My baking journey started many years ago – I guess in my early twenties when I was rather into healthy eating. I remember experimenting with fresh yeast bought at the local bakery, getting it to froth up in lukewarm water before baking. I was living with my Nanna at the time and have a vivid memory of this frothy yeast mixture (or not so frothy if I had accidentally killed it) sat there on the window-ledge. My Nanna would roll her eyes! What on earth was she up to this time?!
Well those very early loaves were honestly like rock hard boulders and I even did use one as a doorstop! But this process of combining flour and water and some strange looking/smelling substance called yeast just seemed like a wonderful kind of alchemy 🙂
Fast forward about 10 years and not a deal of progress had been made in the baking department (although I did make a mean Victoria sponge due to constant asking by said Grandmother). But bread-wise I had probably not done a lot. Now with a family my thoughts again turned to healthy eating and in particular homemade bread. This was really because my eldest son, at around the age of 4 or 5, became a bit of a ‘fussy’ eater. I don’t know why and indeed that is a whole other massive topic, but I would literally despair when I had made a nice dinner and he wouldn’t/couldn’t eat it.
I am not one to force a child to eat or make them starve to learn a lesson. I don’t think that is the way to go
So all I could offer instead was bread and jam which he loved! I was not going to start preparing separate meals. And so, I thought, if that is going to be mainly what he eats then at least I can make sure that it is homemade bread. And so the journey began 😁🥖🥖🍞
I ended up loving baking so much and kept experimenting and getting better. Don’t get me wrong I often had small disasters, some more bricks and tasteless bread but in the main the bread baking was going well.
It got even better when I picked up some lovely old fashioned tins at a jumble sale – this transformed my loaves. Up until then cobs were the only thing that went well. The tins were really old and the type that you’re not even supposed to wash. Unfortunately my mum, with the best will in the world, ended up scrubbing them with soapy water 😢 They pretty much died a death and are no longer non-stick!
Again my bread got even better when my mum (she redeemed herself) picked up a copy of a fantastic bread book from a charity shop for me. The book was ‘Bread Matters’ by Andrew Whitley who coincidentally was the founder of The Real Bread Campaign. It was so brilliant with step by step descriptions for so many kind of loaves. Mr Whitley runs some great courses up in Scotland http://breadmatters.com/
Starting out back then I was on a tight budget and buying my bags of flour from Lidl – and the results were great. This was probably Canadian wheat and bleached and made from wheat that had been conventionally grown. But then I started reading up on organic food, joined the Real Bread Campaign https://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/ and realised this was not the way to go.
Still on a tight budget I bought the absolute best flour I could afford which was normally stoneground and definitely organic. Now this can be done economically if you have enough storage space to buy a sack of flour. And if you work out the cost of baking your own bread it still works out cheaper than buying it.
I will cover this in another blog – the best places to purchase flour and of course my favourite windmill too