It has long been a Homestead dream to bake that holy grail of self sufficiency: the humble loaf of bread. Over the years, we’ve nursed countless sour dough starters and shelled out a veritable fortune on fancy artisan yeasts and flours. We’ve kneaded until our arms resembled overcooked spaghetti, constructed all manner of devices to provide the perfect proving conditions, and faithfully followed a squillion and one recipes to the letter but the result has always been the same:
Loaves like river stones (but less palatable).
Feeling utterly defeated and not a little useless, we even resorted, with the rest of the late 1990’s similarly culinarily-challenged dolts, to buying ourselves a bread making machine. That wonderful machine performed an magical form of voodoo every single night. As we slept, it bleeped and churned, hummed and buzzed, turning the ingredients we slung in it prior to retiring each evening into crusty, springy, heavenly, sumptuous, PERFECT loaves of deliciousness! Everytime. Day in, day out (as long as we remembered to tell it to). It still rankled that we had failed dismally in something humans, since the dawn of time, had considered a daily no-brainer, and we weren’t overjoyed that we had simply switched our target of reliance from a faceless conglomerate to a machine, but at least we controlled what we put in our daily loaf, and at least the machine was on our side. That is until that fateful day when our expectations obviously became too heavy a burden for it to bear. Woken by the sound of kneading mechanism assaulting loaf tin (ever seen Stomp?) we arrived en masse and in time to witness the machine flinging itself to its bitter end off the edge of the kitchen bench.
A few half-hearted attempts followed over the years, especially with the introduction of Food TV and in particular the personable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his “anyone can do this” attitude but, iIn the end, we decided to spend a little bit extra and buy the kind of bread we would like to make, if only we weren’t so blimmin’ incompetent (sob!)
We’d still be doing just that, had the fateful day not dawned; the day when a Major Bread Supplier Suffered a Fundamental Machine Failure causing children throughout the South Island to go without sandwiches in their school lunches (with the exception of one clever lady who sent her kids to school with pikelets instead and, in doing so, earned herself a few lines in the newspaper)! In actual fact, the bread shortage caused not a ripple on the Homestead happypond as our freezer was well stocked with bready goodness, but it did bring about a change… in our world… forever (cue dramatic musical motif)!!!
Social Media (which despite the bad stuff we said about it in Time and Place, isn’t all evil) went crazy with recipes for making your own bread, one of which caught the collective Homestead eye with it’s no-knead, basic ingredient, guaranteed to work every time promise. It couldn’t hurt to give it a go…
It was pretty good; Mucking around with it slightly, bringing into play the tricks and insights years of bread making failure had opened our eyes to, made it more so.
And so, here follows the slightly morphed, tried and true recipe; the only one that has ever come out of our oven looking, smelling, feeling and, most importantly, tasting better than a river stone.
***Stop Press**Stop Press**Stop Press**Stop Press**Stop Press**Stop Press**
We’ve found, for better results, that a second proving (thirty minutes is all it takes) in the tins/cookie sheet makes for sublime loaves every time – much better than our proof reading, that’s for sure!
We don’t know why it works and, quite frankly, we don’t care. That it works is enough for us.
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