Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Loaf of Bread

Every now and then I get the urge to try something new. I'm not sure how it happens or where the urge comes from, but I suddenly feel this need to do something that, up until then, I had never even considered.

Like writing a novel for example. I was fine being a reader for the first thirty years of my life. Then, suddenly, one day. . .zap! I couldn't rest until I had written my first book.

It's the same with cooking. I've generally always been an eater as opposed to a preparer of food. Sure, I can make do when necessary. Being a latch-key kid, I learned to feed myself from a pretty early age. And my wife reckons I make the best French Toast in the world. But that's where it ends.

I've watched my fair share of cooking programs. I remember watching "The Galloping Gourmet" back in the early 70s. They're entertaining enough but I never had the desire to attempt anything demonstrated on the show. Then, just a few weeks ago, I wanted to bake a loaf of bread.

I suspect it may have been after watching "The Great British Bake Off" in which amateur bakers from across Britain compete for a grand prize. I think I must have been hungry at the time. They say you should never go shopping while hungry. Perhaps that also counts for cookery shows. Never watch a cookery show on an empty stomach, because you'll get the urge to make the same goodies.

Or it could be because it occurred to me how incredible it is to be able to turn a messy pile of ingredients into something as wonderful as a cake or a pastry or, in my case, a humble loaf of bread.

So my wife bought me a bakery instruction book for Christmas and we raided the shop for all the ingredients needed to make a loaf of bread: strong flour, fine salt, instant yeast, and salt-free butter.

On the first morning, I made my first loaf. It looked fine but was a bit on the small side, and it tasted too salty for my liking (I'm not a big fan of salt). The next day, I reduced the salt from 8g to 4g but it was still too strong for me. The following morning, I did what I should have done from the beginning, and read the fine print on the side of the packet of flour. Here I found the problem. It already contained salt and yeast.

My third attempt
Thus informed, I added water and butter and kneaded the mixture until it was nice and stretchy. I then let it sit in a dark corner while the yeast did its work. An hour later, I knocked out the air, shaped it into a loaf, dropped into a greased bread tin, and let it rise for another forty-five minutes before popping it into the oven. The result? A wonderful full-sized, tasty, golden, loaf of wholemeal bread.

So after three attempts, I managed to turn a messy pile of ingredients into something that not only looked nice, but tasted pretty good too. All it really took was patience, accuracy, a little bit of elbow grease, and (most importantly) an awareness of what is written in the fine print of the bag of flour.

I think tomorrow I'll try making some buns.


  1. Mmmm. Looks good. I can almost smell it over here in S.Africa. Just goes to show. When all else fails - read the instructions!!!

  2. I guess I shouldn't be reading this post while hungry. :-) Looks yummy. And here's to trying something new!

  3. Or as my sainted grandmother used to say: "Before all else fails, read the instructions."

    I can fairly smell that yummy loaf here in central Kansas.

  4. Now that I've got the instruction-reading thing under control, I'm doing much better. The buns came our really well, and I've also tried scones and a soda loaf.