 minutes.
- Shape the bread into a whole loaf or tear off pieces of dough to make rolls (to make a plait, divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each into equal sausage lengths. Join the three ends, pinch them together and tuck underneath. Working from alternate sides, bring each tail over into the centre to form a plait, tucking under the end).
- Transfer the shaped dough onto a greased baking sheet. Cover and leave for 1 hour until risen one more. Dust the top with flour for a rustic loaf (or carefully brush egg wash over the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds).
- Bake for 10 mins, before turning the oven down to 180°C for the remaining 20 mins.
- For a soft crust, wrap in a clean dry tea-towel to cool.
Feel free to shape the dough into different shapes and sizes.