I love making bread. I’m a sucker for the fug of a fresh-baked loaf, especially when I’m together enough to get the breadmaker going overnight, to be woken by the warm, yeasy scent drifting up the stairs. Regardless of what the day has in store, that has to be a good start. Experimentation has led me to create my own loaf, a white/wholemeal mix that, while not especially innovative, is entirely delicious and exceedingly versatile.
There are those, of course, who claim that I’m not really making bread at all. By using a breadmaker I’m simply replicating at home scale the worst excesses of commercial bread production. If I truly cared about the holy loaf, I’d be getting my hands mucky in a bowl.
And I do, on occasion. And it is incredibly rewarding. I get a real sense of pride from sliding a cracly-warm dome of deliciousness out of the oven, just holding off from tearing into it with my bare hands until it’s cooled enough to eat safely. I haven’t bought bread from a bakers or supermarket in years, and I’m thinking locally in terms of ingredients as well. My favourite flour is ground at the watermill at Mapledurham, five miles down the road, which is the last working waterdriven corn and grist mill on the planet.
And I’m trying to branch out a little too, as summer creeps closer and I feel the urge for flatbreads and pizzas outside. One of my dreams for the refurbished back end of the garden is a wee wood-fired oven I can use to indulge my artesian fantasies. Pizza All Hallows will be a wonderful thing. I can already taste it.
A fascinating article in The Atlantic has just popped up online, regarding the intellectual property of recipes, and what happens after bakers break up. It’s got some interesting things to say about the often complicated machinations and relationships that go on behind the creation of something as simple as the daily loaf.