in support of home-made bread

12 Jul

Last week, as a belated Father’s Day celebration, I taught my own dear papa to make bread. My parents eat a lot of bread every week, born of a long-standing devotion to a simple piece of toast with jam or a scrap of cheese or some sliced tomato. It’s their breakfast, lunch and comfort food.

I’ve been making my own bread for about four years now, but really only got good at it in the last two, after Matthew bought me Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley. (Seriously, one of the most illuminating books on food I’ve ever read. It’s got recipes and tips as you’d expect, but also some pretty scary insights into the bread industry in Britain and a frankly terrifying breakdown of the unpronounceable ingredients you see on bagged bread.)

Bread-making, in particular bread-making by hand rather than a machine, seems to be one of those things that many people think rather ‘quaint’. Like when they find out I knit or sew or cook full stop, non-hand-makers always declare it’s just easier to buy stuff in the shops, or that they wouldn’t know how, or that they ‘wish they had time’.

Because I have so much time on my hands!

It’s the same as anything else: you make time for things you enjoy doing. The skill thing I do kind of understand, but stand by my conviction that anyone who can read can follow a recipe. Plus, here are heaps of benefits to making bread yourself. Bread is far cheaper to bake than to buy, even when using organic ingredients. It needs no added fat or sugar, a teaspoon of salt acts as preservative. You can add other grains and seeds and mix up the flour content, so it’s customisable. I suppose kneading does take time, but dude, you should see my biceps! I might look like a skinny bitch, but my muscly arms come courtesy of a twice-weekly fifteen-minute hard-core work out.

But the best-best thing of all is when you bite into your sandwich and marvel that you made that bread, which is what my dad experienced this week! He and my mum keep calling me up, raving about the loaf he made. I’m relieved and delighted he was so pleased with the results. He says he’s going to make his next loaf as soon as this one is finished; in fact, he might even be making his second loaf as we speak!

Other than getting to spend a few hours with my dad, the best thing about teaching him to make bread was that this time I got to share my knowledge. Making bread by hand is way easier than it initially seems, but there are so many things I wish I knew when I started out — like the whole kneading thing really does matter or poppyseeds should be added to the flour, not the dough or that saved pasta or potato water (a tip from Alice!) produce the best loaves. As I’m writing up the recipe for my dad, I’ll post it here along with the method I find works best. As I told my dad, the technique does take a bit of practice, but what I’ve discovered more than anything is that it’s very hard to make a bad loaf, and when it’s a good one, the rewards are sweet.

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One Response to “in support of home-made bread”

  1. Brooke 14 July 2009 at 2:17 pm #

    I love making bread, and hurrah for sharing things with your family!

    I usually go with a slightly-modified version of the No-Knead Bread of NY Times fame, but have been meaning to branch out for ages. I’ve seen Bread Matters around, and have had a flip-through, but might actually get around to buying it now. ^_^

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