For any of my students in my classes, they will know that this year I have become obsessed with baking bread. For any new students, welcome to my obsession!

Since about April of this year, I have baked some bread every weekend once, twice or even three times! As I’m sure you can guess, I end up giving away quite a lot of bread as I can’t eat it all. I’m happy to say that others seem to enjoy my bread too. This makes this hobby even more fun as I can share it with other people.

This month, as a kind of special summer corona edition, I thought I could share one of my recipes with all of you, and if you have a few hours over Obon holiday, I challenge you to make some bread at home. I would love to hear about your experience, and of course I would love to see some pictures too.

First things first, you need an oven. I’m afraid if you don’t have one, this is going to be an impossible challenge.

Secondly, I would really recommend buying a dough scraper. It is not necessary but they are so useful and they make everything so much easier, and less messy. You can find them in one hundred yen stores. Buy the plastic ones!

 

Here is some of my bread for motivation. You can do it!

 

 

 

 

Ok here we go! I wish you the best of luck. Just take your time and enjoy it.

 

The ingredients are very simple, you may be surprised to know that bread doesn’t require many ingredients at all.

 

Ingredients

320g Room temperature water

7g dry yeast

500g Strong bread flour

8g Salt

15g Olive oil

 

 

 

Method

 

Making the Dough

In a large mixing bowl weigh your yeast, add the water and mix together until the yeast has dissolved.

Next add the flour, salt and olive oil.

Mix everything with your dough scraper until it comes together into a rough dough, try and get all the flour into one ball, and then turn it out onto a clean table.

‘Knead’ your dough well for 8 minutes without dusting with any flour.

‘Kneading’ is where you roll and fold the dough over itself again and again. This will be very(!) messy in the beginning, but just keep going and I promise it will come together.

 

Tip! – Use your dough scraper here to bring everything back together and tidy up.

 

Then, shape it into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Sprinkle the top with a little flour, cover with a clean cloth and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

 

Dividing and Pre-shaping

Dust the top of your dough and use your dough scraper to turn it out onto the table. Make sure the dough comes out of the bowl upside down, sticky side up, flour side down.

Use your fingertips lightly to flatten the dough. Fold each piece into a ball by pinching an edge with finger and thumb and folding it over the dough almost to the other side. Keep turning and folding the dough, working your way round until you end up with a bouncy ball of dough.

Turn it over so the floured side is on top, and cup your hands underneath the dough slightly to tighten it up. Dust lightly with flour and rest your dough ball on the table under a cloth for 15 minutes.

While you are waiting, you can prepare your bowl again for the dough to rise in. Put a clean cloth in your bowl and generously dust it with flour.

 

Shaping

Remove the cloth from the top of your dough. The dough should have relaxed and spread slightly.

Once again, cup your dough a little to tighten it up.

 

Tip! – Softly pull the dough towards you, then turn it 90 degrees and pull it towards you again. Repeat this motion and you should see the top get tighter.

 

When your dough looks nice and tight, pick it up with your scraper and put it upside down into your prepared bowl. Add a little flour and cover the dough with the cloth.

 

Second Rest

Once again, let your dough rest for about an hour.

 

Baking

There are two options to bake your bread.

Option one (recommended):

Use a dutch oven to bake your bread in.

These big heavy pots are great for creating extra heat and steam which will help your bread rise in the oven. It will be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

For this method, while your bread is rising, put the dutch oven in your oven and heat it up to 230 degrees or as hot as possible.

When the oven is ready, using baking paper, turn your bread out of its bowl onto the paper and carefully place the bread in the dutch oven. It will be hot!

‘Score’ your bread. ‘Score’ means to cut across the top using a very sharp knife or razor blade.

Put the lid on, and put it into the oven for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take the lid off and bake for another 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees until very brown.

Option 2

Heat your oven to 220 degrees. Put a baking tray on the bottom of your oven.

Boil some water.

Turn your bread out onto another baking tray, ‘score’ your bread and place into the oven.

Before closing the door, pour some boiling water into the baking tray on the bottom of your oven. This will create some very hot steam which will help your bread get crunchy. Be careful!

Cook for 30-40 minutes, and check your bread to make sure it isn’t burning on top. If it is burning, you can put some foil over the top.

I don’t recommend this method as much because most of our ovens here in Japan are not really hot enough.

 

 

Final Step

Remove the bread from your oven, tap the bottom. It should sound hollow. Leave the bread to cool completely on a wire rack. Around one hour.

 

 

Hopefully your finished bread will look something like this.

 

 

 

 

Today, I’ll introduce one of my favorite videos on Facebook and YouTube. It’s Nas daily.
Naseir Yassin who was born in Arraba, Israel has been creating daily 1-minite video. He
graduated from Harvard University with degrees in economics and aerospace engineering.
The followers of his video have risen to over 10 million. The topics for his videos are
diverse and interesting. They educate me and sometimes they can be an eye opener. Let
me introduce you to one of his videos.
He hopes this video changes your life because what he’s about to share with you changed
his life. Looking back at all the success he’d had in the past 3 years, he said his success is
mainly because of one thing which is “deadlines”. For example, in his case, he wanted to
write a book and he had no deadline. The first day he wrote a little. The second day he
wrote a little bit more. He kept working day by day on that book. And after many days he
lost interest. He never finished and never published a book. This is a classic case of giving
up.
Three years ago, he set a deadline for himself. He wrote a perfectly good book in a short
period. He suggests us to put deadlines on our projects and follow it like religion.
I was asked by Bridge staff to write an essay. I spent days doing nothing even though, I
wanted to write something. So, I set a deadline, and finally finished it. Now I’m motivated to
use time wisely like him. He reminded me how short life is.
He forced himself to make one video every day. On average, each video takes around six
hours
to shoot and three hours to edit. Of course, he does it with a help of his staff. However, big
efforts are required, and he said even if his girlfriend or one of his family members died, he
would still make one video every day.
The video is very interesting and informative. Nas is not a native but
pronunciation is good and also it has subtitles. I think it’s good material for English
learners. Now, I’m practicing English by imitating him over and over again. The video is
about
5 minutes and not a burden to listen to every day, so I recommend it to you

 

 

I like to go home to the UK once a year –sometimes at Christmas, other times during summer. It’s nice to see my friends and family, eat some good home food and complain about how everything has changed since I left.

 

Unfortunately, the global pandemic has seen to it that I won’t be leaving Japan this year! Technically I could still visit the UK, but I would be in quarantine for two weeks there, and then two weeks in Japan after I got back, so it isn’t really worth it.

 

There’s a lot I’ll miss this summer – having a cold pint of beer in an English pub beer garden is something I always look forward to. The weather in July and August in the UK is much nicer than Japan – it’s not as hot, and there is virtually no humidity.

 

I’ll miss being able to get my favourite foods – a Chinese meal from my favourite Chinese restaurant, Sheng’s, as well as pub dinners at The Royal and The White Cross. I miss gammon steaks, meat pies, proper bacon, large portions, salt and vinegar crisps, Twixes…the list goes on!

 

I am however in compete understanding of the reasons why I can’t go home just yet though. The UK has been affected far more severely than Japan has by the coronavirus. Social distancing and lockdown are still very much in force there and I feel very sorry for my family and friends whose lives have been affected. It can’t be much fun to not leave the house for months, and be unable to see their friends and families. I also know a few people back home in the UK who have been infected by the virus. They all said it was hell.

 

Masks are required in all stores now in the UK, and many companies are still unopened. Many more still have had to permanently close as a result of the virus. I believe that the UK will have to take a long time to recover from this disaster.

 

I would like to go home to the UK as soon as I can, but realistically it won’t be until next year some time. And even then, I’m sure there will be a lot of permanent changes. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to now live in a country which hasn’t been affected so badly.

 

But we should stay careful – if we don’t take precautions, the same thing that happened in the UK could still happen here!