There are times when the inexplicable happens and the best way to go forward is through change. Going back to simple things, such as baking bread, especially when forced into quarantine at home, can be liberating.
For years I longed for bread with a real crust. I grew up on a typical bread from Tuscany and Puglia, (pane toscano and pane pugliese) and eating sliced bread has been one of the hardest things to get used to when living in England and now Holland.
The day I decided I would forever stop buying bread from bakeries and supermarkets I baked late in the evening, before going to bed. I googled the first recipe on a quick bread and I tried it immediately, without thinking too much. I thought “I might screw this but I shall do it right now”. I let the dough rise and then worked the flour and put it on a baking tray in the oven. I went back to do my things.
Then an inebriant perfume reached me in the living room. It was pretty overwhelming, and I had a flashback to when my grandma baked bread in her wood-fired oven.
My mum never baked bread in her kitchen oven when she moved to the city in the 1970s. But I did.
It’s really simple. It all starts with flour and water. If only I had googled that earlier.
A loaf is never the same. Like a day is never the same. Waking up with the smell of fresh bread can just make your day. Yes, bread has that power on me. I now bought a bread machine, and I time it to have my bread ready when I wake up.
How to bake your bread
In order to justify the purchase of a bread machine, you first need to go through preparing the dough and baking it in your traditional oven. The perfume and fragrance of fresh bread will be so overwhelming that you would want to have that every day.
You can shop around for the best bread machine around, but the Tefal PF240E Pan et Délices is the one I got and it does its job. They all come with recipes books, they are just small ovens in the end. I don’t like to have my kitchen cluttered with too much gear, but ask yourself how much you like fresh bread and you will end up finding the right spot for it.
Once you have a bread machine, it’s just a matter of reading the recipes for each programme and fine-tune as you go along. Even if there are 20 programmes available, don’t get distracted and just pick the type of bread you like and abuse that programme. I chose the wholemeal bread recipe as a start and I still stick to it.
Ingredients for a 750 grams loaf
Water – 300 ml
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
Salt – 1.5 tsp
Flour – 180 grams
Wholewheat flour – 270 grams
Dry baker’s yeast – 1 tsb
Broken linseeds – 2 tbsp
The recipe above is a slightly modified version from the bread machine recipe book, whereby I have substituted sunflower oil with extra virgin olive oil, added 30 ml of water and two tablespoons of broken linseeds. According to the book, sugar helps with the formation of the crust, but I took it out and still managed to get it crusty on the outside. The programme for wholemeal bread takes 2.45 hours.
Once you start realising how easy it is to use a bread machine, you may want to explore other programmes, such as making your own jam, preparing the dough for pizza or focaccia, or bake a cake. The Tefal machine can even make yoghurt and cottage cheese. You can store your bread loaf in a linen bag, thus eliminating the use of plastic bags supermarket bread comes with.