A Different Kind of Loafing - A Guest Blog

I used to be unemployed. When I first came to Scotland, it was six months after Kat moved up and six months before I found a job. I decided to fill my time with a few of the things I never had time for when working. I discovered the unique satisfaction of daily bread-making. 

There is nothing to come home to than a clean house and freshly baked bread and I provided the latter on a record basis. I was kitted out with apron, a silicone baking mat that promised never to fail and loaf after loaf of yeasty warm bread, consumed with as much butter as vigour. I only broke one spatula in the proceedings.

There was the sense of pride in creating something that everyone could enjoy on the most basic level and the confidence that grew from producing something so often that you stopped looking at recipes and instructions. It took time and care and there is nothing more therapeutic in my mind than kneading the hell out of dough.

And then I found work...

Three years, 2 slugs, an additional cat and a toddler later, I had all but forgotten that time, as isolating and demoralising as being unemployed could be, I still had the fond memory of that process, of being involved and engaged in something that was just satisfying and practical. Nostalgia aside, where could I possibly find the time or patience to put into baking bread again?  Kat was tired of hearing me whine and decided to take action to get me baking again.

Last week a book arrived for me by post. Now Kat is a bit of a book fiend, she gets through them in seconds, literally consuming them. I used to have that passion, but now approach books quite cold. I need to be wooed to engage in a book. I am happy to dip in and flick through sure, but to really throw myself in and immerse requires a special book and Kat's present was more than that, it was a godsend.

Below is the result, just one of three breads I was able to produce this weekend, in this case decadent pecan cinamon rolls, that were lashed in cream cheese frosting (thanks to Kat).

Artisan Bread: Sticky Buns

So why the inspiration? Well, it was simple really. A concept that a cook and a scientist explored and tested, a concept that eliminates time from breadmaking in an extraordinary way, and a concept that produces better bread than I have EVER made before. The title:ARTISAN BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY

The book shook many assumptions I made about bread making and vividly and clearly showed the way to produce, in my mind anyway, beautiful and tasty bread. Below is my first attempt at a Couronne crown-shaped French loaf, perfectly complemented by some of Kat's vegetable soup with freshly homemade egg noodles.

artisan bread 1

And below again was my first attempt, the French Boule, the most basic recipe.

My one sadness in this all, is the loss of kneading as a part of the process. And yes, you heard right, there is no kneading, no waiting for the yeast to rise at the beginning of the process.

Artisan Bread 2

I feel a rush of creativity emerging as one batch of dough can make all sorts o breads, from baguettes, to loaves to sweet breads, and there is much more to try and learn. The bread has lost the overly yeasty flavour, the outside is appealing and crisp while the inside is fresh and chewy. My book of the year for sure. And it only takes a few minutes to mix, with more than half the steps of preparation gone. Magic.

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