I Knead the Bread

Posted on 29 December 2007 in Life (3 comments)

Anyone who has ever spent any time looking at my photos on flickr might have noticed an alarming number of photographs of bread.

That's because I like making bread, and a freshly made loaf of bread can look absolutely fantastic in a photograph.

Pain de Campagne

I started making bread every now and then around 2001. It was an intermittent thing, maybe once a month or so. Often less. Always a small loaf; always eaten on the day. I'd still buy "normal" sliced bread or the occasional loaf from the supermarket bakery and bung it in the freezer, for when I needed toast or a sandwich.

But I never really liked the standard white sliced. Too factory-made, too plastic. Bland, boring, soggy. A far cry from what our neighbours across the channel do where popping to the bakery for a fresh baguette is a standard thing.

What really persuaded me to change was reading an article in the Independent in 2006 entitled The shocking truth about bread where the details of how your average rectangular bread is revealed. You don't need calcium propionate, amylase, chlorine dioxide and L-cysteine hydrochloride to make bread, but they're the wonderful things that are in there. There's no love in factory bread - no passion, which goes well with the lack of taste.

I read it just before going on holiday to Norway and it was at the top of Mount Fløyen in Bergen that I had a bit of a eureka moment. Bread freezes well - if I just baked plenty, and instead of eating it all on the day of baking (our normal action!), I'd slice it and freeze it.

Leek and Chedder Bread

The decision was made. No more supermarket bought bread. From now on, I'd make my own on a regular basis.

It's been about a year and a half since I made that decision and I've stuck to it. In that time, I've made my own white bread regularly, along with wholemeal and rye. I've made baps, baguettes and bagels. Ciabatta through to Pain de Campangne and back into the wonderful leek and cheddar bread pictured above. The French baguettes I made were absolutely fantastic, and some of the sour-doughs have been divine.

The ingredients are always of a very high quality - organic flour, filtered water, sea salt and easy-blend yeast is all you need to make a truly great white loaf. Most of the ingredients come from the supermarket it is true, but I've bought some lovely speciality flours from Shipton Mill, where, after much hunting, I finally found ciabatta flour.

You don't even need that much time to do it - you can knock a yeast based loaf up in fifteen minutes then just leave it to rise. I usually do so before popping off to the gym. One work-out later and it's ready to go in the oven. The Oatmeal Soda Bread at the top of the page was mixed and in the oven in about five minutes - it needed no kneading and tastes fantastic. There's some great recipes that take far longer - ciabatta and French bread need the extra effort but the results make it worthwhile.

Homemade Split Tin Loaf

I've not bought a single plastic factory loaf since - although I did buy a french baton from Sainsbury's once when I was ill and I had no bread left in the house. I don't have a total no-bread-buying rule. I'll happily buy from a good bakery if they have something nice. Artisan bakery De Gustibus in Borough do some beautiful loaves if I'm in the area, but I tend not to bother.

True not every loaf has been great - my sour-dough attempts have been varied, with some being too chewy. But it's hugely satisfying to sit down and chomp on a delicious, high quality loaf made with your own hands.

All of which is making me hungry. Time for a big bowl of homemade soup methinks. Oh, and of course, for a few hunks of wonderful bread.

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meea said:

now, you got me interested this bread looks yum. for health reasons I was advised to stay clear off bread made of standard wheat, and yeast as well... that's not much fun for a diet but as a result i buy spelt bread loaves which somehow are leavened without yeast. They're delicious but set me back around £3 per loaf ;[ May i ask what is your view on the consumption of wheat (apparently it's highly hard to digest and is the cause of many ailments etc etc) and have you got a recipe that I could try out in an - electric oven ;D
many thanks for any suggestions!

Posted on 16 January 2008 at 1:24 PM

Andrew Bowden said:

Can't say I know much about wheat beyond that it doesn't give me any problems. Spelt flour does generally give a nice loaf though and I'm a big fan - it's got a nicer taste than wholemeal in my mind.

I suspect a spelt based soda bread would be a good bet for you - no yeast in that. Doesn't last very well but you get a nice loaf. I'd suggest freezing it sliced.

I bunged Spelt Soda Bread into the old Google, and a yoghurt based soda bread recipe on the BBC's H2G2 came out. Looks quite an intriguing loaf - might try it myself actually!

Should also be cheaper than £3 - but the proof is in the baking...

Posted on 16 January 2008 at 9:24 PM

Meea said:

Sounds great, i have to try this! thanks!

Posted on 17 January 2008 at 12:29 PM

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