… but very nearly. At least if you’re German. Germans do have a bread obsession, and I happily plead guilty to being a bread obsessive as well.
Bread just tastes so good. Bread is so versatile. I very nearly have bread at every meal.
Britain used to be a bit of a desert when it came to bread. There was the ubiquitous white sliced. To me that stuff doesn’t even deserve the name ‘bread’. In German it is referred to as Toastbrot, i.e. bread that has to be toasted before it is edible. Toasting gives it at least some texture. Otherwise it is just white fluff. I’ve seen people (mainly children, but also some adults) eat all their sandwich except the crust, arguing that it is ‘too hard’. Er, what? That stuff doesn’t even qualify as a crust… But I digress.
So, there was white sliced, then wholemeal sliced, then Heinz 57 varieties of sliced. Whole isles in supermarkets are filled with essentially the same product – all (mostly) awful. Except when toasted, when the ‘bread’ becomes bearable.
Eventually, a version of the French baguette entered the shops, and how we’ve finally got some choice of real bread in the ‘speciality breads’ (with extra high prices) section, such as rye bread, walnut bread, focaccia, ciabatta etc.
But nothing – nothing at all – beats making your own bread at home. You can get flour mixtures, where you just need to add water. But careful, some of these mixtures produces dough that seems to be incapable of forming a crust. And, my friends, a proper crust is where it’s at. You want something you can get your teeth into. None of that cardboardy, chewy awfulness. And making your own bread from scratch is pretty easy, too.
All you need is
500g flour (I like wholemeal wheat or wholemeal spelt),
a sachet of dried yeast,
1 tablespoon salt,
1/2 tablespoon sugar (agave nectar works fine),
3 tablespoons vegetable oil and
350-400 ml water.
Caraway seeds (a must for me) or any other fragrant spice like that. You can buy bread spices that are pre-mixed.
A sprinkling of mixed seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.).
Ghia seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
Knead for 10 minutes. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for a least 1 hour, maybe more depending on the temperature in the room. You want a nicely risen dough.
… and form into a big dough ball and place upon a non-stick baking sheet.
Cover with a tea towel while you preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Then bake for 50-55 minutes.
That’s it. If you have an electric mixer, the kneading is taken care of, and you still have the pleasure of handling the risen dough. If it’s sticky, just dust with flour, so you don’t end up with really doughy hands.
And then there’s the smell. Nothing beats the fragrance of baking bread wafting through your house. Of course, supermarkets have recognised this, which is why we’ve now got instore bakeries. Baking bread just smells of home, of comfort. It makes you feel good.
And this is why I make my own bread. It’s not just the fact that I don’t see why I should pay inflated prices for a very simple product, just because I don’t want to buy the bland fluff that masquerades as bread in the supermarket ‘bread isle’. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you bite into a slice of your own bread (topped with your own jam or marmalade perhaps…) is ridiculously out of proportion to the amount of effort it takes to bake it. And it tastes so good.
PS: There is really no need for a bread maker. They produce crustless bread, and, as you’ve gathered from the above, that’s just a no-no for me. And because the little paddle that kneads the dough stays in situ while baking, your bread comes out with a big hole in the middle. It’s not that much effort to bake bread in the oven, except that you need to be in the house for around 2.5 hours from start to finish. I often start my bread at the same time as making dinner, enjoy the smell of baking bread in the evening, and then have wonderfully fresh bread for breakfast…