I first learnt to bake bread when I was a child. It was a really basic recipe and I probably didn't even use strong bread flour. In recent years, I got into making Grant loaves because they don't require any kneading but lately I've become rather fed up with them.
Mr G always craves German bread and finds my wholemeal Grant loaves (with plenty of seeds) a reasonable substitute, but for me they have just become more and more solid. Sad as I can remember practically eating the first one I made in one go, it was so good (although that one was made with white flour).
Anyway, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's current tv series on Channel 4 recently did a bread making episode which made me think that I should a. go back to kneaded bread and b. try his method, so that's what I've been doing today.
I went out and bought the River Cottage Bread Handbook earlier in the week which spends a lot of pages going through the bread making process in detail. I love these handbooks - I also have the one on preserves - and I slowly intend to collect all of them. I really think they will become collectors' items in the future.
I'm not going to go into the bread-making process in detail because it would take so long I might as well reproduce the book in this post and then I'd probably get arrested for plagiarism! Suffice to say, there are three methods to start the dough. You can either shove everything together and get on with the kneading immediately, or you can mix the flour and water, leave it for a while and then add the yeast, or you can make a batter with all the water and all the yeast but only half the flour, then leave it over night before you add the rest of the flour and get kneading.
This last method (aka the sponge method) is the one that I chose to do, because it is supposed to cut down on kneading time, and kneading was the bit I wasn't looking forward to. So I actually started the batter last night.
It's not that I hate kneading, but the River Cottage method involves very sticky dough which sticks to everything. I was going to take a photo of the dough mid-knead this morning but by the time I thought of it, I was completely caked in dough myself. Note to self: perhaps a little less water next time might help.
My bread didn't rise a great deal when it was proving (I think that was due to it being a bit too wet), but it did rise rather spectacularly in the oven.
These rolls were about half an inch thick and looked more like mini pancakes before they went in.
I used a kilo of flour as suggested and got six big rolls and a tin loaf. But I think next time I'll only make 4 rolls and add a bit more dough to the tin for a taller loaf. (No photos of the loaf because it was still in the oven when I took these).
But six rolls and one loaf do not baking madness make.
I am really unconvinced that this pregnancy has created food cravings but for a week now, I've been thinking about jam tarts (in a Homer Simpson kind of way), so while the bread was proving, I made some in my muffin tin (which was far too deep but never mind) and a kind of jam-disaster-pizza with the left over pastry.
and yes, I know there aren't 12 jam tarts there. I had to do some sampling just to make sure they were ok. Judge me if you like - I don't care!
And, for about three weeks now I've been thinking about pineapple upside-down cake so I made one of those too for our post-squash Saturday tea and cake session with Mr G's friend, C (they play squash, I sensibly stay at home). But strangely, although it turned out very nicely, I had two mouthfuls and had to get Mr G to finish the rest. Perhaps that was hormones.
And then because there was no room in the fridge (don't get me started on the size of the fridge!) I made a bowl of coleslaw too.
Alright. I don't think you really want a photo of that.
So I feel like I've spent the whole day in the kitchen (cue over-dramatic hand to forehead). But I felt very efficient, and (bonus) supper will be bratwurst, River Cottage rolls and Stash Towers coleslaw, with jam tarts for pud, so it hasn't been all bad!