Recipe #1: Easy White Bread

What is it?:  A free-form white loaf.

Occasion: Tomorrow’s breakfast

I chose this bread for my first blog entry just because it’s the first recipe in the book – I had to start somewhere, so why not at the front! The idea of an ‘easy’ white bread certainly appealed to me as, out of everything from the world of baking, bread is definitely my nemesis.  Over the years, I have had just about all the bread-related disasters it is possible to have – from doughy loaves to rye bread so hard you could smash a window with it, from adding far too much salt to completely forgetting yeast.  To try to improve my skills, I have sought advice from a myriad of books and websites, and am gradually learning, although I was recently chastised by Paul Hollywood for proving my bread in the airing cupboard (apparently this is unnecessary – the kitchen side is more than adequate). The thing is that I actually enjoy bread-making immensely; the mixing, the kneading, the watching it grow and, most of all, the way it makes the house smell. I just wish I had consistently better results.

The ‘Easy White Bread’ is a classic bread recipe and, although it is the least technically challenging of all the breads in the book, there is still a degree of skill involved.  It is also worth noting that ‘easy’ does not also mean ‘quick’ – you will still need to set aside a few hours for this bread. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon at home, not a good one to attempt before work.  It has very basic ingredients; strong white bread flour, yeast, salt and water, which are combined into a dough and kneaded three times before proving.  The loaf is then shaped, proved again, slashed and baked.  The trick is trying to figure out when the loaf has proved enough – it should have increased in size by half.  I ended up giving mine half an hour longer than the recommended time in the book, and even then I don’t think it had grown enough. I cursed myself for leaving the kitchen window open for too long, chucked it in the oven and hoped for the best.

When the loaf came out, it did not have the rise I would have hoped for. I had a look for other examples on Google Images and found some far loftier examples – probably baked in kitchens that did not have the arctic breeze wafting in from outside.  Regardless, the bread tasted very good – it had a spongy, quite open texture, a really nice flavour and toasted well.  This is a great ‘everyday’ loaf and certainly a good starting point for anybody who needs to build up their bread-baking confidence.  Mine ended up as a great weekend breakfast; sliced and drizzled with some honey from the south of France. With the obligatory cup of Earl Grey, of course.

In other news…

Tonight we hopped on the 12 bus and headed into Camberwell for some drinks and Szechuan delights. We started off with drinks at the Crooked Well, a beautiful pub on Grove Lane that serves up a particularly good gin infused with rosemary, before heading to Wuli Wuli for dinner.  Wuli Wuli is one of my favourite local restaurants and has reignited my love of Chinese food.  Far from the gloopy, MSG-laden take-out slop, it is delicious and oh-so-spicy Szechuan that I just can’t get enough of.  I was too hungry to stop and take any pictures of the food before digging in, but I can tell you what we ate:

Fried aubergine with minced pork

Twice cooked pork

Beef with cumin

Quick-fried squid

Seabass with ginger and spring onion

The star of the show was, without a doubt, the aubergine with minced pork.  I actually have dreams about that dish.  The double cooked pork was also deliciously spicy with the lip-numbing sensation you get from the Szechuan pepper.  For £85 for five people with starters and drinks, it was a good value meal.  If you have not yet been, I urge you to go (they also deliver to East Dulwich – WIN).

The Crooked Well, 16 Grove Lane, Camberwell, London SE5 8SY

Wuli Wuli, 15 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR.

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