I’m still determined to improve my baking skills, so I have been tackling one of the techniques I have historically found very difficult – working with yeast! I have had some memorable disasters in the past, not least a completely inedible focaccia (I blame the recipe of course)!
As I had been avoiding making bread, I didn’t have many recipes to work from, so I decided to treat myself to a new book – Brilliant Bread by James Morton (and it was half price!). You may know James from the 2012 series of the Great British Bake Off. I went for this book because, besides my little crush on him, I read about his motives and aims when writing the book and I thought it was a good choice for a beginner like me. Morton writes about how he was dissatisfied by the books on the market which are written by professionals and simply include scaled-down industrial recipes, and don’t explain how the processes in bread-making work.
I’m really glad I bought this book. It’s not only good-looking, Morton also has a succinct and approachable style, and he gives some really clear and in-depth explanations of the science and theories behind baking with yeast. I particularly liked the trouble-shooting advice and step-by-step pictures of techniques such as kneading and shaping.
The book is set out in chapters with recipes of increasing difficulty, so I have started to work my way through. My first attempt was of the first loaf in the book – basic white bread.
It looked pretty good, but it was quite tough. It improved a lot with toasting though! I consulted the book and figured out that it was underproved.
So for my second loaf I tried the same recipe again. This time for some reason it refused to stay shaped, so I ended up shaping and re-shaping about ten times. I got very frustrated with it and in the end I just put it in the oven. It turned out really nicely! The bread was nice and soft, with a fairly even texture, but it did have a weird flat bottom.
Next I tried making some rolls, though I never managed to get a photo of those. I also figured out that it is quite hard for 3 people to get through a dozen rolls before they go stale so I probably won’t be making those again until there are more people around to eat them. We are very much a toast-eating household, so a loaf is a better bet.
My most recent bread was a wholemeal loaf, baked in a tin. This was my best yet! A nice even crumb, easy to cut, with lots of texture and flavour. I will definitely be making this again.
If you want to start making bread, I can heartily recommend Brilliant Breads by James Morton as a beginner’s tool, or as inspiration for the experienced baker.