Dan Lepard’s simple local ale loaf

By Dan Lepard

Forget the old ten minutes of ache-inducing kneading – science has shown that time is more important than effort. Just give the dough three very short, light kneads on an oiled worktop, just ten seconds for each. This gives a brilliant crumb texture for little effort.

Using oil rather than flour stops it sticking to your hands, and avoids extra unmeasured flour drying the dough out. Use a good ale like Everards’ Beacon, and for flour try the excellent stoneground flours from Claybrooke Watermill.

Dan Lepard (left) with Claybrooke Mill’s head miller Spencer Craven

1 Stir water, ale and honey together in a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and stir well. Add flours and salt, mix well to a soft rough mass, then cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. This pause gives the flour time to absorb the moisture and helps the stretchy gluten develop.

2 Lightly oil a 30cm patch of worktop, knead the dough gently for about 10 seconds then return it to the bowl, cover, and leave for 10 minutes. Repeat this light kneading sequence twice more at 10-minute intervals, then cover the dough and leave for an hour.

3 Flour worktop, shape dough into a ball, place it seam side down on a floured tray, then cover and leave to rise for an hour. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan (Gas 7) and place a dish containing boiling water on the lowest shelf to help colour the crust.

4 Cut a cross in the top of the dough with a sharp blade, place the loaf in the oven with a good 10cm gap between it and your dish below, and bake for about 45 minutes until richly coloured. Then move the baked loaf to a wire rack to cool.

Dan Lepard’s new book Short & Sweet is out now.

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Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.