Nothing gladdens my heart to see a queue outside a good, proper bakery

Today marks the start of Real Bread Week, an annual, international celebration of properly produced bread and the people who make it.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The main aims of the campaign are to encourage people to buy bread from local, independent bakeries or to bake it at home. We are blessed with good bakeries in this country that range from the traditional to the trendy. Nothing gladdens my heart to see a queue outside a good, proper bakery. The first time I went to France I thought the baguette that was served for breakfast was just the most amazing thing and it was. But in this country you can go into a bakery and buy good wheaten bread, farls, slims, crusty loaves and they’ll be equally as good, if not better than something you’ll get in France or Italy.

Sourdough bread is very on trend now. A sourdough is as it sounds - flour and water mixed together and allowed to sit in a warm place until it bubbles and thus making a tangy yeast, known as the starter. Sour dough is the natural and ancient way of producing this staple. During the lockdown everyone was trying this way of making bread and I think I was responsible for killing about a tonne of starter, that I’d either attempt to make or was gifted, and I eventually gracefully bowed out. If I want sourdough I’ll go down the fool proof way and it buy it from a good bakery. You don’t need to make a sourdough starter to make good bread.

For a relatively quick and simple recipe my go to is wheaten bread. It was one of the first breads I ever made and one I go to repeatedly. The recipe here is one I developed over the years taking inspiration from my granny’s and mum’s recipes. I add some porridge oats and Demerara sugar to mine but the essence of it is the same as theirs. While they would have baked theirs in well seasoned loaf tins I prefer to do a free form cob style. The key is to not over work the dough and to start it in a really good hot oven to get the essential crust, then turn it down so the bread cooks through. Either way slice it while it’s hot, spread it liberally with butter and bask in the smell, the warmth and self satisfaction of making your own bread.

A few years ago breadmakers were all the rage and now clutter up garages across the land. You don’t need a fancy machine to make bread – a bowl and your hands are really all the equipment you need. The first time I made a yeast based loaf it turned out to have the texture of a brick and no one who cherished their teeth would have gone near it with a barge poll. In my defence I was very young and took the recipe quite literally. When it said “ place in a warm place to rise” I put it directly on top of the boiler. In doing so I killed the yeast along with any chance it was going to turn out well. Treat yeast gently – only add ingredients that are lukewarm – that your pinky finger will sit in easily. Knead the ingredients until you feel the gluten stretch and allow it to prove. Time is the most important thing and you can’t rush a good real bread. Ambient room temperature is fine to achieve this. My other recipe is for a tear and share bread. A yeast dough is rolled into a rectangle, sprinkled with garlic, feta, parsley and parmesan and rolled up. The sausage shape is cut into rounds and placed cut side up in a tray, before proving again and then baked to golden deliciousness.

The ultra processed bread available today can have up to 4 teaspoons of sugar in every slice. When you make your own you have complete control of what goes into it and it tastes a million times better to boot.

Related topics: