Bread routine

22 May 2007

I used to hate being organised, I saw it as rigid and oppressive. Now I realise that being organised actually helps me live the life I want to live. It gives me more time in my day because I’m not looking for things or wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. You only waste time on purpose when you're organised. Now I like having a routine.

Bread is baked at our home almost every day. My husband and I eat it fresh for lunch, the chooks have some soaked in powdered milk and warm water on a cold morning to warm their tiny bellies and the dogs gulp it down when we give them the chance. I don’t rely on clocks or watches any more, I never wear a watch now, and rarely look at the clocks in the house. I just do things when it’s their time, and I know that time by the light and by my routine.

Baking fresh bread is a focal point in my day – it’s how I measure the end of the early hours and the beginning of the morning. I suppose it happens around 9am but in my “time” it comes after making the bed and washing up and before going to the garden. I wonder sometimes if it’s common to bake bread. I know a lot of people have bread makers and make bread by hand, but is it common place or do most of us buy bread? If you buy bread, you may like to try this easy recipe. It works with hand kneading or in a machine, it contains no preservatives, it’s easily modified with different flours and it tastes divine.

1½ teaspoons dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
65 mls warm water

3¾ cups baker's flour (plain flour)
3 teaspoons gluten flour
1 tablespoon butter/margarine (softened)
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon milk powder
250 mls warm water + more if necessary

Just a word about flour. Bread mix, which is commonly used in bread machines, is flour with bread improver and flavour enhancers added. We are NOT using bread mix. By adding the ingredients above, we're adding natural flavour to the bread as well as giving it a lift, that as an inexperienced baker, you won't get without the gluten flour.

Another thing you need to know about flour is that it's different all over the country. When baking with the various flours, they take different amounts of water, because of the differing amount of humidity in the air. And even if you use the same bag of flour at different times of the year, you'll probably use slightly more or less water, according to the weather conditions. This is not a problem, it just means you have to know what your dough should look and feel like before going to the next step. Bread making is very tactile, even when making the dough in a bread machine, I feel it to make sure I have enough moisture in the dough. This recipe generally uses 315mls of water, but when I made this loaf yesterday I used about 40mls more. Sometimes the difference will be one spoon full, sometimes it will be almost a cup.