Baking bread brings me the greatest joy. Partly, that is due to the unparalleled flavoursome goodness of freshly cooked bread spread liberally with salted butter. But the other part is very much the process. The kneading. The waiting. The shaping. Bread dough feels so much more satisfying than any other kind – it springs back when it’s pushed, it reshapes as you pull. But, whilst I can knock up a loaf of white bread pretty easily without worrying, I am nervous to try other kinds of bread for fear of failure. Bread is tricky business, although the pay off is worth it.
One thing I have learnt from my years in the kitchen is that nothing is ever as hard as it seems, and failure is never as bad as it can appear. Perhaps this is a lesson I could well do with learning in other arenas of my life, but where usually I am an anxious perfectionist, in the kitchen I can relax a little. Never tried something before? Give it a go. The stakes are pretty low when all you waste is some time and flour. Time and again I have felt daunted by a new kitchen skill only to find it not as difficult as I first imagined – as long as you find yourself a good recipe or guide and actually pay attention.
So, with all of that in mind, I am setting myself a challenge. A bread-making challenge. 40 different loaves in (hopefully) 40 weeks. This is supposed to be a fun challenge, so I’m not setting too many parameters. I’m just going to bake a bunch of bread and eat a bunch of bread and be happy about it. So if I find a loaf particularly tricky, I might remake it the following week. If I have a particularly busy week, I might do two the next week, or just skip that week entirely. Bread-making can be therapeutic and relaxing, so I see no reason to change that and make it pressured and exhausting. It takes time to make a good loaf of bread, so if I haven’t got the time for whatever reason, then
I started off with my go-to bread recipe – the basic white loaf from James Morton’s Baking Bread book which I’m pretty sure will become my Bible during this project. As luck would have it, I also spotted this video from Betty’s today with a few top tips that I’ll be taking on board (that home-made proving drawer in the sink is genius!).