I hate bread week. I hate it with a fiery passion. I’ve tried a few times in my short adult life so far to be a bread baking person, and each time I’ve eventually given up. I don’t know what my problem is exactly. It’s possible that I’m lacking patience at the kneading stage, that nowhere in my old house was warm enough to prove dough, that I was probably using out of date yeast half the time, or even that all of these things are true. I can’t know for sure what the exact snag was, but whatever it was really did me in. Loaves were misshapen or they didn’t rise or they were doughy and raw in the middle. I’m sure you understand, therefore, that I tend to give bread of the home baked variety a wide berth.
As I’m sure you can guess, I didn’t even consider attempting the showstopper this week. If I can’t manage a single loaf of bread, I don’t fancy my chances plaiting three different kinds around one another in three different colours to produce some kind of awe inspiring sculpture. I’d end up on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down my floury face faster than Paul Hollywood could say “Bake”. While I promised I’d do something aside from the signature bake this week, I’m afraid I couldn’t face the cottage loaf. It just struck me as.. boring. And if I’m taking the time to wait for dough to rise a million times, I want something properly delicious at the end of it. Therefore, I had a crack at teacakes.
Who else’s recipe could I use but Hollywood himself? It’s from his book ‘How to Bake’ (I don’t own it, all Paul’s books feature too many stare-y glare-y pictures of him and they freak me out a bit) and is available on his website as well. The instructions are to bake by hand, and I figured bringing in the stand mixer to help me for this challenge would have been cheating anyway, so I followed them to the letter.
I made as sure as possible that I kneaded for the correct amount of time. Paul’s instructions are 5-10 minutes. However, I absolutely wasn’t seeing signs of the dough losing it’s stickiness or ‘gaining a smooth skin’ at this point, so I carried on for another ten minutes until it was looking more true to the recipe’s word. I suspect this is because I, a scrawny young woman who does next to nothing with her arms, don’t have the same strength when it comes to thwacking dough about as Mr. Bread Himself.
The obsessive kneading paid off. For once in my pathetic life, my dough doubled in size. I at last knew the dizzying heights of successful yeast activation. Heartbreakingly, I then had to knock it back in order to incorporate the fruit. I kneaded for a further few minutes to make sure it was evenly distributed.
After the second prove, we run out of imagery. This is because at the point you see above me and Tom wandered up to the garden centre and by the time we got back most of the natural light had disappeared. I hope you’ll take my word for it though that the second prove was most successful and the buns expanded into one another before I baked them.
I discovered when I reached the eggwash stage that we’re yet to buy a pastry brush for the new kitchen, so I sort of sheepishly dabbed at the teacakes with beaten-egg-covered fingers and hoped for the best. They’d have a neater finish on them if I’d brushed them, I’m sure, but it’s not the end of the world.
I’m very happy with what I ended up with. I’ll score no points for shapeliness or uniformity, but the bake was bang on. Lovely and fluffy inside, the golden burnish of eggwash on the exterior and the taste, oh the taste. Fresh from the oven with good salted butter these were sheer perfection. Overall? Not my worst bread week, not my worst bread week at all.