Sunday, 1 March 2009

bread and circuses

It's always possible to learn something new. Sometimes you can work it out for yourself (the answer to a vexing problem with someone's sanitary plumbing came to me in the shower yesterday, after I was cleaning off the Orrid Mess I'd got into while trying to fix their loo... I refrained, however, from dashing naked down the road with cries of "Eureka!" -this is a respectable suburb, you know) -sometimes it comes with a chance reading of something or other.

Thus, thirty years after I'd started making bread on a regular basis, I stumbled upon two new (to me) ideas.

  1. Putting the risen loaf into a really hot oven gives it chance to rise even more before the crust hardens and stops it
  2. Liberally coating it with flour (I use rice flour for the purpose) help keep the crust soft, as does wrapping it in a tea towel as soon as it comes out of the tin

The loaf in the picture there is called a Musket Loaf, by the way, although it has other names. (I am capitalising, as I think good bread deserves proper nouns.) Herberts Bakery, my fave Bristol bakery, calls them Concertina Loaves. And apparently, Oop North they are called Lodger Loaves. This is, or so the story goes, because they were favoured by niggardly landlords and landladies, who could count the corrugations and immediately tell if the lodger had been helping themself.

Although I would not describe myself as niggardly, I used to be annoyed when one of my young flatmates used to help herself to my bread (and all my other stuff, for that matter) because she was such a poor cutter of slices; so I would take the bread out of the bread bin and find that the active end of the loaf (for want of a better term) was jagged, and lying at a jaunty angle with respect to the rest of it, making it a real pig to cut a slice for the toaster. This can cast a shadow over your breakfast, as I need hardly say.

Bread slicing. An essential skill. Perhaps it should be taught at school, or something.