Bread. It’s an ancient recipe with countless variations, and it’s always been a staple. Versatile, filling, cheap to make and in most cases delicious to eat, it’s one of those foods which is so good, so reliable, that it’s earned its own unshakeable place in almost every kitchen. And yet I have a confession to make: recently, I’ve been neglecting the wonderful stuff.
It’s not that I haven’t been eating bread. I just haven’t been appreciating it. It’s been a dreary, ready-sliced start to the day. Likewise, I’ve never been a sandwich person, and since my homemade onion marmalade ran out, I’ve been even less enthused. And the same goes for the once-beloved toastie! Honestly, I just seemed to have forgotten all those reasons why bread should never be taken for granted.
Because what about tomato bruschetta? Chocolate bread and butter pudding? What about croutons and cinnamon bagels and peshwari naan? What about the cheesy rolls from St Fagan’s museum bakery? (An obscure reference, but an essential part of my childhood.) There’s a reason bread week is so fussed-over on Bake Off. It’s bloomin important. We are such stuff as bread is made of.
I recently saw the error of my ways when, in an attempt to reduce their plastic and palm-oil intake, my parents decided to commit to home-baking all their bread (admirable, I know). Now this would be almost impossible if it weren’t for the bread machine we’ve got perched on the kitchen counter. All it takes is a few measurements and the pressing of some buttons each evening, and e voila! A fresh loaf for every morning. Needless to say, these homemade bakes knock a Morrison’s medium-sliced out of the park. They have re-ignited my love and respect for everyone’s favourite carbohydrate.
The point is, don’t let burnt toast blind you from the realisation of bread’s full potential. Don’t let soggy sandwiches make you forget the blissful smell of freshly-baked baguettes. Even without a swanky bread-maker, it’s actually really easy to make your own loaf. Ignore the intimidations of Paul Hollywood – my mum’s fool-proof recipe had me whipping up rolls even in dissertation season. So find yourself a recipe, roll up your sleeves, and rediscover the timeless craft of bread-making. Or, failing that, pop down to your local bakery and treat yourself to the latest batch.