White Bread by Gus

by Elizabeth Atia -

As I sit here typing, heavy rain obscures my view. Long, wet ribbons of streaky rain distort the world outside my window pane as the overgrown willow branches in my garden sway, dancing in the strong wind. Our winter weather has officially arrived.

It's coming to the end of the October school holidays and the kids are I am going a bit stir-crazy with being stuck indoors. I'm craving carbohydrates - proper, hearty, comfort food, so I've dug this recipe out of my notebook, given to me by my friend Gus earlier this summer.

Meet Gus.

Gus is a school janitor by day, and bread-maker extraordinaire by night. He also makes a wicked cup of coffee.

In his dream world he'd give up his day job and become a full-time artisan baker. Gus fell in love with artisan bread while living in Edinburgh. There was an artisan bakery that opened up near where he lived called The Manna House Bakery & Patisserie and they made the most fantastic bread, he recalls. Gus was spoiled for choice even further while living in Lisbon, Portugual, with the range of fresh breads and pastries available there.

Originally from Edinburgh he met and fell in love with an Unst lass and moved to rural Shetland six years ago to raise their daughter.

It was quite the culture shock, he says, moving from Lisbon to Selivoe, on the west side of Shetland. For a start, it was an hour and a half round trip into town to buy fresh bread. He couldn't get artisan bread, so he learned to make his own.

He started with a bread machine, waking in the morning to the scent of freshly baked bread. Then, he moved on to making the dough in the machine, shaping and forming the loaf by hand and baking it in the oven. The next step was to learn how to make his own dough from scratch.

Gus is adamant that supermarket bread just isn't good enough. "When it comes to bread, when you've got the real deal - it's fantastic!"

"Being in Shetland encourages you to cook. You can't just nip out to a 24 hour shop or a corner takeaway."

The internet speed where Gus lived in Sellivoe was terrible, so he used his lunch break at the school to learn techniques online. You Tube is a valuable source of information, he says, and now is bread is even better. It's not perfect; there is always something that can be improved, he admits, but he really enjoys trying.

His favourite bread cook books are the River Cottage Handbook #3 by Daniel Stevens and Shetlander and Great British Bake Off contestant James Morton's Brilliant Bread.

For his 50th birthday he attended a River Cottage Build & Bake course, and now he has dreams of building his own outdoor clay bread oven at their newly purchased house on the south mainland.

Brilliant Bread by James Morton won the 2014 Guild of Food Writers Award for Cookery Book of the Year and can be purchased via the publishers Ebury Press.

White Bread

Course: Main

Servings: 1 loaf

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

  • Strong white bread flour - 425 grams
  • Sachet fast action yeast - 1 7 gram
  • Salt - 10 grams
  • White sourdough starter - 150 grams
  • Cold water - 300 grams
  • Semolina - (for dusting)
  1. Mix together the flour, yeast and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the sourdough starter with the cold water and combine with the dry ingredients to form a wet dough. Rest for 30-60 minutes.
  3. Tip out the dough and knead for 10-15 minutes until it passes the windowpane test.
  4. Put the dough into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.
  5. In the morning, shape the dough into a ball and put in a proving basket dusted liberally with semolina flour. Leave to prove for 2-3 hours as the dough will be cold.
  6. About 30 minutes before you're ready to bake, place a cast iron pot in the oven at Gas Mark 9 (240 C).
  7. When the dough has nearly doubled in size, tip it onto a sheet of greaseproof paper dusted with semolina flour. Slash your bread with a serrated knife in a square shape.
  8. Carefully take the hot cast iron pot out of the oven and lift the bread from the greaseproof paper and place in the pot.
  9. Place the lid on and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 30-35 minutes.

Recipe adapted from James Morton's advanced white bread recipe in his book Brilliant Bread.

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