Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a rustic loaf

Most days during the week, my alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and I lurch into three layers of clothing (in this freezing weather at any rate) and go for a run. But today my running partner cancelled, so there I was, basking under the duvet at 8 a.m., reminiscing about running along the white-hot sand in Western Australia - young and tanned and lissom of limb - when into this reverie burst BB with: "Get up. There's a sale on. We're going shopping for cupboard doors."

Cupboard. Doors. Can you imagine anything less tempting, anything less likely to lure you away from the kaleidoscope of memories of your 22-year old self under a relentless antipodean blue sky - terraced pub lawns overlooking the Indian Ocean, sun cream and salt, the pounding of the surf, jazz notes, the clinking of cold beer glasses?

So I rolled over and continued daydreaming and playing with my cat's ears, making them point sideyways like a gremlin, until BB reappeared and said: "If you don't get up now, I'll go on my own - and buy formica doors."

Eek! The "f" word. That got me up sharpish.


Bread. For years I've been making it in a machine, with dramatically bad results, until I tried making it by hand. Well, what a success. It's a completely different beast to that flat brick that emerges from the bread machine, looking like an offensive weapon and requiring one to cut it with. Ebay for the machine.

Rustic loaf
650 g bread flour (I use a mix of plain and cereal)
2 generous tsp salt
1 x 8 g sachet dried yeast
1 tsp sugar

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in a cup of warm water. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the dissolved yeast mixture into the centre and using a knife, bring in the dry ingredients until the yeast mixture is all soaked up. Then add warm water a little at a time and keep mixing until all the flour has been incorporated and you have a moist dough.

2. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, folding and pushing, then place the dough in a clean bowl with a little flour sprinkled in the bottom, cover with greased clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove.

3. When the dough has doubled in size, knock it back by punching it to knock all the air out for about a minute then shape the dough to whatever you like, sprinkle the top with a little flour and re-cover with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to double in size again. Preheat the oven to 425°F/225°C.

4. When the dough has doubled in size again, gently place it in the oven and leave for about 25 - 30 minutes until cooked (if it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom it's cooked). Leave to cool on a wire rack.

♫ Cook along to: Bread Guitar Man