#1 Page 76 - The basic bread recipe, River Cottage Handbook No.3 Bread
An old boss of mine, used to have the saying “Every journey of a thousand miles, starts with the first step”. I don’t think I will ever forget that, as it was drilled into us each day. But this is my first step of this journey, my River Cottage Bread Journey. Although it’s not quite a thousand miles, it is 55 recipes – with a few variations along the way! Whether it feels like we have travelled a thousand miles, we will have to wait and see.
First step is ‘The basic bread recipe’, which Dan describes as his simplified bread recipe. One by which you can use as a starting point or basis to create many different types of bread. I would like to hope that by the time I have worked my way to the end of the book, I will be able to create some of my own breads. In fact I already have a few ideas, but hey, lets hold on a minute. Running before we could walk would not be a good idea.
One of the reasons I got this book, was because of the depth that it goes into on the ingredients, process and equipment. Which gives you a great understanding of what you are about to do and why you are doing it. The theory of why you put salt in, the types of flour you have to use right through to why you need a water spray bottle!
Just as I was getting the ingredients and equipment ready, one thing alarmed me. The recipe calls for 20g fine salt. Now reading it, it didn’t bother me that much. When I was weighing it out – that was a different matter. It looked like a ridiculous amount of salt, which made me a little concerned and dubious to honest.
Mixing the dough was easy, in fact very easy. Well what's difficult about that. Kneading the dough however, if you are not used to regular exercise it will cause your arms to ache….FACT! The bit I didn’t find quite so easily, was shaping the dough into a round. When first left to ferment, once you have deflated the dough for the first time and when you shape the loaves. I decided to make 2 x 800g loaves (although I wouldn’t say I divided the dough exactly in half), both of them being round. When I got them into the round shape and turned them over, the base looked like the Grand Canyon was running through it (wish I took a picture to show you). No matter what I did, I couldn’t make it look better. I just hoped and prayed when it came out the oven, it would look good.
Once it came out of the oven, I was impressed with way it looked. This will sound stupid but it actually looked like bread. Even the Grand Canyon in the base had gone. It had risen magnificently in the heat of the oven and the steam you create in the process. The smell was lovely and the crust was great.
When I sliced the bread, it had a lovely thickness of crust that was nice and crusty. The loaf inside looked nice and soft, it wasn’t doughy or crumbly. So far it smelt, looked and felt good. The next was the taste. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was good. The texture and taste of the crust was really great, with the crumb of the bread tasting good. I felt that it was just a little bit dense still, so maybe 5 minutes more kneading next time. The only downside to this bread, was I thought it was a little bit salty. Which was a concern I had at the beginning, and it made we wonder if next time I could reduce the quantity of salt. But I have decided that next time, I will stick with the 20g of salt and give it another chance. Overall I was pleased with the result. The time and effort was well worth it, and the satisfaction you get at the end, will put a large grin on your face. I used the bread to make some really nice ham salad sandwiches. Everyone that had one, commented on how good the bread was. Homemade bread is definitely the way forward.
If you have tried and/or posted about the basic bread recipe, I would love to hear how you got on with it. If you are following along, it’ll be great to share experiences. You can even tweet along with #rivercottagebreadjourney.
Next up is a variation on the basic bread recipe:
#2 Page 78 – Malted grain bread
River Cottage Handbook No.3 Bread by Daniel Stevens