Sunday 6 September 2015

Task 40: Bake a loaf of bread

I've only tried to bake bread once in my life. I was newly married, Andrew and I had just relocated from London to rural Sussex and bread-making seemed the thing to do.  However my dough mixture refused to rise (I think it took offence at being shoved into our tatty airing cupboard at the proving stage), and once baked, it was more solid than cement. So bread-making was swiftly crossed off my list of wifely duties and I've never attempted it again.

Fast forward 38 years to a conversation earlier this year with my brother David about my Sixtyat60 challenge during which I invited him to suggest a task to add to my list. His first idea was rejected out of hand (no, never in a million years will I take a ride on a roller coaster David), however his second idea sounded just the ticket - to bake a loaf of bread and make a jar of jam. I imagined the smell of freshly baked bread, the soothing qualities of kneeding and the pleasure of watching syrupy berries bubble contentedly on the Aga, and my bread-making failure of 38 years ago slipped away into my unconscious. What perfect skills to have in retirement I thought - two excellent tasks for my list.

Last weekend I duly arrived at David's house for my masterclass in bread and jam-making. Before I go any further, there are three things you should know about David. Firstly, he's morphed into something of a Master Baker since his retirement from the world of psychiatry two years ago. Secondly, he and his partner Henry have one of the nicest, smartest, largest and best equipped kitchens this side of the Thames Estuary. And thirdly, he's supremely well organised. So whilst I wrote copious notes, asked many pernickety and probably pointless questions, took lots of photos, prodded, briefly kneeded, and occasionally stirred, two different types of loaf and 4 pots of damson jam were effortlessly created before my very eyes. 

The photo on the left below show the breads rising beautifully in David's collapsible prover (which I've fallen in love with - yes, I know that sounds strange). And the photo on the right shows the baked breads. 

Here's David looking quite pleased (as well he should) with his efforts, and here are the two of us together, with me outrageously attempting to take 50% of the credit for the stunning sourdough loaf.


As the dough was obediently rising and baking, David turned his attention to the damsons. He put them (already prepped - I told you he was organised) into a shiny saucepan with sugar and water. The mixture bubbled, it reached 120 degrees, it set and it was duly poured into jars. I wrote the labels for the jam jars - a small but (I like to think) vital role.  


Of course the best bit of all was eating the bread with loads of tangy damson jam on it and I was very good at doing that.  Back at home I had such a large piece of bread smothered with so much jam that when I showed the photo below to my daughter Lucy and my daughter-in-law Liz, they thought I was eating a slice of watermelon. 

As you can tell I had a great day - it was lots of fun and a massive thank you to David for a very fine demonstration.


if you think I've got off lightly with this task, let me just assure you that there's a fiendish twist to it. In Task 41 I'm required to replicate the skills demonstrated by David in his Masterclass. I shall be making crab apple jelly using the fruit picked from a trio of young malus trees in our garden AND baking a loaf of white bread.  My kitchen is very poorly equipped for bread-baking (looks like it'll have to be an airing cupboard effort again) and all of a sudden those memories of abject failure 38 years ago are flooding back. Me baking bread? Are you having a laugh? Watch this space....... 

If you would like to follow this blog click here for information on how to do so. 

My sixtyat60challenge is to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at  

No comments:

Post a Comment