Friday, 20 November 2009

Baking Bread

I think baking bread is quite daunting at first glance and I've been meaning to make my own bread for ages now and as I've had a few days off this week I thought I'd step to it. Although it takes a few hours to do, keeps for only a few days and is probably no cheaper than buying a loaf from the shop, I think it is worth baking your own loaf just for the smell it fills your house with. This wasn't my first attempt, but the less said about my first loaf the better, if you imagine something that has all the characteristics of a brick, and could possibly be confiscated as a weapon and your somewhere near. Needless to say it has been nearly a year since that fateful day. So I found a recipe that looked gentle to the novice baker and set about the kitchen. The recipe was a Nigel Slater one that had been bastardised into american weights and measures, the whole cup system is too vague if you ask me, I much prefer grams or pounds. It came together as expected and once the ingredients resembled a sticky dough I tipped it out onto my side and worked the dough until springy, which took a while. Can Bakers get RSI?
I set it in a bowl with a tea towel on top in a warm place to rise for an hour.
When I took the dough out to 'knock-down' and knead again it felt amazing, really fun to push and fold, and if I'm honest I felt like a proper baker boy, "what this? Oh just knocking up some bread, you know."
After letting it rise again for forty five minutes I did start to think it was looking quite big. This is probably the point where I should have decided to split it into two smaller loaves or even three.
I tucked it into a nice long bloomer shape and floured it slightly before sliding my creation into the oven. Now I'm a bit of a nerd in the kitchen and often watch through the glass what's happening step by step in the oven to help learn and avoid problems in the future. "I've created a monster!" It wouldn't stop growing, I thought it was in danger or rising so much that it might touch the roof of the oven and wedge itself in there. Fortunately my bread considered its options and decided to take its chances at freedom rather than be confined to a life in the dark chamber of my oven. I set Frankensteins monster on a wire rack to cool and even though it was enormous and would probably be considered morbidly obese by his peers, I loved him anyway. The bread actually looked really good and as mentioned before, the smell my flat was now filled with was better than any incence you can buy.
Note to self: fresh bread incence, possible business idea, or the ramblings of an idiot?
Once Big Steve had cooled down, as I was now affectionately calling him, I cut into him and smeared some butter over a slice. The bread was good but slightly stodgy, It definitely wasn't as light and fluffy as I would have liked but as a second attempt I was quite pleased with myself. The behemoth bread wasn't actually that big once you cut a few slices off and was really a blessing in disguise. The slices were so big I made a massive sandwich with some extra mature cheddar, some free range, aged iberico chorizo and Tracklements Chilli Jam.

I was over the moon with my bread. I am going to keep experimenting with different flours and flour mixes and try to work the dough that little bit more. If I had eight kids the loaf would have been ample, but as it is just the two of us I will have to reduce the quantities, or start thrusting loaves of bread on my parents every time I see them.

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