Tomorrow we're heading for the countryside. The real countryside. The middle of nowhere. The truly 'out there'. Two moms and three kids, one of them still in his comfort cocoon of my friend's belly. And a one not-really-terribly-reliable car. Should be fun. Actually we're going to visit an old friend of ours we haven't seen properly for a long, long time. And she just happens to live in an old school in the middle of nowhere with her husband, her two lovely children and about a hundred dogs. Take the wellies, she said. So, wellies. Check. Change of dry clothes. Check. For me too. Check. Emergency lights. Just kidding. But I did just realize that we had run out of bread. No sandwiches, then. No sandwiches in the Little Miss's Hello Kitty picnic box. Eeeek. Not good. For a trip like this, sandwiches are a necessity. So out with the flour and yeast. The bowls and spoons.
You see, for what feels like forever I have been trying and trying to make bread that could not also duplicate as a serious war weaponry. I've been through countless of recipes, read countless of books, to no avail. This particular book I actually bought in the hopes of becoming, well, a sort of frenchy bread maker. Snigger. The book is nice, though, but I really thought I was a lost cause when it came to baking bread. So I gave up. And all this while my Mother had been dropping hints about what I should maybe try to do, that just maybe I could use that instead of this and raise the dough like this instead of like that. Did I listen? What do you think? Until one day that I just decided to give it a one more go. The way my Mother does it. And you guessed it. Happy happy joy joy. The perfect fluffy bread. The loveliest bouncy buns. Ever since I have been baking bread almost every day. Not kidding this time.
This is how it goes. Take some live yeast and crumble it on the bottom of a bowl. Add some warm water, test the temperature with your hand, if it feels hotter than your hand it's too hot. Pour a little bit on the yeast. Add a sprinkle of sugar. Let stand for about 5 minutes until you can see that there is some 'action' going on in there with the yeast. Add more water. And some salt. Then start adding the flour. First, I use a wooden spoon and then my hand. When the dough is of a desired consistency, pour it on a working surface that you have sprinkled some flour on. Start kneading. Throw the dough down a couple of times. " You have two hands. Use them both" says my Mother. After a while of kneading, I make a little cave in the middle of the dough and pour some olive oil in it. This is my addition. I just happen to like bread with olive oil. And then, more kneading.
Next, put a baking sheet on an oven tray and make any bread shape you wish. Round ones, loaves, buns, whatever. Lift the bread on the sheet, cover with a linen towel and let rise in a warm space until it seems to have doubled it's size. Stick in the oven. I use 240C , the time spent in the oven depending on the shape and size of the bread. The bread is done when you knock the bottom and hear a hollowish sound.
As you see, there are no exact measurements, no specific times, no science. As my Mother had kept saying to me, instead you pay attention to how the dough feels like, how it's behaving, how it smells like. And you will learn. I doubt I will ever quite be the baking whiz my Mother is, but she gave me the nicest of compliments just the other day by asking my Daughter to " Come taste this bread your Mommy made, it tastes almost like mine. " What can I say? Listen to your Mother, people. :)
Can you tell it's heading straight to my mouth?
Oh, and did I forget to mention that my Mother is actually a real life professional baker....?
And the picture of the Earth Mama on top is from a bag of mine by Dogeared.