“A technological triumph, factory bread may be. Taste it has none. Should it be called bread?”

Elizabeth David. English Bread and Yeast Cookery (1971)

Across the culinary television schedules from 1955 until now, we have been subjected to an array of celebrity chefs. Stepping straight from a Hammer horror movie we were initially traumatised by the bombazine outfits and smeared make-up of Fanny Cradock, later to the come-hither cooking techniques of our modern day vamp, Nigella Lawson. In the intervening years, with a straightforward commitment to helping everyone cook, is that mainstay of Norwich City football club, Delia Smith.

She was jealously castigated by that diminutive master of the five-finger shopping discount, Antony Worrall Thomson, dismissing her as “the Volvo of cookery teachers”. His mistake, like some others, is the notion that reliability in cooking negates quality or creativity

But unlike the much-remaindered Worrall Thompson, her books continue to grace millions of homes. On the publishing front she seems almost as prolific as Barbara Cartland, although eminently more useful in my kitchen.

And following her occasional displays of Sancerre fuelled exuberance at our local footaball ground, the journalist Matthew Norman wrote; “As exuberant as a lord, a lady is what she richly deserves to become. The Baroness Smith of Letsby Avenue…now doesn’t that have a pleasing ring?” Few would argue with that I suspect. Well perhaps one, in between court appearances.

If baking simple bread still puts fear into your heart, as it did in mine for many years, reach for a reassuring copy of Delia’s How to Cook. Book One. (1998) for a flight of wonderful home-made loaves. Here’s my default kitchen loaf when time is pressing, but sandwiches are required for tea.

Plain and Simple White Bread

700g strong white bread flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp easy blend yeast

1 tsp golden caster sugar

about 425ml hand hot water

You will also need two 450g loaf tins or one 900g loaf tin, well buttered

Begin by warming the flour in the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven off. Sift the flour, salt, yeast and the sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the water. Now mix to a dough, starting off with a wooden spoon and using your hands in the final stages of mixing, adding a spot more water if there are any dry bits. Wipe the bowl clean with the dough, and transfer it to a flat work surface (you may not need to flour this). Knead the dough for 3 minutes or until it develops a sheen and blisters under the surface (it should be springy and elastic). You can now either return the dough to the mixing bowl or transfer it to a clean bowl; either way, cover it with clingfilm that has been lightly oiled on the side that is facing the dough. Leave it until it looks as though it has doubled in bulk, which will be about 2 hours at room temperature.

After that, knock the air out, then knead again for 2 minutes. Now divide the dough in half, pat each piece out to an oblong, then fold one end into the centre and the other in on top. Put each one into a buttered tin, sprinkle each with a dusting of flour, then place them side by side in an oiled polythene bag until the dough rises above the tops of the tins – this time about an hour at room temperature. Alternatively, place all the dough in one tin. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8 / 450°F (230°C).

Bake the loaves on the centre shelf for 30-40 minutes, or 35-45 minutes for the large loaf, until they sound hollow when their bases are tapped. Now return them, out of their tins, upside-down to the oven to crisp the base and side crust for about 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

White bread using the processor

Although making bread as above is not hard, it can be even easier if you make the whole thing in a processor. To do this you fit the dough hook on to the processor (some also have a special bowl), then all you do is sift the dry ingredients into the bowl, put the lid on and switch it on to a low speed or the one recommended in the manufacturer’s handbook for use of the dough hook. Now pour the water through the feeding tube, then leave the processor to ‘knead’ the dough for about 3 minutes – but don’t go away, because the machine can sometimes stick and slide about. Then transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover it with clingfilm that has been lightly oiled on the side facing the dough. Leave it until it looks as though it has doubled in bulk – about 2 hours at room temperature. You can now return the dough to the food processor and let it ‘knead’ again for 1 minute, still at a slow speed. Then simply continue to make the loaves as above