I do love the Internet. I am an indiscriminate reader and the interactive nature of reading on the web satisfies my voracious appetite. And yes, so sometimes it means you end up sifting through a load of crap but occasionally, just occasionally you find a real gem. Case in point: the author of a regular read of mine, Liberty London Girl, once mentioned a website called A Little Bird; after reading some of it I subscribed to their newsletter, which one week recommended a company called Virtuous Bread; the website so intrigued me that I promptly asked for a voucher for one of their bread courses for my birthday, which is where this blog post really starts.
Are you still with me? Oh good, I’ll get on with it then.
Although I’m a keen baker, bread has always defied me. Even my attempts to make pizza dough have frequently ended in disaster: a waterfall of yeasty water from the worktop to the floor on one memorable occasion; an unrisen pizza flatbread on another. I never had a clue how to knead so I would let the food mixer take the strain while uneasily feeling that somehow I was cheating and the bread wouldn’t taste properly homemade.
Virtuous Bread is run by a lovely lady called Jane Mason, who is a very no-nonsense Canadian with the most incredibly comprehensive knowledge of all things bread. The course was held in her elegant, light riverside flat in Barnes and was at once relaxing, instructive, fascinating but most of all fun. I learned to knead. I also learned that kneading is the EASIEST part of bread making and that I should have been more concerned about my shaping technique and the fact that I didn’t use enough salt or the right type of yeast. I was informed in no uncertain terms that my bread up to now must have tasted of mud, which I could only meekly agree with.
Travelling home with a warm loaf of my own bread in a brand new bread bag made me feel virtuous indeed and itching to practice at home with my newly acquired bread scraper. That very weekend I made not one but TWO loaves; a seeded loaf and a soda bread, the latter basically being a big savoury scone. We ate them with homemade cannellini bean houmous (from River Cottage Veg), pea and broad bean smash and crudités. Best. Meal. Ever.
Less than a week later Nick and I were watching the second episode of The Great British Bake Off which just happened to be all about the bread. For the showstopper round the contestants were making bagels and I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Out came the bread book and out of my mouth came “well, I could make those.” Saturday afternoon found me happily up to my elbows in flour polishing my kneading technique and by the evening Sunday’s breakfast (and lunch) was in the bag. And no, I will not apologise for the pun. I’m too busy filling out my application for next year’s GBBO.