I’ve never quite had the knack of making bread. I’ve made it a lot, but it often gets referred to as ‘speciality bread’ and is only really good for toasting or soaking in soup. I have had better success using a bread machine (when I’ve followed the instructions) but I’ve never found a loaf I was happy to have as our everyday bread.
My main issue seems to be the rising stage. Recipes say things like ‘leave to rise for 2 hours until doubled in bulk’ – only mine never does. I’ve left dough for four hours or longer before now and it still hasn’t risen properly, and at that point I get impatient and cook it anyway and we end up with bread like concrete.
Books always give helpful advice about where to put your rising dough – usually ‘in the airing cupboard’ or ‘near a hot oven or open fire’. Well, I don’t have an airing cupboard, and I don’t have an open fire or old fashioned range, or an aga. What hope is there?
I’ve wrapped dough in blankets and put it by the radiator. I’ve put the bowl in another bowl of boiling water, covered by a towel. I’ve replaced the yeast, and tried different types, and nothing seems to work.
I thought I might be on to a winner with this sourdough bread recipe. You don’t add yeast – the flour and water mix ferments naturally over the course of a week or so. You leave it to rise for two days at a time (surely that’s got to be long enough, even in my house?). Would it work?
It did – but only a little. I’m afraid my impatience overtook me and after a week of waiting for my bread I baked it anyway.
I confess I get rather grumpy about bread making. People have made bread for thousands of years with no technology, no special equipment, and I just can’t seem to manage it.
However, I am not going to be deterred. I don’t need light, fluffy white bread that’s more air than flour, but I would like eat a slice without my jaw aching. I might try this artisan, no-knead bread next. It looks pretty straightforward…
In the meantime, all you sparrows and wood pigeons looking for a gourmet meal, our garden is the place to be.