For a long time I was really rubbish at making ordinary bread. Actually, I was more than rubbish; a standard loaf, baked in a tin or a round loaf shaped by hand seemed beyond me. No matter how carefully I followed the recipe, how long I left the dough to rise, what type of flour I used, the bread was always dense, heavy and a bit tough.
I was staying at a country pub one weekend about a year ago and the chef made all his own bread. It was divine; soft crumb and texture, with a lovely chew and so I asked him for the recipe. When he gave it to me, I was a bit disappointed, as I was expecting a radical new approach that I could try at home, but it looked very much like a standard white bread recipe I had followed and failed at so often. I mentioned to him that I would be halving the recipe, or even quartering it, as there are only two of us in the house. He told me the recipe just wouldn’t work if I did that; the proportions he had given me were needed for the bread to work.
I have to admit, I didn’t really believe him, but not being able to face another loaf of bread like a brick, I thought it was worth a go. To my amazement, it worked like a dream. There is a chemistry behind breadmaking, just like cake baking, that I don’t think I appreciated. So, if your recipe is for more loaves than you need, don’t be tempted to cut it down. Fresh bread freezes very well if you wrap it up tightly and I have found that if you take round when you visit friends and family, it’s a bit more original than chocolates.