Throughout this entire week, everywhere I have gone I have smelt or seen bread. At home – bread. At work – bread. Even on the train – bread. I felt just like the woman I saw today staring longingly through the window of a nearby Pie Mash & Eel shop, her nose pressed firmly against the glass and with a substantial amount of drool dripping from her lips… only with bread.
You would think as a result I would do my best to avoid bready situations, at least until I had time to bake my own fresh loaf – I didn’t. Quite the opposite in fact. I stood in the bakery section at the supermarket, I went and stared at the stall in Spitalfields Market that sells the best sandwiches, and sat enviously at breakfast whilst my sister and her boyfriend tucked in to piles of hot toast and butter.
Anyway, Saturday morning came and I decided enough was enough. The delicious dough monsters had haunted me for too long, so I planned an epic day of cooking including soup, muffins, and of course the plat du jour – bread.
I rushed out to the supermarket to try and get any remaining ingredients that I didn’t already have, like strong flour and yeast.
It was with yeast that I fell at the first hurdle. Unfortunately fresh yeast is apparently very hard to come by in your average supermarket so I was left with dried yeast. Meaning it wasn’t the absolutely true form of ‘from scratch’ bread that I had planned, but I decided it was one of those grey areas that was passable, so bread with dried yeast it was.
Here are the recipes from a hard Saturdays work:
Classic white loaf (I will undoubtedly get more adventurous with bread in the future, but for now I thought best to master the basics)
This recipe was from Breads and Baking by Gina Steer
I had truly missed bread. And now am starting to realize just how much I took for granted being able to get bread pretty much anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat. Yes, its easier to buy it but- if you can find the time to make it yourself the taste of slightly hot freshly baked bread and butter will not dissapoint. And with smell wafting through your house you get you’re just rewards!
700g strong white flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp easy blend yeast
300ml warm water
1 tbsp plain flour to dredge
1. Preheat the oven to 220 C (my ovens not that hot but worked out fine) 15 mins before baking Oil and line the base of a 900g loaf tin with greaseproof paper (I have now made 2 loaves one with the greaseproof paper and one without – they both worked fine so don’t panic if you don’t have it)
2. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter, then stir in the sugar and yeast. Make a well in the centre.
3. Add milk and warm water to the dry ingredients. Mix to a soft dough, adding a little more water if needed (both times again no need for more water but you never know!). Turn out the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 mins or until smooth and elastic (I stuck with the designated 10 mins and found the bread was delicious so I don’t even think you need to make a judgment call here)
4. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size (I don’t have an airing cupboard or anything and I found just leaving it out in the kitchen worked fine). Knead again for a minute or two to knock out the air.
5. Shape the dough into an oblong and place in the prepared tin. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for another 30 mins or until the dough reaches the top of the tin. Dredge the top of the loaf with flour. Bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 15 mins.
6. Turn down the oven to 200c. Bake the loaf for a further 20-25mins or until well risen and hollow sounding when tapped underneath (I found 25mins perfect as my oven wasn’t as hot – 20 mins is fine but 25 gave a better crust). Turn out, cool on a wire rack and serve
Vegetable soup (I was quite proud of how flavoursome this was – considering I couldn’t use stock)
Leftover homemade chips (I think these made some of the flavour)
2 celery sticks
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
1 bay leaf
few sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper- to taste (as they always say)
1. Heat large sauce pan, fry of onion in some oil then add chopped up vegetables
2. Let them cook for about 5 mins and then add crushed/chopped garlic and Chilli
3. Cover the vegetables with water – make sure all veg is covered and then add a bit more ( be fairly generous here – as I had to add water later and I think it takes away from strength of flavour) add the herbs, salt and pepper and leave to cook for about 30 mins
4. Finally remove the thyme and bay leaves and then blend down (adding any extra water if its too thick) and volia, soup for a week.
I was really happy with the soup and it served for three tasty meals this week – and I still have some left over! 🙂
Finally the Blueberry Muffins (which made great little snacks/ sweet finishes)
I had planned to make just one batch for the week but a ravenous group of friends devoured them in no time, so I made another two batches just to be sure!
This was based on a Paul Hollywood recipe from BBC food – very simple, but delicious
110g/4oz plain flour
65g/2½oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
1½ tsp baking powder
125g/4½oz blueberries, or equivalent in frozen blueberries ( I used about 5 blueberries per muffin- see if you can push them down under the mixture so there’s some inside the muffin)
pinch nutmeg ( I forgot to use this and they tasted fine but if you do let me know what it was like)
double cream, to serve ( again didn’t serve with cream but I’m sure they would be great)
1.Cream the butter and sugar together then slowly add the eggs, mix for three minutes. Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, stir to combine, then refrigerate for at least an hour.
2. Place a spoonful of muffin mixture into each muffin case, filling each to just over half way. Stud each muffin with about eight blueberries.
Bake in an oven set at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve with cream.
Here is my batch
So to summarize I exorcised my demons with some great bread, which was as good as I anticipated– (fresh bread and butter is one of the small pleasures in life that make it so worth living), a crate of yummy muffins and some tasty soup – not bad for a days work.
It was my first real challenge and the first time I realised that whilst suppers from scratch might be hard work and sometimes seem more hassle than its worth, the sense of achievement and ultimately the taste of fresh food made with my own hands makes me excited to crack on with the next culinary challenge. Bring on the Chocolate!