This week, I’ve decided to make myself sound like a bit of a hypocrite and declare bread to be ‘better than toast’. Well, let’s just put it this way: All bread can be good toast but not all toast is necessarily good bread. In fact, once you’ve baked your own I’m convinced that little else will satisfy you just as much.
Bread is such a basic thing that we rarely stop to think about it. Supermarket bread is readily available at any time of the day and stays soft for days, but rarely sports a great crust. Of course, you could go to an artisan baker, but I’m somehow reluctant to pay a fiver for a loaf that I could just as well make at home. And yet, baking bread doesn’t really catch on with the younger generation. I don’t know if it’s because it’s seen as something old-fashioned to do, or if people are put off by how long the whole process takes. Granted, it’s much quicker to go to your nearest store and buy some than make your own, but homemade bread ages far better and gives you endless possibilities. Besides, you could make your whole flat smell of freshly baked bread and snack on a warm loaf afterwards. What’s not to love?
There are no two ways about it: making bread does take time. But that doesn’t mean that this is a bad thing! Schedule your bread-making on a day you have lots of little things to do, that way you can cross things off your list while you wait for the bread to rise. Make the dough and then tidy your flat, knock the bread back and skype with your parents afterwards, stick it in the oven and do your nails while you wait.
If you’ve never baked bread before I would really urge you to take your time with this recipe. Get a real feel for the dough, see how it changes beneath your hands while you are kneading it. After all, breadmaking is an ancient tradition and so vital. Take your time and think about what you are doing; you’re effectively transforming three basic ingredients (water, flour, yeast) into food with only your hands and some heat. You can probably already tell, but I really find something almost magical in making bread.
It is needless to tell you just how many different kinds of bread you could make. Wholemeal, with seeds, sweet, savoury, you can play around with different flours like spelt and rye, make a tin loaf one day and then burger buns the next – I could go on forever. Take this very basic recipe, memorize it forever, and run with it. Quite honestly, the best advice about breadmaking I can give you.
Makes one loaf:
500g strong white bread flour
7g dried yeast (1 sachet)
2 tbsp olive oil (optional)
1-2 tbsp salt, to taste (optional but recommended)
Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!
And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.
Want to know more about baking your own loaved? Check out this website for a thorough bread baking 101.
Once you’ve made your loaf you can either eat it as it is or make it into this heavenly creation (hint: goes down great at parties!).
And finally, don’t ever get tempted to throw out hard bread. There’s still plenty of life in it!
Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.