Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Challenge recipe 10: The essential white loaf

Like I said at the weekend, I crossed another challenge recipe off the list on Sunday. If you've got no idea what I'm talking about, you can go here and read about the challenge, the rules I've set and what I've made so far. Anyway, let's get on with the show.

Here's the book:

Now, anyone who's been around me when an advert for Twinings comes on might be a little surprised by this. It's true - I can't stand Nigella Lawson. I don't think anyone really wants to eat food that's been described as 'slutty', and all her cupcakes look like she's forgotten to double the recipe for the cake part, so has filled up the top of the patty pan with icing (see above). Oh, and all her quantities are in weight, because apparently there's no such thing as cup measures in the UK... *sigh* But I was given this book as a birthday present last year, and the rules of the challenge state that I must make use of it.

I've not had a lot of good experiences with celebrity cookbooks in the past. The quantities tend to be completely bizarre, or the cooking times are utter bollocks, or the recipes call for esoteric ingredients that are either disgusting or which cost a fortune. Anyway, I went with bread for the savoury recipe, figuring it was kind of hard to mess that up. Aaaaah, hindsight. What a wonderful thing...

Anyway, here's what you'll need:

Start by weighing out 500g of bread flour:

And clearly I need to get a decent set of kitchen scales. I suspect these are less than accurate...

Add in 7g of yeast (in normal people land, this is 2 teaspoons)...

...and a tablespoon of salt. Yes, you read that right. A TABLESPOON.

Then add in around 300mL of warm water. Nigella recommends that you add 200mL and stir it through, then add a little more if required. I wound up needing at least 250mL, so I'd probably just go with 1 cup in the future!

Mix the water through with a wooden spoon. According to Nigella, you want it to be "a shaggy mess".

Once that's done, add in a tablespoon of softened unsalted butter:

Mix the butter through, and then dump the whole lot out on to the (clean!) bench:

Knead the so-called "shaggy mess" for about 10 minutes, or until it's smooth and stretchy. You may need to add a little more flour - just sprinkle it on the bench and it'll be gradually (ARGH - TWININGS ADVERT FEATURING NIGELLA ON TV...) absorbed into the dough.

Coat the inside of a mixing bowl with a little olive oil, and turn the dough in the oil to coat:

Cover the bowl with Glad Wrap/cling film/Ceran wrap, and put the bowl in a warm place for an hour or two. I put it in the laundry (read: the cupboard in the bathroom that contains the washing machine and the dryer) because the dryer was running and it was the warmest place in the house.

After 1-2 hours (aka all of Prince of Persia and half of Wolverine. I have such quality taste in movies!), the dough should have roughly doubled in size.

Punch it down (which is great anger management!), and then knead it for another minute. When you're done, form it into a loaf shape (or put it into a loaf tin if you own one):

Place it on a baking tray (if you don't have a loaf tin) and cover it with a tea towel to rise again for about half an hour.

While it's rising, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C. Decorate the top of your loaf as you wish - I went with adamantium claw slices (hey, it was only appropriate, given my choice of movie watching! Also, Wolverine attacked it with both hands. OBVIOUSLY...) and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Bake it for 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Let it cool for five minutes or so, then transfer to a cooling rack. You can either eat it while it's still warm or leave it until it's cooled completely. I went with the former:

The verdict? It was...okay. Ish. I mean, yes, the recipe works. But it's totally not how *I* would do it.

With my almost five years of history in the brewing industry, I took one look at this recipe and went "BUT WHERE'S THE ADJUNCT????" Yeast needs something to feed on, so most baking recipes that use yeast tend to involve a teaspoon of sugar to get it started, or use milk rather than water (lactose sugars). Sure, the bread rose. But it rose reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally slowly. If I were making it again, I'd start the yeast with a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of sugar, and put it somewhere warm for 10 minutes BEFORE mixing it with the flour.

I know homemade bread is never going to be anything like the store bought stuff or what comes out of a bread machine. But this mostly tasted like yeast. And was really stodgy. The first bite I took gave me the thought "Hmm. This tastes like a brewery farted in the dough." And to be honest? That's not really a thought I want to have about my food. So I wound up throwing out half the loaf.

Needless to say, my opinion of Nigella has not improved... Has anyone had any good experiences with celebrity chef recipes??

K xx


  1. Long time reader, first time caller...

    Whilst I find Nigella quite vomit-worthy, I have made a couple of her recipes that are really quite good. Dad gave me a book of hers when I was in year 11 and I've made the 'birthday cake' and 'gooey choc puddings' enough times that I don't need to look at the book much. I love the fact the pudding recipe begins with "Before you even take your coat off..." I can't remember what the book is called, but it's quite thick and was in the bookshop in 1999.

    I also can't get over the fact that Nigella's sister is called Tomasina! Did I hear someone beg for sons?!?


    PS Mum reckons your blog is ace! xx

  2. Ooooh, gooey chocolate puddings sound good, Char! Might have to look into those!! I know I shouldn't write her book off based on one recipe, but I hate her so much that it impacts on my ability to think using her book is a good idea...

    And good grief. Her father must have REALLY wanted boys!

  3. Well, if you'd be amused to know... I have never watched any Nigella show... ever. But I agree, it does seem awkward to measure ingredients by weight, and not by cups.

  4. Yeah, it gives me the sh!ts when they put weights and not cups. I'm getting better at guessing what the equivalent cuppage (yep, it's a word now) is for different ingredients, but things don't always turn out quite right. Grr.

    I've never read Nigella's recipes (although baulked at buying her book based on cost alone), nor have I seen one of her shows start to finish, but the excerpts on TV are enough for me to judge a book by its cover, so don't feel bad judging her on one recipe, cos you're ahead of me already! Anyone who uses more butter than Donna Hay does worries me.


  5. Nessa - so PW's recipes must terrify you then? ;) Also? You're allowed to swear around here without using * and ! and @. In fact, I downright INSIST upon it!!

    Marikoy - I've only seen her show a couple of times. She annoys me too much in real life to watch her show!

  6. I know your recipe didn't go as planned, but all this did was make me want an oven so I can have fresh western-style bread. I haven't seen an oven in two months.

  7. Tim - sorry!! I wish I could emphasise to you just how much like a brewery fart this tasted. Surely seeing as a lot of breadmakers are made in China you can find one somewhere??


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