Is there anything quite like the smell of bread baking? For me it rates up there with freshly ground coffee, just cut grass, fresh sheets from drying on the washing line and the smell of a weather breaking storm as the rain hits the earth after a hot summers day. Energising and uplifting and comforting all at the same time.
For me bread making has been a challenge I have taken to a few times in my life. Each time I’ve gone through my baking phases I’ve read up more about the techniques, talked to people about it and attempted to improve my end results. I think I’ve been quite slack about how I’ve gone gathering this information though and I’m still inevitably disappointed with the loaves I produce. Mind you the last time that I gave it a serious effort would be going on seven or eight years ago when my food curiosity was far less developed than it is now.
And then a few months ago I discovered a fabulously simple and not too heavy recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Since that day I’ve been regularly making loaves of varying density filled with seeds, nuts and occasionally dried fruit to mix up my morning breakfast staple. Whipping up a batch in less than 5 minutes off the top of my head meant there was really no excuse not to be baking a loaf once a week. Whilst this was satisfying and economical there’s still been something missing…
Sometimes I still want a lighter loaf, a soft bread roll to fill with delicious ingredients to take to work, a denser, chewier sourdough which makes perfect breakfast toast, or even just a piece of fresh crusty French stick smeared with butter.
This longing for different styles of bread, combined with seeing the fabulous bread making going on out there in the food blogging world, got my interest piqued again and it was with this motivation that I selected Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery for The Cookbook Guru for the month of June. Whilst David is not necessarily the authority on bread making full stop, she is certainly someone that commands respect with her research and skill. Her book is as much about the science of bread making as filled with recipes for the loaves itself. The perfect combination to improve my bread making skills I thought.
Whilst I will admit to finding my attention wandering through the earlier chapters of the book as the technical detail that she went through about English bread making started to become as dry as a 4 day old loaf of bread, when I go to the recipe section of the book she definitely had my interest again. Where to start and what to make? With a dozen markers in the book I embarked on my baking with some Scots Baps and a Cob Loaf. The end result was pleasing, and whilst I still feel there is room for improvement, I’m happy to say that I think I’ll be in a little bit of a bread making phase for a while yet.
* From Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery
makes 8 small or 6 larger baps
- 450g plain flour
- 150ml milk
- 150ml water
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tsp dried yeast or 30g fresh yeast
- A little extra milk for brushing the top of the baps and flour for sprinkling.
Sift the flour and then add in the salt and dried yeast. Combine the water and milk and warm to a tepid temperature (approx 37c). Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and combine well. Add a little extra milk if the dough is too stiff. It should be soft and elastic but not sticky. Cover the dough with cling wrap and allow to double in size which should take about 1 ½ – 2 hours in a temperate climate.
Line a baking tray with non-sticking baking paper.
Tip your dough out onto a clean bench and knead to bring it back to its original size. If the dough is a little sticky sprinkle a small amount of flour onto the dough. Break the mixture into 8 pieces and roll into egg shaped rolls.
They will be fairly small. Place onto the baking tray and cover with a tea towel and allow to prove again to double in size. To create a traditional looking bap, before baking, brush with a small amount of milk and then sprinkle with flour (optional).
Heat your oven to 205c approximately and bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes or until they start to brown slightly. Eat warm from the oven with a fried egg and bacon or slathered in salty butter. Best eaten fresh or re-heated before eating as cold they are slightly dry.
Happy Baking and Happy Eating,