Making homemade bread is one of those skills I have never learned. I have attempted it a few times but somehow it never seems to work. I am a dab hand at soda bread, it is one of those recipes that is fairly foolproof and tastes delicious. I have fond memories of making it in Domestic Science classes at school and carrying it home proudly in a tupperware box. Domestic Science will now be named Cooking Technology or something else that makes it sounds very impressive but Soda Bread is still easy to make. It is one of the few breads that does not use yeast and I suspect yeast has always been my downfall in making homemade bread.
Yeast seems to be a delicate thing, you need to have tepid water to activate it. Too hot and you kill it, too cold and it won’t rise. It also seems that it does not like salt either, you need to keep it separated from the salt before you mix your loaf. To me it seems a bit like a highly strung diva, if you don’t treat it right the bread will not work. It also takes time to make a loaf, you need to knead it for ages then leave it to prove until it doubles in size. Quite how you know it has doubled in size is a bit of a mystery, do I need to use a ruler or just guess and hope? There is something mystical about the way the loaf rises when left alone.
The work doesn’t stop there, once it has risen it has to be kneaded again and left again to rise. At this point you feel it is a bit like watching a kettle, watching it will stop it rising. An hour later it is ready to go in the oven, a lot of work for a loaf. My hands were sore from kneading it, I should have used my mixer. The moment of truth, time to put it in the oven. I didn’t dare look to see how it was getting on, I just left it to its own devices. The smell of baking bread is gorgeous as it wafts though the house making you hungry. Finally it was time to see if it was ready, you need to bang the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. It sounded fine to me, I am sure a seasoned baker would have been able to tell if it needed five minutes longer or not. Listening to the ring of cooked bread must be an art gained over years of practice.
The finished result looked nice, if if little crooked. I am sure with practice I could make a really smart looking loaf of bread. It was actually very tasty, if a little bit heavy. No doubt it was slightly underproved or overproved, but I was very pleased I actually managed to make a reasonable loaf. I think I may have to start looking for a bread maker for future attempts.