Bread baking to me is a form of alchemy – flour and water combining to give the ‘gold’ of the culinary world, lovely fresh bread. Bread is a dietary staple in many of the world’s cultures. At its simplest, bread is a combination of flour and water, perhaps with salt and a little fat added. As well as being baked, it can be cooked on a hot plate or a griddle – in ancient times people baked on hot rocks.
In Britain, ‘bread’ tends to mean an oven-baked, leavened loaf: a basic combination of flour, water and salt, but with yeast incorporated to give it a light, chewy texture – yet there is a fascinating array of recipes, techniques and ingredients available.
I love making bread, be it anything from simple yeast dough, sourdough or simple soda bread. I reckon it’s the feel of the silky soft dough that does it for me, but it could be the joy of seeing it grow in size as the yeast does its job. Anyhow it doesn’t take much encouragement for me to get baking some bread.
A great tip I got from my very good friend Brenda is not to use flour for kneading the bread but oil instead, rub your hands and work-top with oil and that will prevent the bread sticking or becoming too dry because of the addition of extra flour.
Last week I decided I wanted to make a bread using the malthouse flour I’d recently purchased from Shipton Mill, but nothing in any of my bread books inspired me. So there really was no alternative but to have a go at creating my own recipe, the first time may I add that I have ever done this for bread; the result Malthouse Maple Bread.
The bread was lovely, soft and slightly chewy but with a good light texture. The seeds from the malthouse flour really lifted the bread and made it that bit extra special. As for the maple syrup I think there was a sight hint of flavour coming through but it just gave the bread a slightly sweet tang which made it well suited to the salad I served it with. If you don’t have maple syrup you could use a honey of your choice.
The bread was received really well when I served it slathered with some lovely Irish salted butter and the following day it made great toast, crispy, golden and utterly delicious. Who can resist hot bread dripping with butter? Certainly not me.