As the class went by things got a little more taxing, I remember doing flapjack one week and I can distinctly remember the pizza with the pre-made frozen pizza base, you wouldn't have gone back for a second slice, that's for sure.My last class was right before we split up for the Christmas holidays, and this time there was actually some cooking involved, we were going to make stollen. As you'd expect the marzipan was ready made and the dough was leavened with bicarb not yeast but still, it was cooking and I loved it!
My stollen was a disaster, the bread split as soon as I took it out of the oven, searing hot liquid marzipan gushed out across the worktop and on to the floor and I was lucky not to have been burnt! But that's not the point, I learned to love food and cooking and I've never stopped since.I'm not really going anywhere with this other than to show how far my baking has come along, I've made cakes, buns, scones, puddings and breads and more besides.
From top left clockwise: Chocolate Guinness cake, Sticky Chelsea buns, Clotted cream scones, Christmas pudding, Pumpkin bread
Although I am quite good at making simple breads I know that with a little work I could be a lot better. So I've set myself a challenge to improve my bread making as much as possible, I want to be able to make bread that's crisp on the outside but soft and chewy in the middle, the kind of bread you can buy in French bakeries that has great big air holes in it and bags of flavour. It's no easy task but I'm off to a good start, I've got myself a copy of Daniel Stevens River Cottage Bread Handbook and It's fantastic. I've already got books of bread recipes but where this one differs is that it explains why bread is made the way it is rather than just telling me to do it. No book I've had before has been so clear on what the consistency of the dough should be or how I should fold it, but those little points make the difference between good bread and great bread.These two loaves are my first attempt at making bread using the pre-ferment method, this involves making a small amount of very wet dough at least a day before the make the main batch. The pre-fermented dough is then added to the new dough giving it an amazing boost in flavour and vastly improving the texture. I actually couldn't believe how much difference such a simple technique could make until I tried it. I'll posting about my bread making every couple of weeks or whenever I discover anything new, hopefully by this time next year I'll have successfully baked sourdough and if things go really well croissants...Some other tips I picked up from the book were: -
- Use Canadian bread flour if you can get it, it has the highest gluten content that results in the best bread.
- The dough should be relatively sticky before you begin kneading it will begin to feel dryer and more elastic the longer you knead it.
- Placing a tray of hot water in the oven prior to baking creates steam which keeps the crust softer for longer and allows your bread to rise higher during baking.
- Most importantly of all, good bread takes time. Be patient!