Baking your own bread

Baking your own bread is a wonderful thing to do with and without kids.

You remember in lockdown, the first things to disappear from shelves were bog roll and flour, followed by yeast. Flour. Bizarre in our heavily industrialised baking culture. But providing bread for the family is a deeply engrained Right of Man. No catastrophe, however global, is gonna get in the way. I wonder how many learnt to bake in those eerily quiet days. I certainly did. Baguette, tea cake, wholemeal bread and scones to be precise.

 

The baguettes are high-maintenance, and didn’t stick, but my own wholemeal bread is still part of my breakfast routine. Baking is ssensuouss. I’m not going to give that up.

The recipe, which you tweak of course, you see below. Courtesy of Bacheldre Watermill, est. 1575.

https://www.bacheldremill.com/

500g flour, 1.5 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 315 ml warm water, 1 tbs olive oil.

I tried all-wholemeal, but prefer 50/50 white/wholemeal. It’s springier.

Add the flour.

Wholemeal and white, up to you how la-di-da you get with the stoneground and the home-grown and the organic and the heritage seed. Create your preferred flour arrangement. No buns intended.

Add the yeast, salt and sugar in separate places. Salt will kill yeast. Fresh yeast is the best and smells sooo sexy. Mix.

Add the warm water in one go and use a spatula to mix it roughly. Leave for 5 mins. Get it into a bit of a shape. It’s still a bit dry because you need to add olive oil. Before and after olive oil.

Time to get your hands dirty.

The key point is the kneading. Recipes say to ‘knead for 5 mins’ but I had no real idea what that involved. I had vague images of period dramas with an exasperated Cook punishing some dough by ramming the heel of her hand into it repeatedly, like she needed it more than the dough.

After some research, I found Richard Bertinet’s videos

Home

which totally demystified the point of kneading and the correct method. We Brits get it all wrong because we bash the daylights out of it with all our pummelling. What you need to do is AERATE.

The game is to create uplift in the dough, by stretching it up in the air and folding it coaxingly over, thus trapping air inside. You want to stretch and fold and mould and and turn and repeat until the dough starts to form a smooth, springy, moisty, yeasty blob. Och.

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3   4

5   6

Leave it to proof/prove – not clear on the spelling -in the bowl, covered, for an hour or so.

Give it another gentle knead with the tips of your fingers, which always seems a pity, when it’s risen so obligingly, because you do deflate it somewhat.

   

Shape it how you want it, blobby or long. This time it goes on baking paper in a tray. Leave it covered again to recover, to double in size. An hour, perhaps longer. Leaving it by the radiator makes the yeast very happy.

Before and after. Flattish as you see, au naturel.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, at 220 degrees or 200 fan, for 35/40 mins, and relish the house gradually filling up with the smell of your own freshly baked bread! Woo ! Leave it out to cool off, sniffing and ahh-ing deeply. One of my two most favourite smells, the other being that of my children. There’s nothing more delish than sneaking a still-steaming wedge at this point. Watch the butter melt… Och.

I cut it up into blocks, always have one on the go in the fridge and freeze the others. This bread has nothing but good things in it and will not keep well.

It takes about 3 hours, a morning. But if you splice in some shopping or admin or cleaning between proofs, it’s not impossible. Or a bit of reading, hey. Or whatever. I dare  you to imagine filling that down time with something you WANT to do.

 

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