The stereotype is that men don’t do instructions or directions, and simply won’t be told what to do. Of course, as a man I utterly dispute this gross slur. I don’t need to read instructions or ask for directions, and if it needs doing I know about it, and if I don’t know about it, it doesn’t need doing. I’ll do it just after I’ve finished doing what I’m doing at the moment, thank you very much.
Whilst this attitude is absolutely perfectly sensible and understandable, of course, it doesn’t necessarily make for the fastest progression up a learning curve. Sometimes, a bit of advice and guidance can be a good thing. To that end, I was delighted to be asked on a basic baking course by Bake with Maria, held at their kitchen in St Johns’ Wood. Maria’s kitchen isn’t the easiest place of find, so her clear directions were very welcome. We arrived to find that we were in the hands of, author of How to Bake Bread, a book we had reviewed a little while ago and found it a wide ranging guide to baking.
We started the evening making a plain white dough which we baked as a cottage loaf, some small rolls and focaccia. During the downtime as we waited for the dough to rise, we made a quick soda bread.
Bread Making Tips From Emmanuel Hadjiandreou
- Know what type of yeast you’re using. There is a difference between fresh yeast, dried active yeast and quick yeast. The dried active yeast needs dissolving in water to activate it, whereas the quick yeast can go in with the dry ingredients. If using fresh, you need twice as much as when using dried.
- Kneading needn’t be a chore. Emmanuel demonstrated a very easy knead and rest system that resulted in a smooth, pliable dough with minimum effort. Ten kneads then rest times four. Easy! And as it stayed in the bowl the whole time, there was minimum mess. For one loaf, you really don’t need a stand mixer.
- To know when the dough has had enough second rise/proving, poke it. You should see a dip remain – the dough shouldn’t completely spring back.
- Soda bread is so quick and simple. I’m going to have to start thinking of a few ideas for weekend breakfasts. Orange zest and raisin?
- If your cottage loaf pancakes out as it cooks (as mine does), a spell in the fridge after proving and before cooking should help. Straight into the oven cold from the fridge. Alternatively, it can prove overnight in the fridge.
- Water added to a tray at the bottom of the oven when the bread goes in makes the oven steamy, which helps the crust stretch as the loaf cooks.
- To avoid your loaf sticking to the loaf tin, never wash the tin, just wipe it out. Season it in the oven with a wipe of oil.