Sunday, 17 February 2008

A bread retrospective. (Or; I am my father's daughter.)

Hello, my name's Rebecca and I'm a bread addict.

I am indeed my father's daughter and have the bread fanatic gene. I can't help it, I just love bread, am obsessed with bread, would eat it for and with every meal. This goes some way to explaining my enthusiasm for the making of our own bread resolution - it's basically a sneaky way to make sure we eat even more bread, and that the flat always smells of it!

We've been committed to this new home-made bread cause for two weeks now and it's going rather well, so I couldn't help but post a bread retrospective to go with the previous
cooking one, as I believe bread deserves a place of its own.

I am going to do my best to include these in the order that I tried them. The first two breads I have included are pre-resolution, the rest are from the last two weeks. Also, there are some lacking. I unfortunately forgot to take a photo of the plain white load I made, and I made breadsticks for Valentine's day (yes, yes a post will be forthcoming) and alas didn't get a picture of them on their own. However, I hope the following will keep you sated for now.

Walnut and honey soda bread. This was the first bread I tried, taken from a Dan Lepard recipe in the Guardian. It's so simple it's ridiculous, basically you just throw all the ingredients together and whack it in the oven. No resting or proving required. It's a great breakfast bread for this reason as you can have it baking while you have that first cup of coffee and it's ready just in time for the peckishness to set it. It's also really adaptable. I have been adjusting the amount of honey to make it less sweet and substituting various dried fruits (apricots, cranberries etc) in place of half the walnuts. It works every time and I truly believe you can't mess this bread up. It's great with cheese too. Sconto!

Rosemary and rock salt focaccia. Possibly one of my favourite breads, which was why I was both eager to try it and fearful of not managing to produce a tasty result. I needn't have been too worried as this too seems to be a hard recipe to get wrong. I took it from the BBC website as it was the simplest one I could find, simple to follow, no tricky starters or milk additions, just a nice basic dough. The result was very pleasing. Perhaps not as cakey as the focaccia from Carluccio's that I love, but that's an indulgence and it's nice to have something lighter on hand. I have been mostly serving this with soups (ah, yet another post I should do) or with "Friday night" type dinners of cheese, olives, houmous and such like. Since the doctor has recently told me to put more salt in my diet what better way is there to do it than via bread!

I am extremely fortunate that N shares my love of bread. He is perhaps not so obsessive about it (I think that's a very unique gene) but he is certainly very enthusiastic and was incredibly pleased when I suggested we start only eating bread made ourselves. As a result he bought Richard Bertinet's book "Dough: simple contemporary bread" for me. This was the true beginning of the bread making attempts. The book has four basic dough recipes (white, olive oil, wholemeal and rye) from which numerous breads, of varying difficulties, can be made. I have so far made each dough at least once and have been enjoying the different things he does with each dough. I haven't managed to take photos so far of the white, rye or olive breads I have made, for some reason it did occur to me to photograph the wholemeal attempts (why only wholemeal I don't know as the others have been equally delicious and certainly as photogenic. Oh well, at least that will mean more bread posts to come!).

Small round wholemeal (left) and wholemeal with orange and pecan (right). I made a batch of the wholemeal and then split it, making one small plain loaf and then adding pecans and orange to the other half (Bertinet has a recipe for pecan, cranberry and orange, but I didn't have any cranberries). Both were really nice and a great start.

My next attempt at wholemeal again leaned towards making two smaller loaves. This time a conventional loaf-shaped wholemeal topped with oats (left) and a wholemeal with apricot bloomer (right). The latter being another great one either toasted for breakfast or with a nice strong cheddar for lunch.

Since these results I have started making one large loaf as it suits sandwiches better (and for some reason means we eat slightly less of it and so I don't have to slave over a hot oven every day!) I have made a plain white (which was the most successful in terms of rising, and a plain rye (doesn't rise as well, but tastes great and is more filling). I also tried his olive dough for another rosemary and salt focaccia loaf and sesame breadsticks - both good, although I think the original focaccia loaf was marginally better.

Finally, but my no means least, was this week's walnut and sundried tomato wholemeal bread. Using the pecan and cranberry recipe as the outline I just substituted the walnuts for the pecans and the tomatoes for the cranberries. It worked out well, producing a lovely moist bread perfect for sandwiches. Less good for breakfast, but perhaps that's a good thing as it forced more healthy righteous museli eating!

As I type this I have a large plain wholemeal proving by the preheating oven for this first half of this week. Mmmm...more bread...

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