Making bread is something I've been doing for years now. When the boys were little it didn't happen much, usually just when we ran out of bread and all that was in the house was some flour, and not always even with yeast, I would knock together a quick batch of little buns to serve with homemade soup to fill their small tummies.
Recently I have been making bread for other reasons, for one we are trying to save money and making your own bread gives you lovely quality bread for pennies compared to the artisan loaves you would have to buy to get a similar taste. But also I have been making it for the flavour, for the lovely homely smell it gives to the kitchen, for the workout it gives to my arms .....
... true this wonderful gadget does the first five minutes kneading for me, but as I have discovered recently there can never be too much kneading. Once I prise the dough from the dough hook and slap it on the floured worktop I set to kneading, stretching and generally pummelling the wonderfully tactile mass of promise.
For that's how I see it, a blob like the top picture all warm and smooth .... the promise of a loaf to come.
I tend to let my dough rise twice, first in the bowl from the mixer, balanced on a table mat between the table and the radiator, then once risen to epic proportions I knock it back and then choose my shapes, usually loaf shaped and in a tin, but occasionally I make buns or as has happened recently I will make a loaf but cut a handful of the dough off and form it into a Focaccia bread, wonderful warm straight from the oven if you are having soup or a pasta dish or just fancy a snack.
I am getting much more consistent with my bread making, I always know I'm there with a recipe when I can gather the ingredients together from memory, without resorting to my many 'post-its' dotted around the kitchen. With my standard loaf I am there, and it's consistent :-)
Of course there are days when something goes wrong. Last week I did exactly as I always do, and then I forgot all about the dough nestled in it's tin for rising in the usual position balanced over the radiator. I went out to feed the chickens and stayed out longer than I meant to, walking the dogs through the paddock and then talking to our neighbour. When I came back in I spotted it straight away, huge under it's cosy tea towel. I gingerly removed the towel, and carried it over to the worktop to brush the top with some milk. Of course the mere act of brushing started a collapse of epic proportions.
It deflated and draped itself over the outside edges of the tin in an outrageously 'cuddly' fashion, but I baked it anyway. When the resulting bread came out of the oven and then the tin it had curious hook shapes at either side that defied being popped into the toaster without a quick trim. The bread itself was still as delicious, I should have photographed it, but we were too busy laughing ....and then eating!!
My bread recipe.
500g Bread Flour (I use 200g brown and 300g white)
If your yeast is very fresh you can get away with adding up to another 100g of Flour, this will give you enough extra dough for a whole Focaccia bread, a pizza base or a couple of large buns as well as a good 2lb loaf)
7gms/2 flat tsp Quick Action Yeast
1 tsp Sugar
1.5 tsp Salt
300mls warm water
15mls Olive Oil
Simply tip all the ingredients into your mixer and then drizzle in the water and oil at the same time with the dough hook running. Leave kneading in the machine for five minutes then tip it onto the worktop and take out the stresses of the day on your dough, it will love you for it. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size and then give it a good thump, it will deflate in a very satisfying way and then you can give it another quick knead and choose the shapes you want to bake.
(picture from Google Images, the most similar looking one to mine)
This is where I tear off a fistful for a Focaccia bread. Simply use your hands to flatten out the dough onto a baking tray, make indentations with your finger and insert little sprigs of fresh Rosemary, leave to rise, covered, for the same time as your loaf. When they have both risen nicely (to reasonable proportions...lol), brush the loaf with beaten egg or milk and sprinkle with a topping if you fancy one (we like some oats or sesame seeds). Drizzle the Focaccia with Olive Oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and pop them in the oven. A hot oven for the first 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature for another 10 mins for the Focaccia and 20 - 30 for the loaf.
All ovens are different this is the timings for mine.
Leave to cool .... if you can and then eat.
As well as homemade bread I have turned into a real 'domestic goddess' well a pretty rustic goddess, and made my own dishcloth. It's not a fancy one following any pattern, although I think they look brilliant, this is simply a crocheted square made from a 10p ball of cottony type wool that I got from the charity shop. I had wanted to have a go at this for a while and when I spotted the ball of 'wool' I jumped at the chance.
It may not be the most beautiful thing in the world but it is really practical and gets the pots lovely and clean, what more do you really need from a dishcloth.