August 14, 2008

Simple kneads

I made bread the other day, to a simple recipe from Allan Campion and Michele Curtis's Every Day in the Kitchen. I turn to this cookbook when I need a quick and simple recipe for a half-remembered family favourite, like Hungarian chicken or pot roast, and when I was new in Australia and wanted to explore some easy, Asian-influenced everyday dishes (Chinese crispy-skinned chicken, anyone?) They even have several recipes freely available online, so if you're interested, you can see for yourself.

With the cold weather in Melbourne continuing, I find I'm lured outside into sunshine without sufficiently considering the need for multiple layers. And halfway down the block I'm belted by the wind, so when the dog walk's over, I'm in the kitchen with a rage for slow-cooking, standing-over-the-stove stirring and batch baking. (Excuse me, did someone down at the back just make an 'oink' noise?) -Who am I kidding?

So, this loaf of bread, right? I liked it, but I didn't looove it. Lovely and golden, crusty on top, smelled great ('Honey, we can sell the house now, it smells of freshly baked bread! - We don't own it? Ah, yes.' Must have got wrapped up in dreams of domestic bliss again).

What I didn't love was the texture. It's more like a pound cake than a loaf of white bread. I was discussing this sad fact with my friend Meghan at the market this morning, and we agreed that I wasn't letting the gluten develop properly into strings. Yes, this is the kind of comment someone like Meghan would, thank heavens, understand completely (Dad, you too. I know you're out there).

So I resisted the urge to buy beautiful bread at the market in order to force myself to try again. I sifted the flour, added the salt and yeast, the bit of butter and the warm water, and then I looked at the recipe again: 'Knead for 6-8 minutes'. Ah. Hmm.

With my little orange cockerel timer set to 8 minutes, I started kneading. Whump, bump, stretch and push; whump, bump and repeat... and after what seemed like forever - must be at least 5 minutes - I snuck a peek at the timer. Which sat at somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes. Yes, well.

So now, having learned the value of time, my ultra-stretchy, 7-minute kneaded bread is sending up little tiny bubble-burps next to me as I type. I'll let you know how my experiment turns out. At the very least, the kneading session was a good warm-up workout!


PS. We had three slices each. (oink) It was perfect!

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