Bread: the ultimate challenge

Suzi opened the oven door, sliding the tray inside.

Everything —the Bolognese, the chicken parm with homemade sauce, the red velvet cupcakes for Valentine’s Day, the chicken tarragon in the cast iron pot — was all the prelude to this.

If all went well, approximately 35 minutes later, she’d be pulling out two tasty loaves of honey whole-wheat bread.

Those of you familiar with the Great British Bake Off — hopefully the proper version that was on the BBC, not the ersatz one currently on Channel 4 — know that Bread Week is the acid test.

If your proving is not proper, your glutens not grand, not only will you face the wrath of Paul Hollywood at his silver fox-y, judgmental worst, your chances of doing well in the competition are just about kaput.

Even worse, when you watch him make it, particularly in the masterclasses with Mary Berry, he makes it look so simple.

Granted, he’s a professional chef who has been making bread since he worked in his father’s bakery, but anyone should be able to do it, right?

Plus it looked so nice in the cookbook, which was Joanne Chang’s “Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes” in case you’re wondering.


Finished bread

After mixing and storing and mixing again and rising and proving and covering came the moment of truth.

The loaves looked nice, but Suzi was immediately dismayed that she didn’t think they had risen enough, and when she cut it, she thought the bread was too dense.

I, however, do not concern myself with such things. There is a reason why I could never be a critic or a judge on a baking-based reality show.

Does a song sound good? Then I like it.

Does a movie or TV show entertain me? Then I like it.

Is the book enjoyable? Then I like it.

Does the bread taste good? Then I like it.

The bread tasted good. I liked it. The outside was nice and crispy, although not too crispy, and the honey added a sweet touch.

“Maybe I didn’t meditate enough,” Suzi said as we took a walk afterward, referring to the instruction in the cookbook to “knead it until fully elastic, about 5 meditative minutes.”

Left unsaid was how you combine kneading bread and meditating, but maybe that’s why Chang and her production pastry chef Rachael, who developed the recipe, are professional chefs and I’m not.

“It was fine, but it could be better,” Suzi said. “Let’s just say, I am not Star Baker.”

I vote otherwise, and if she wants to come back next week, she’ll still have a place in the tent.




6 thoughts on “Bread: the ultimate challenge

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