I like making bread. I didn’t use to. As a teenager taking A level Home Economics I had to make bread rolls every Monday to go with the three course lunch we had to cook. The recipes for the meal changed from week to week. The bread roll recipe stayed the same, week in week out! After two years my bread making skills had improved vastly, but my enthusiasm had disappeared completely. I got my A level but my bread making days were over…hurrah!
Apart from one disastrous attempt at making a loaf consisting of enough seeds and grain to feed half the bird population of Britain and which needed a crane to lift it, I have avoided baking anything with the word “yeast” in the list of ingredients.
Then, after watching an episode of Great British Bake Off, I got my bread making mojo back. If you are a fan of the programme, and surely everyone is, then you may recall the episode when the technical challenge was to make Paul Hollywood’s focaccia. Now here is a bread that is wetter than most doughs, and it was interesting to watch some contestants grappling with this and even adding extra flour. Big, big mistake! Paul’s steely blue eyes were on the look out at judging time for the perfect loaf with holes. Add more flour and those holes disappear!
Well, that did it. Being a wannabe GBBO contestant myself, (I have indeed been turned down twice. Their loss I say) I just had to see if I could bake a decent focaccia, and without further ado, I was off to Asda as quick as a flash and bought myself some strong bread flour and sachets of yeast.
That first loaf tasted good, but wasn’t focaccia due to its lack of holes. So I kept practicing, ditched the Hollywood recipe as it just didn’t seem to work, tried others with some success, and finally found my perfect recipe in Brilliant Bread by James Morton who you might remember as that lovely Scottish lad who wore fabulous Fair Isle tank tops on GBBO 3. Such an easy recipe, works every time and you don’t even get your work top messy as the kneading is done in the bowl! It pains me to blow my own trumpet, but I think I make pretty amazing focaccia. Of course mine isn’t a patch on that of an artisan bakers, but according to my family its better than what you can buy in the shops.My focaccia is soft on the inside with a salty crust and always drizzled before and after baking with olive oil..yum!
So, now I love making bread or anything yeasted. There’s something very satisfying about working with yeasted dough.I love the pulling and stretching of kneading it..so satisfying…and watching the chemistry working as it rises. Who can resist the smell of baking bread, biting into a cinnamon whirl, a fresh doughnut covered in sugar and with a surprise filling of strawberry jam.
Last year I was lucky to get opportunity to attend a bread making course ran by Duncan Glendinning at The Thoughtful Bread Company in Bath. The course was aimed for beginners or those with some bread making knowledge already. I had an amazing day, learnt lots of tips and techniques and came away loaded down with the goodies I’d baked. I can really recommend attending one of his courses. They are great fun and you’ll inherit some of Duncan’s passion for “real” bread.
I’m no Duncan Glendinning (not nearly as good-looking, nor do I have a beard) and am no way qualified in teaching the skill of bread making, but I do enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with others, so yesterday I opened my pretend “Brigitte’s Baking School” and invited my lovely WI friends to come and make focaccia. What fun I had getting everything ready. Everyone had a workstation complete with ingredients, equipment and recipe. I baked biscuits to enjoy with morning coffee and planned a light but delicious lunch. The day was a great success, everyone had a fab time and went home with the focaccia that they’d made complete with holes….yay, success all round! I’d love to do it again. Try different recipes, techniques etc. But will we make bread rolls? Maybe it’s time to give them another go!