Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Freshest Bread ...

... is one you make yourself.  I love bread and am very grateful that I can tolerate gluten, unlike some of my friends.  I had a craving, yearning for that warm, yeasty smell again recently and making my own bread was the only solution.

When I first moved to Wales, I made bread pretty much every couple of days and worked out my own recipe of a combination of flours, oil rather than lard or butter, dried yeast and lukewarm water.  We had a Rayburn and the solid state oven baked the bread beautifully - all I had to do was adjust the length of cooking time, depending on how hot the Rayburn happened to be at the time.  I sat the dough on the plate rack above the Rayburn to prove.  More than once, I left it too long and it started to escape the pans, but in general, I thought it was pretty good.

When I moved into the cottage, I had already given up making bread regularly due to adverse comments and the lack of time while working; besides which, the old gas oven was just not up to it.  It would have been a perfect time to get a bread-maker, but I didn't have the counter or cupboard space for one.  Then the old gas cooker packed up and had to be replaced.  I've had my lovely new oven (and no-one to criticise me!) for over a year, so I thought, why not?

I've forgotten so much - one of those 'use it or lose it' things.  I've made focaccia a couple of times and forgotten to cover dough on its second rise, to keep the crust soft.  I couldn't find my previous recipe, so used a different one, with different brands of flour and yeast, and was not very impressed with the results.

On Sunday, I found that I had forgotten to buy bread and didn't have any left in the freezer. I was yearning for fresh bread, so I decided to make a white loaf, shaped like a cottage loaf as I have lost my bread pans.  I used a new recipe and found the amount of water, albeit only 68% hydration, resulted in an enormously slack dough. Not just slack - really wet and sticky, somewhere between dough and batter.  Knocking it back was a nightmare which gave me flashbacks to my earliest attempts at bread making in my teens, where I would have dough stuck up to my elbows, in my hair, on my face and on every surface, except where it was supposed to be.  Eventually I gave up trying to knock it back and just let it slump into the oiled pan I was going to use, covered it with oiled film and let it think about rising again.  It didn't do much, so perhaps I left it too long on its first rise.  Wondering what it would turn out like, I threw it in the oven and remembered this time to take five minutes off the cooking time (I burnt the last focaccia).

The resulting bread was lovely, quite dense and with a beautiful crumb.  I don't aspire to be an artisan baker, but I think I'll be doing more bread making from now on.

No comments: