I'm not a big bread eater but my family members are. Between the lot of them they'll easily scoff a loaf in a day or two and the waste from plastic wrapped supermarket loaves was driving me nuts. I reused every single one but that wasn't enough. I needed to start making bread from scratch. However...I'm busy...really busy! So time is short and any bread making methods had to be easy to implement and stick to. My family are also creatures of habit and will kick up a stink at major change so it had to be easy for them to use...and digest.
Enter Brydie from cityhippyfarmgirl... if you check out her insta feed you'll find it riddled with some of the finest sourdough bread loveliness this side of bread heaven. So following her instructions, I gave it a go and failed, gave it another go, failed again and thought that maybe baking bread simply wasn't my bag. Then on my 'Local Buy, Sell, Swap' Facebook page, a second-hand bread maker came up for sale and I pounced! I've used one before and it's pretty easy. You sling in your ingredients and push a button - three hours later - voila! The house fills with that rich aroma of freshly baked bread and you have a warm loaf made from a few simple ingredients.
I emailed Brydie to 'fess up' to my abysmal bread baking attempts and subsequent purchase of the bread maker and was relieved when she replied that even she (the goddess of the immaculate loaf) had started with a breadmaker before moving on to more elaborate techniques that led to these gorgeous artisan loaves...
Here's some pics of Brydie's beautiful loaves...not bad eh?
I thought that it would be smooth sailing from there on but let's be honest... for every hit, there was a fair few misses. Our chooks got pretty lucky with loaf scraps in the early days. My biggest failing is probably my complete inability to follow a recipe from start to finish. What can I say? I'm an experimental, instinctive cook! I like a pinch or this and a slurp of that but as much as it grates on me, I think the best bread comes from following tried and true recipes. It may not lead to well fed chickens but you stand a better chance of a well fed family.
On one of my earlier attempts, I bought a bread mix in a lovely recycled cardboard box thinking "yay! Plastic Free bread...go ME!" only to open the box and find it portioned into four individual plastic bags - FAIL. And another thing - why are bread makers built to churn out random shaped loaves when all bread related accessories clearly require slices that are 12 x 12 cm squares? Despite my best intentions to stick to a recipe, I'm always forced to tweak the measures a bit to get my loaves the right size and shape to fit the toaster and sandwich bags.
To make things even easier, I also invested in an electric knife and slicing guide so I could prepare my loaves into perfect slices that are quick and easy for the family to whip out and are toaster or sandwich friendly. Rustic chunks of bread are fine for dipping in soup but let's face it, when you've got to bash out breakfast and lunch every day, a perfect slice makes much more sense.
So now I can proudly congratulate myself on my newly acquired bread making skills, knocking out a few decent loaves a week using my second hand equipment. I do have to jimmy the bread tin in place with a wooden spoon so it doesn't jump around when mixing and kneading but otherwise I've swapped supermarket, plastic bagged bread for freshly baked plastic-a-lot-less loaves. I'm enjoying the process and I'm totally sold on the fact that it's worth it. Time wise, it's no big thing. I can get the ingredients in the machine and rig up my spoon in less than a minute. A few hours later the house is filled with that magical aroma of baked bread (is there any finer fragrance - little else comes close).
It takes less than a minute to slice the bread and store. I pre-slice the loaf and store in a bread bin or tins in the freezer with a small square of parchment between each slice and the parchment squares are reused over and over again. Cost wise, it's way more economical because I can buy the flour in bulk and I can buy organic flour too (organic bread in our town is rare and very expensive). Most importantly is that the verdict from the family has been nothing but positive, even when my loaves have been holly, mis-shapen or a bit heavy. Apparently the taste is still better than those plastic wrapped supermarket loaves - woo hoo and phew!
Now this is the point where you might expect me to share my winning recipe…well, I'm not. Not because it's a closely guarded secret but because it's a work in progress. I'm still tweaking and changing and making mistakes and to share a recipe would be to insinuate that I know what I'm doing and I don't! If you want super bread recipes, head over to Brydie at cityhippyfarmgirl. And one day, when I start churning out loaves like hers, I'll give you my bread recipe.
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