Making Your Own Bread
If the kitchen’s cold
Put a little flour in the mixing bowl and warm it up in a very low oven before you begin – or microwave it on full power for ten seconds. You’ll find the dough rises more easily.
Terracotta flowerpots make good containers for baking bread, but they need to be seasoned first. Clean a 100-125mm (4-5in) pot thoroughly, oil the inside well with vegetable oil and place in a 190°C (375° F/Gas Mark 5) oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool; then repeat and cool again before using. Grease the inside of the pot and sprinkle it with crushed wheat or wholemeal flour before putting in the dough.
Add a teaspoon of garlic powder to the flour next time you’re making bread. It gives a delicious flavour, especially when the bread’s served warm or toasted.
Stop your crusts from cracking
Use a sharp knife to cut shallow slashes in the top. Make the slashes at regular intervals, and bake as usual.
Bread without the effort
A food processor or food mixer with a dough hook can do the kneading for you-and it’s faster too. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t overload the machine.
How to tell when bread is cooked
Correctly cooked bread should be golden-brown, well-risen and firm. If it looks ready, turn the loaf over and tap the base of the loaf with your knuckles – it should sound hollow. To crisp the sides and base, take the loaf out of its tin for the last five minutes of baking.
Use leftover French bread to make a quick pizza snack. Slice it horizontally, then sprinkle the bread with a little olive oil and cover with toppings such as sliced tomato, salami, ham, Mozzarella cheese, tuna, anchovies, olives and a sprinkling of chopped or dried herbs. Bake in a hot oven until crisp and golden.