Years ago when we got married, we had a bread maker. One of the old fashioned styles which made a big hook hole in the bread. The OH wasn’t keen on the bread, so the breadmaker got siloed onto a shelf in the top of the larder. I hadn’t been baking bread for about 14 years. But then lockdown happened and like many other people we wanted to have crusty bread again.
I’m presuming our local Polish bakery is still open but I don’t think their bread is as good as the french guy’s who owned it before them. Plus their pastries are weird (toffee inside chocolate eclairs, weird ‘custard’ inside almond croissants. So we’ve stuck with Tesco for sliced bread, and when I’ve gone to the local village shop inbetween orders, I’ve picked up crusty bread there where it’s been available.
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I’ve mostly had plain flour available (although I’m now running a bit short so need to track some down again), and had some bread mixes I’ve been able to get, but wanted to try making my own bread. It’s always helpful to be able to do that, especially if you can’t get out and about. While I’ll usually have something low carb for my lunch, the OH and N always have sandwiches (or crackers and cheese near Christmas).
So my first time making bread started. I wanted to point towards a couple of recipes I’ve used, because it’s good to have failsafe bread recipes available. You don’t want to waste precious flour or yeast. And if you can’t find bread flour or yeast, it’s good to know there are alternatives available.
You can use mixers to mix and knead your bread, but I do it by hand. I’ve never got on with the Kenwood Chef that the OH’s gran got us for a wedding gift, so easy recipes with short knead times are essential. I tried getting N to help but either he hasn’t got the strength to properly knead without it taking hours, or he gets bored after doing it twice.
Some people struggle to find a warm place to leave the dough to prove (easier in summer when you can leave it on a window ledge), but we have the aga and on top of the simmering side is a good temperature to get a good prove.
Our start point for making bread
Bread mixes. Yes, the lazy way, but it saves measuring and having all the different ingredients. They’re often available in shops when flour isn’t. I’ve tried a wholemeal loaf but it was very dense, the white loaves have worked better. You can get flavoured and seeded versions too.
Easiest ever crusty bread
If you love a cob and want crusty bread for ploughmans rather than perfect slices for sandwiches, then try Mel’s easiest ever bread. It takes around 12 hours to prove, so I made it the night before, proved it overnight then baked it mid morning ready for lunch. Instagram is awash with everyone baking this bread because it really is easy (mine first time round had gone into the bowl folded over so was a bit doughy in that part, but that was user error. It’s been great since then.
What’s great about this bread is that it just needs a pyrex bowl, or if you have one a Le Creuset style casserole dish and lid (or Dutch Oven as they’re known in the US).
It tasted amazing slathered with butter, I could have gone eating it non stop! As well as being good for ploughmans, try it with soup (on the side). If you have any left, turn it into croutons or make bruschetta.
Next I’m waiting for Mel to write up her baguette recipe.
Easy dinner rolls
I don’t often buy soft bread rolls because they never get eaten as sandwiches here. We only get them for when we have burgers. But of course you can’t guarantee being able to get them on a shop. So I decided to try making some to have with our burgers.
I’d found a few fast recipes on Pinterest, and found one that wasn’t going to be much more than an hour. Fast to mix and prove, then baking wouldn’t take long. Hopefully they would turn out ok.
They really were quick to make. I only made 8 rolls instead of the 10 they suggested the recipe would made because I knew we had large burgers. And a flapjack sized baking tin was just the right size to bake them in.
After baking I wiped over melted butter and topped half with sesame seeds and half with a sprinkling of salt.
The only problem with baking bread is that I’m meant to be on a low carb diet, but that goes out the window with baking bread. Because who can resist the smell of warm bread? Not me.
The rolls did sink a little once they were cool and then sliced open to put the burgers in but they were tasty – it’s always good to know exactly what’s going in your bread, unlike the extra preservatives that I’m sure are put in bought bread.
I’m much more confident trying bread now, and I can dig out my cheap bread and bakery rolls book I bought years ago.
Now I just need to buy a larger loaf tin, as I’m having to make free form bread due to my loaf tin being a small one.
If you need baking equipment, try some of these
Outside the UK, try:
Have you been making bread for the first time over this lockdown? What’s your go to recipe?