I have to admit, I’m quite lazy. Hmm, I’m not sure lazy is the right word, Baby Bear could never let us be lazy. More that I’ve come to adopt Daddy Bear’s way of thinking when it comes to certain things, which is “anything for a quite life”. Which is why some days we get through 6 pints of milk just for Baby Bear.
This has, until very recently, been my approach to bread making. Why bother kneeding and proving and shaping when you can stick the ingredients in a machine and press a button? I love my Bread machine. It’s easy to use. It’s quiet. It doesn’t make the whole flat baking hot (like the oven does) and it does make the whole house smell delicious. But it’s BIG… and my kitchen is small. Which was never a problem until we wanted to sell our flat. So the bread maker went into storage and we stopped having freshly made (albeit by a machine) bread.
The other day I was feeling a bit stressed. Nothing like being confined in a small space (the flat) with a small whirlwind (Baby Bear) for several days to raise your cortisol levels. I remembered a friend describing how therapeutic baking bread by hand was, and thought I might as well give it a go. It was that or having to dye my hair again to cover the extra greys sprung from trying to stop Baby Bear repainting his bedroom walls in suncream. Sorry, I’m digressing. Anyway, I wasn’t feeling confident enough (or, some of Daddy Bear’s motto was lingering on in the bread making scene) to try it completely from scratch, so I bought a packet mix from Morrissons and for once, followed the instructions exactly.
It turns out said friend was right. There is something very therapeutic about making bread by hand. Probably the punching and squeezing of the dough after finding permanent marker on the carpet helping to reduce said cortisol levels, but anyway, it worked for me. After this first attempt, of which my carb hating Big Bear ate half the loaf, I was feeling a little more ambitious, and tried making some poppy seeded rolls. It seems I may have stumbled upon a new obsession.
Crunchy Poppy seeded rolls
650g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp castor sugar
15g soft butter
1 sachet dried fast action yeast
350g luke warm water
30g poppy seeds
Mix all dry ingredients into the bowl. Rub in the butter. Add the water and mix with wooden spoon until combined. I had to use my hands to combine the last bits, just gave it a good squeeze in the bowl whilst thinking about my newly scribbled on carpets.
Leave it on a floured surface for 5 mins.
Kneed for 2 mins. (Punch, squeeze, stretch… if needs be think of times when people use the incorrect form of there their and they’re and how that makes you feel.)
Form into ball and leave for 5 mins.
Weigh dough and then split into 10 equal balls. Space equally on baking tray, cover in cling film and damp tea towel, and leave somewhere warm. For this I turned my oven on (it needs to be pre heated to 210C anyway) and balanced the rolls in front of the oven on Baby Bears high chair. I realise not everyone will have a perfectly sized high chair for all your bread rising needs, but I expect you can improvise. Tumble dryers also provide a good warm place. As do graphics cards/ routers which are about to overheat.
Leave to rise for 40 mins, uncover, snip a cross on the top with a pair of scissors (or if you are arty and don’t have 5 yr olds wanting to help design your own pattern on the top.) Put it in the centre of the pre heated oven for 15 mins.
Remove rolls from the oven and whilst hot brush with milk and then scatter poppy seeds over the top. Leave to cool on a rack. Or, if you’re impatient like me, eat a couple straight away and pretend to be confused as to why you’re not hungry at dinner time.
Turns out sometimes the quiet life might be a bit…. quiet!