Master the dough for this white bread loaf recipe and you can then go on to experiment with lots of different flavours and techniques.
15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried – see Know-how)
½ tsp caster sugar
290ml lukewarm milk (simmer, then leave to cool)
450g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine salt
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten, plus 1 extra for glazing
Oil for greasing
01.Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in a little of the lukewarm milk in a small bowl.
02.Put the flour in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Pour in the yeast mixture, the rest of the milk and the beaten egg, then stir with a round-bladed knife until the dough begins to come together. Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic and springs back when pressed lightly with your finger.
03.Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 1 hour (or see Make Ahead).
04.Once the dough has doubled in size, heat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C fan/gas 6 with a small roasting tin of hot water in the bottom (see Know-how). Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it back for a minute or so (gently knead to distribute the air).
05.Form the dough into a ball with your hands. Lightly flour a baking sheet, then put the dough on top. Press down slightly to flatten the bottom, then slash the top of the loaf into a pattern using a sharp knife or scalpel. Cover with a lightly oiled piece of cling film and leave somewhere warm to prove (rise in its final shape) for 30-40 minutes until one- and-a-third times the size.
06.Brush the loaf lightly with beaten egg, then bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and firm – it should sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool completely, then slice.