Monday, 11 April 2011

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? Home-made bread.

Fresh bread would rate as one of my Top 5 scents / tastes. I'm sure I'm not alone. Nothing is more satisfying (in my humble opinion) than carefully stirring, kneading and baking bread and waiting for that enticing warm smell to filter through the house. 
According to Michel Roux Jr it is, however, a dying art form, with traditional bakers going out of business and more and more of us opting to buy cheaper and less tasty bread. The trouble is - I think - that making your own bread can be frustrating, disappointing and time consuming.
I would dearly love to be someone who only ever bakes, and never buys, bread. Unfortunately, I have had some real disasters in the past - either the bread has been hard as a rock, or looked beautiful but was stodgy inside. As bread-making takes a fair while, these failed attempts were especially frustrating and I admit, I gave up. 

However, I found a rather different recipe to the ones that I've used before and so, I decided to give making my own bread one more go. This recipe promises a fluffy white loaf and unlike other recipes I have used, calls for melted butter and warm milk. It is in fact described as 'fool proof' ... ah, setting myself up for a fall there. 

  • Warm the milk gently. Add the butter and syrup and melt them gently together.
  • Add the yeast (if you don't have fresh, then you can just use half the amount stated of dried). 
  • Add the flour and mix gently until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • After 5 mins turn out the dough and knead for 10 mins. I found the dough difficult to work as it was quite wet. But I'm told that a wetter dough can make a fluffier loaf, so I persevered.
  • It then has to be left to rise for 1 hour.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface again and knock back a few times. 

I decided not to make a traditional loaf shape so I divided the dough into several balls rather than just two and then placed them in the tin.
You then have to leave it again to rise in this prepared shape until it has doubled in size. Then slash the bread with a very sharp knife and finally my bread was ready to bake. Fingers crossed.
It looked and smelt great. Finally - edible bread! Ha haa! 
This did take quite a while but I realised as I was doing it that a) if I did it more regularly then this recipe could become very simple - a Sunday afternoon habit and b) that although it seemed to take ages to get the finished product, most of that time I did not need to be in the kitchen and was able to do other things while the dough was rising etc.
I cannot claim that it was perfect... it looked a little better than it tasted. But the recipe did deliver a fluffy white loaf and that is good enough for me. Tasty enough to eat with just a little butter but it was especially good as a sunny morning breakfast treat with scrambled eggs. I'm not sure I am ready to completely give up shop bought bread just yet, but I wont write the idea off completely! Practice makes perfect. 

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