I was reading the lovely Village Fate blog a few days ago where Kitty announced she was cooking her way through Pam Corbin's River Cottage Cake handbook in a sort of Julie/Julia project. Ah ha! I thought, I'd like to do that too. I don't have a copy of Cake (although I'd dearly love one) so I can't exactly join Kitty but then I do have River Cottage Handbook No. 3, Bread by Dan Stevens. Genius! I'll cook that.
Me and Bread are good friends and I have cooked quite a few recipes from it already but in the interests of this bakeathon I plan to cook all of them, in order, including the vetkoek and doughnuts which require (shudder) deep frying.
Bread is a good book to choose because you have to start it from the beginning. In fact Dan warns you, should you dare to enter the chapter entitled 'Beyond the basic loaf' that if you skipped the 'breadmaking step-by-step' chapter 'you need to go back and unskip it'. Ciabatta mustn't be attempted until you've had a certain amount of practice, he scolds.
So I began with the basic bread recipe that I make regularly, but one slips into sloppy habits so I went back and followed it through, step-by-step. Dan's very detailed about what each stage of the alchemy of breadmaking entails and I have found that if you follow each step exactly, the results are amazing.
The basic recipe gives you options, it's the technique that's all important here. So my options were: Flour - two thirds strong white, one third strong wholemeal; liquid - water; extras - sesame seeds; fat - walnut oil; coating - sesame seeds with a few cumin seeds tossed in for interest.
I baked it on my bakestone (a paving slab from Wickes) and these three loaves were the result.
The next chapter is variations on the basic bread recipe which begins with malted grain bread.