I baked because it felt like what I needed to do. First, Saturday, I devoted three hours to proper bread (after last week's soda disaster). This is a tried and tested recipe. When I ate it toasted for breakfast Sunday morning, I must have exclaimed at least four times how incredibly good it was. It tastes like goodness, like comfort and warmth and love. I really truly am besotted with good bread and this is good bread.
This is a recipe I've done so many times I haven't needed to refer to a book for ages. It's super-easy; do it once or twice and you too might feel moved to commit it to memory...
You take 1 cup of yoghurt (I use various size cups to measure, it doesn't matter that much - about the size of an individual yoghurt pot works well)
And add 1 and a half cups of warm water (I mix boiled with cold)
Mix and test with a finger - it should be lukewarm - too hot and the yeast will die; too cold and it will never develop. If it's too hot, let it cool a bit before adding yeast
Add one sachet or one tablespoon dried fast-action yeast
Then six cups of flour (I use 2/3 wholemeal and 1/3 white, or all wholemeal depending on how I feel and what flour is available) and a pinch of salt.
Mix flour in until it becomes something like a dough
Tip it out and knead on a floured surface for at least 15 minutes until pliable and starting to show little wrinkles
Put in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a non-draughty place to rise for about an hour until doubled in size - it's ready if you push it with a finger and the dent stays there; i.e. it doesn't expand to fill it out
Punch it down to knock out the air, knead a little more, and shape into loaves. If you want to make any additions, make them at this point. I made one plain loaf and one walnut one.
Put on a greased and floured tray, cover and leave to rise until about doubled again - about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C, pop the loaves in and bake for about 40 minutes until brown on top and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom with your knuckle.
Leave to cool on a rack.
(The short version of that is this: 1 cup yoghurt; 1.5 cups water; 1 sachet yeast; 6 cups flour; 15 minute knead; 1 hour first rise; 40 min second rise; 40 min bake at 180C)
NB - I thought I'd bought natural yoghurt, but when I went into the fridge discovered it was actually Apricot flavoured. Not wanting to go to the shop, I just chucked that in, and happily it was a great success - no apricot flavour, but I think the little bit of sugar helped it rise nicely and gave it a very slightly sweet taste. Can't say for sure whether it was down to the yoghurt, but it was one of the best loaves I remember making.
This is of course a very basic loaf. To see a different league of breadmaking altogether check out Clotilde's recent post on sourdough baguettes - how amazing do they look!? Sourdough is definitely on my to-do list of things to try.
I was going to move on to treacle scones but this post is already too long so I'll leave that for another one...