How to fit bread making into your working week
All in all, I think that bread making gets a bad rep. In the minds of most, it seems to be associated with Bake Off, retirees, stay-at-home mums and hipsters in ‘fluid’ employment. In essence, it’s the sort of aspirational activity which isn’t achievable when you work real hours in a real job.
I’m here to show you that making loaf after loaf of delicious homemade bread is easy to fit into your weekly routine of hellish commutes, early morning gym class, and unplanned pub sessions.
All you need is a few bits of equipment:
The stuff you need to make bread – sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised the number of times I’ve run out of flour when I come to make a dough at 10pm. Now I buy bulk from Shipton Mill. Sorted. I also use a sourdough starter cause it saves the need for messing around with dried yeast and tastes AWESOME.
A proving basket
A plastic shower cap
A loaf tin
Room in your fridge
Maybe not a piece of ‘equipment’, per se, but a definite necessity: a bit of focus for the first couple of loaves. After, that it’ll become routine.
Imagine it’s 8pm. You’ve just got home from work, you’re considering what you can scavenge for supper. Do yourself a favour and whack up a bread dough while your pasta’s on the boil.
My top tip: make the dough a little wetter than you’d think. And when you knead, think outside of the box. You’re just trying to stretch and activate the gluten in the flour so pulling it around in the air like some sort of soggy concertina works just as well as pushing it around your kitchen counter.
You’ll know when it’s starting to work because the texture of the dough changes. It becomes a little springier, feels firmer. Now’s the time to put some welly into it – stick it on your counter, put your shoulders into it and race the pasta timer.
It shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to do all that. Resist the mad urge to coat the still slightly sticky dough in flour and just rub your hands fiercely together to get all the little bits off. Dust your proving basket with semolina or just a little flour, dump your dough in it and put on it’s shower cap. Stick it somewhere warm and forget about it until just before bed.
After a couple of hours, your dough ball should’ve risen – we’re looking for roughly double in size which, FYI, is less than you’d think when you first look at it.
Grab your loaf tin. Knock the air out of your lovely dough (counter-intuative, I know) – then shape it into a sort of ‘loaf’ shape by folding it over twice, just like a letter going into an envelope.
Pop it in your tin, put its shower cap back on and stick it in the fridge.
If you have the time before work the next morning, take the dough out the fridge while your oven heats up and bake. Otherwise, it’ll keep quite happily there until the following evening when even someone ravaged by a killer day at work/ overenthusiastic participation in work drinks can switch on the oven and bake it.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to follow this routine in your sleep. And trust me, once you’ve become accustomed to the fabulousness of homemade bread you’ll struggle to go back to the supermarket stuff – and overall, it’s cheaper than buying even the most basic loaves.