Friday, 19 August 2011

The Big Bread Bakeathon

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.

I made a vegetable soup for dinner and we ate this loaf with it. Delicious.

The next chapter is variations on the basic bread recipe which begins with malted grain bread.


  1. Fab! I have that book too and have used certain recipes but my loaves are always leaden. Maybe I'm not following the recipes to the letter, I should pay more attention! I have to admit that I am too used to just shoving the ingredients into the bread machine, but you don't get that bingo-wings workout with a machine!

    We haven't bought bread (apart from very special loaves from farmer's markets) since the breadmaker arrived in December and it's lovely to control what goes in to your loaf, use locally grown and milled flour, your own mix of seeds etc.

    I'll watch your J/J project with interest! x

  2. In the early 1970's I learned a bit about baking bread, and Sunday was my bread making day.

    I must confess that decades later, I wish for the time to resume this bread making, but my wishes are not granted by any powerful spirit.

    Your bread just looks lovely, and I can almost sense that wonderful aroma of bread fresh from the oven.

    Now, I make my lunchtime sandwich to take along with me to the shop using nice sesame seeded rolls, or ciabatta, but I just know in my old time baker's heart of hearts that I could make better bread.

    Thank you for reminding me of the beauty of fresh bread. xo


I am sorry to have to add word verification thing again but I keep getting spammed.