Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cooking Delia: 2, Bread

When I began "Bread", the second chapter in Delia Smith's Cookery Course, I felt a little nervous but really had no idea of the horrors and humiliations that awaited me. Soon I truly understood why bread is pain in French.

The chapter started with Delia Smith quoting Horace's Epistles - "You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she will ever hurry back, to triumph in stealth over your foolish contempt" - before embarking on a lecture on the milling of flour and commercial baking of bread: "Nature has indeed been driven out, not by a pitchfork but by a mountain of machinery". She was writing in the late 1970s.

She went on to explain the anatomy of a grain of wheat, milling old and new, and flour: wholewheat (wholemeal), 80-90 per cent extraction, strong white, plain. and how to store flour.

Delia then came to the substance that, although I did not know it at the time, would be my nemesis: YEAST. When she wrote that it is "possible to buy a duff batch", I should have taken her more seriously. I forgot that crucial comment in all her talk about liquid, salt, sugar, fats, how a loaf of bread is made and storing bread. Let's fast forward to my so-called baking.

1. Quick and Easy Wholewheat Bread. 

I followed the recipe to a "t", weighing out a pound of stoneground wholewheat flour, mixing two teaspoons of salt and then warming in the oven for 10 minutes. But I should have known I was in trouble when I prepared the dried yeast by stirring into 13 fluid ounces of hand-hot water, stirring in a teaspoon sugar. I waiting for a froth to form, and waited, and waited. . . Nothing happened. I should have known it was "game over" but, slightly disconcerted, pressed on with the rest of recipe, kneading and proving etc. when there was no point. I was working with dud yeast. Like an idiot I baked it with sh*t yeast.

On inspection, the dried yeast was three years past its sell-by date, so I bought some fresh yeast the next day, and repeated the long process all over again.
Not bad at all. I found I had to bake it for longer than the recipe recommended, leaving it in for an hour and even then it was a little moist. But it was edible - and my first baking success (sort of).

2. Victoria Sponge Cake.

I had intended to just plough through the baking chapter after my partial success, on second attempt, with the Victoria Sponge Cake. But Mother's Day dawned and I skipped ahead to Part Two of Delia Smith's Cookery Course to attempt a Victoria Sponge Cake.

The result was a bit thinner than Delia's - but not at all bad. 

I then went on to cock up Oakmeal Bread, Soured Cream Soda Bread, Quick Wheatmeal Rolls, Poppyseed Rolls, Breakfast Baps, Chapattis and Hot Cross Buns. I had intended to describe in excruciating details how each of these culinary disasters occurred - I even wrote it out in my copybook - but now I can't face it. I started this chapter of Delia's cookery course and this blog posting in March and it is now mid-August. Baking, and particularly yeast, has stopped me baking and given my writer's block. So I am conceding defeat. . .