Frodo, Pippin and Sam had left their quite village in the Shire to escape from those that want the dark magic ring, luckily they meet a group of elves that feed them with”… bread, surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving…” (The Fellowship of the Ring). As a child, reading the Lord of the Rings, I used to fantasise about that bread. What kind of magic bread is it? How does it smell when it is still hot? how does it taste with butter for high tea?
As an adult and a mother of two always hungry teens, I started to make researches on old English books on bread and I came across with The English Bread-book written in 1857 by Eliza Acton, recipes were intended to make enough bread for one week for a family of ten, minimum half a gallon of flour. The book was published roughly 80 years before Tolkien starting to write his epic saga, but it is absolutely interesting for the insight it gives on the still hot topic home-made bread vs. commercial bread. I had some tries and I resized a recipe to make a single loaf (a few days for a family of four 😉), I also added some butter to make it deliciously smelling.
10 gr. of active dry yeast
500 gr. of strong flour
300 gr. of full-fat milk
1 tea spoonful of sugar
1 tea spoonful of sea salt
Prepare the sponge:
- Sprinkle yeast and sugar into 100ml of warm milk in a bowl and stir to dissolve (if you have a kneading machine you will save a lot of work).
- Stir in another 100ml of milk.
- Mix it with half of the flour (I used Kitchen Aid, with dough hook, speed two for about 10 minutes).
- Let it rise for about one hour.
Prepare the dough:
- Mix the remaining flour with salt and add it with the remaining milk to the sponge.
- Knead it until you have a smooth and elastic dough (I used Kitchen Aid, with dough hook, speed two for about 20 minutes).
- Work it a bit on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise another hour (but it depends on room temperature, less if it is a hot summer day).
- Knock back in a nice loaf and put it in a greased loaf pan. let it rising for another hour.
- Make an egg glaze by lightly beating the egg with 1 tablespoon of milk.
- Brush the top of the loaf with the glaze. Bake it in a preheated oven at 400°F/200°C for 45 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. If you have a steam oven like me, then just use the bread program.
- Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.