Several years ago, when she found out that I made bread by hand, my well meaning but misguided mother-in-law bought me a lovely bread making machine, thinking that I would appreciate the labour saving properties it had to offer. Unfortunately, I found that, as well as making bread, it created a whole new raft of jobs for me, like cleaning it and the various measuring utensils it seemed to require me to use or lifting half the cupboard contents in and out each time I needed to get it out or put it away.
I also found that despite following the recipes in the accompanying booklet, to the letter, the mixing mechanism didn’t always combine the ingredients correctly and invariably, there was an unpleasant sweet residue on the bottom of the finished loaf. And as for the hole left in each loaf following the removal of the mixing blades ……. Really? What is the point? Where is the enjoyment? I think I used it about half a dozen times before Mud found it a new home.
Even putting aside the additional cost of using electric for 1.5 to 2 hours, the whole point of making bread, for me, is the tactileness of it all and the therapeutic aspect of kneading and knocking back the dough …. bread making is a cathartic process in my mind, a leveller, a restorer of balance, a return of ones equilibrium, it is not to be mechanised.
Having done the bulk of my housework yesterday, today I had the choice of sorting out the flower beds in the dismal cold outside or making and baking a variety of nice things, in the warmth of indoors. A bit of a no brainer really and so I began.
First on the list: two different kinds of bread dough one for use in the making of fruit tea cakes, the other for a lovely rustic Italian loaf. As both of these required between 1.5 – 3 hours total proofing time, I started these at around 10am. An hour later I had measured, mixed and kneaded both doughs and they were happily sitting in covered bowls close to the Rayburn.
No matter how many times I make breads and teacakes etc, I always worry that the sticky, rough lump I’ve just mixed up will not become the smooth and elastic dough, needed for good bread. But it always does. It usually takes the full 10 minutes recommended in the recipes and I have found to my cost, that skimping on this stage of the process will have a negative impact on the finished item. My arms have felt like they belong to a stranger on numerous occasions but until I have a smooth and elastic dough in front of me, I carry on kneading.
You can always tell if bread dough has been kneaded enough by gently pressing a finger into it. If the dimple made by the pressure of your finger immediately springs back in to shape, then it’s ready.
By the time the Mudlets got home from school, I had 2 small loaves (approx’ 400g each), half a dozen fruited teacakes (I had to test 2 around lunch time, just to see if they were edible or not) and a dozen ginger and sultana muffins, on cooling racks around the kitchen.
I still have flapjack to make yet but I think I’ll do tea for the Mudlets first and then start on those. Dipped in a mixture of dark and milk chocolate (1:3 dark to milk), they should be rather pleasant with a cup of tea ……