Crackle top bread
This really is a very easy bread; a bit of slow stirring and kneading and then that is basically it.
For the bread
- 400g/14oz strong white bread flour + extra for dusting
- 50g/2oz strong wholemeal bread flour
- 1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- a little sunflower oil (or oil spray)
For the topping
First, prepare the bread. Put the flours, yeast and salt into a large bowl (or food mixer set with a dough hook) and give a quick mix to combine. Add 275ml/9¾fl oz of water, mixing all the time until everything comes together. Then get your hands in and squidge it into a ball. Knead it on a floured surface for 10 minutes (or for 5-7 minutes if using a food mixer).
To see if the dough has been kneaded enough, first make the dough into a ball with a taught top. Then, put your finger in the flour and prod the side of the dough to make an indent. If the dough springs back all the way, then the dough is ready, if it only springs back a little, then knead it for a couple more minutes and try again.
Now flatten the bread ball out a little (to give roughly a 5cmx12.5cm/2inx5in wide loaf). Then pull the edges into the middle giving a little parcel type thing and turn it over. This will give the dough a nice taught top. Cup the edges of the dough with your hands to shape it into a neat round shape and place on a baking sheet.
Oil some cling film and wrap it over the bread. Use several pieces if necessary, so that the bread is completely covered, but not too tightly so there is room to rise. Place in a warm place for about 30-45 minutes or until it has increased in size by about fifty percent.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gask 6.
For the topping, mix the rice flour in a small bowl with the sugar, yeast and salt. Stir in the oil and 25ml/1fl oz of warm water until it forms a thickish paste. Cover and set aside in a warm area until ready to use.
To check that the dough is risen enough, remove the cling film, dip your finger in some flour and then dip it into the side of the bread making a small indent. If the dough springs back halfway it is ready.
Once the dough has sufficiently proved, use your hands to rub the topping paste all over the top and sides of the bread in a nice even layer.
Bake the bread in the oven for 25 minutes. The bread should be crackled on top; if not, pop it back in the oven until it starts to darken. If it is crackled, give it a tap underneath - it should sound hollow, but if it is not quite there yet, put it back in the oven for another five minutes or so.
Once ready, remove it from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for a bit. This is best served with lashings of butter.