Sunday, 7 October 2012

Pressure Cooker Bread

My canal trip last week revealed a disappointing shortfall in artisan bakers on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal. Nearby shops tended to be of the Spar persuasion; a neighbouring narrowboater at Cosgrove, an old canal hand, came by with an armful of tins of economy stew from the on-site shop of a caravan park; "...and they're open till seven," she said breezily. To be fair, my satnav, packed for just such an emergency, guided us next day to the Waitrose at Milton Keynes ("turn right when possible"), but such occasions are few and far between in the indifferent steppes of Mittelengland, where people little think of Elizabeth David.

So I've got thinking of ways of making decent bread in straitened circumstances. This was my first experiment.

Pressure cooker bread

12 fl oz warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dried yeast
20 oz plain strong flour
1 tsp salt

Put the sugar and yeast in the warm water (warm as in, comforatble to stick your finger in). Stir up and leave to froth.
Mix the salt into the flour. Make a hollow in the flour. Add the yeast mixture, stir and knead so that it's slightly bouncy to the hand. Roll it into a ball.

Put the dough into a cake tin, dust with flour (I use maize flour as it doesn't absorb so much into the dough)
Tie a piece of greaseproof paper over the tin and leave to rise. Or leave to rise and then tie the greaseproof paper over it, and then you can see it more clearly. As you please.

Put the trivet in the pressure cooker, add water to just cover it, and put the tin in.

Cook under pressure for ten minutes. Remove pressure cooker from heat and leave to cool and depressurise naturally. Rather than running cold water over it (or indeed, as I did the first time I used one, force it open. V dramatic, let me tell you).
in the pressure cooker

out of the tin
the first slice
Result: a fairly dense, bagel-like loaf, with an unearthly pallor. Daughter was v happy with it, as she hates crusts, and this loaf simply does not have one. It tastes OK, though I might add interesting things to the dough if I do it again.

PS: two days old, it makes terrific toast!


  1. You lucky thing, we always fight over the crusts, though where do you get a decent crust anywhere in the 21st century...?

    Impressed with your ingenuity though for an engineeress to read that you forced off the lid! At least you survived...

    Hope you young crew-mate did her share of the lock work.

  2. I was 14 at the time, Caroline, and in my pre-commonsense period. Cooking parched peas.... they made a terrific pointillistic pattern across the kitchen ceiling....

    We are spoiled for choice in Bristol when it comes to really good bakers- but I like to cook my own anyway, and am still learning new tricks. How are you off for bakers?

  3. We have the ideal bread for crust lovers here - but not all bakers are good bakers.

    Your loaf looks like Gache which is a Vendéen type of brioche, very heavy and makes good toast...

  4. Talk about committed. If it were me I would have plumped for the kettle and couscous - always a good plan B.

  5. There's a Guernsey fruit loaf called a Gache, too, Anji- I've just been reading up on the Vendéen one. May give it a go, though the recipe I found includes rosewater, and we ain't got none.
    It's more the challenge of making good bread on a stovetop, Bella! -I shall be trying the dutch oven method next... though finding a loaf that Katie will eat without leaving crusts is a big bonus with this method...

  6. Now I know why it tastes like it does!