19 May 2013

guilty pleasures and conscious objections

Guilty pleasures: things that I thoroughly enjoy (but, for one reason or another, probably shouldn't). Orange-flavour Revels, pre-bagged salad, Strictly Come Dancing. You know the kind of thing.

So what's the opposite of a guilty pleasure? What do you call something that you should really like, but for whatever reason, you just don't? The closest phrase I could come up with is a conscious objection. My personal conscious objections include: anything done to me in a salon, all seafood, carnations, scented candles, cafes that serve Illy coffee (because of the cups with the handle too small for your finger, gah), Paul Hollywood (a wonderful baker but ick, the bitten fingernails! can hardly watch). I could go on and on and on.

But here's one that I'm nervous to share with you.

I consciously object to baking bread by hand.

I love homemade bread. But for various reasons, I do not bake my own bread by hand. Firstly, we live in an INCREDIBLY small house. In our kitchen there are two linear metres of usable worktop, and by 8am every single morning, those two metres look like this:

This tableau is frantically cleared and lovingly recreated at least five times every day. Add the fact that our house is as cold as a grave for nine months of the year, and any recipe that says "leave dough in a warm place to prove for two hours" becomes absurd in terms of both space and ambient temperature.

The second reason I don't make bread by hand falls into the guilty pleasure category. It's my breadmaker. Which I KNOW will make all the purists wring their floury hands, but honestly, I don't understand why. A twerp I used to know once scoffed at my regular use of a breadmaker, guffing on about "all the pleasure one derives from the kneading and the connection with the living dough blah blah blurg". I asked him how often he actually made loaves from scratch, and he proudly said he did it at least every fortnight (so let's assume the reality was once a month or so). To which I could honestly reply that, by virtue of using a breadmaking machine, we hadn't bought a single sliced loaf for well over a year.

You see, I adore homemade bread, but my intention has never been to connect with my primal whatnots via the medium of dough. My intention is simply to feed my family with bread containing no preservatives and the bare minimum salt and sugar. And using a breadmaker, I can do that in two minutes flat every other day. I can experiment with any sort of seedy, fruity, nutty, sweet, oily and floury additions, get a great loaf every single time, and even set the timer to get that amazing fresh-baked smell when I wake up in the morning. What is not to like?

The third and final reason that I think it's best I don't make handmade bread is that a friend (quite innocently) described me last week as "a lovely girl who grows her own vegetables and tie-dyes her baby's clothes". The only thing that could possibly make that description sound more insufferably worthy is if she had added "oh, and she makes all her own bread too." Smug bloody hippie...

So, while I admire the craft involved in beautiful handmade bread, it's just not something I tend to do very often. Have I defended my conscious objection/guilty Panasonic pleasure enough? Right then, let's move onto this month's random recipe.

Which had to be from a bread recipe book.

Which, of course, I don't have. (Except the one that came with the machine, and that didn't feel quite appropriate.)

So, with quite some trepidation, I asked my lovely friend Lou (who has a wonderful human breadmaker in the form of her husband) to choose me a page from one of her bread books. I texted her a random number, and the result pinged back; Soda bread from Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet. What a relief. No kneading or proving required, and the recipe is online here. Phew!

I tweaked the recipe quite a lot, almost to the point that it's not the same recipe (but I've seen way too many instances of Dan Lepard's people getting well eggy about his material being duplicated on blogs to risk claiming it as a new recipe). Instead, I'll just summarise my modifications; I used wholemeal spelt instead of the normal flour, creme fraiche instead of yoghurt, a bit more sugar, a handful each of poppy seeds and flax seeds, one tablespoon each of cinnamon and finely crushed chocolate (because I'd just read this cinnamon and chocolate nut bread post by our Random Recipe host Dom, and thought it looked rather yum!). I meant to put flaked almonds on the top but I forgot.

Lou also mentioned that she had heard Dan Lepard bake these soda breads on a radio show (you can listen to it here). And if you listen very carefully, he almost justifies the use of breadmaking machines right at the end of the interview.

And that, bread purists, is good enough for me! Check in with Dom over at Belleau Kitchen at the end of the month for all the other bread-y contributions.

Cinnamon chocolate and seed soda breads; breakfasts for the next few days sorted!


  1. Probably the best blog post I've read in a long time! I love you C and that picture of your work top is genius and shameful at the same time. It should also be added to your guilty pleasure list! Fab looking bread. Glad I encouraged you to bake! Thanks so much for the brilliant entry. Xx

    1. NERDS! I thought everyone's kitchen looked like that! :-)

  2. nom nom, looks delicious!

    We live in a cold house and we set the oven to 100 degrees F to raise pizza dough, it works !!

  3. My kitchen looks the same, always! And I use a bread maker too! And I love it, I'm not ashamed to say it.... Great post

  4. Glad to see a work surface that looks like mine most days. Love my bread maker too lets be realistic about how much time we have to make good bread what's wrong with a bread maker?

  5. Are your breakfast bread things any good? Will you do them again?
    I use the Kenwood chef whenever I make bread and Steve is starting to use it a bit too although I think he hates himself for it. ;-)

    1. yes! yummy, and even better after a night in a tin (because they had that soda bread squidge). I will make soda bread again - beause it takes so little time and effort (and because the little paper square things make me look capable and clever). But if I was adding cinnamon and chocolate again I'd go for it a bit more. A handful of chocolate chips and twice the cinnamon probably. x

  6. "a lovely girl who grows her own vegetables and tie-dyes her baby's clothes".
    love it. all I can say is.....

    Girl....MAKE THAT BREAD!

  7. Ha! Amazing! I seriously envy your jars.
    I really want a bread maker :( Can't convince hubby there's space for it in our kitchen. ..

    1. Use me as evidence to convince him! My kitchen is less than 8 square metres, and a breadmaker can be squeezed in!

      I've been collecting those jam jars for about a decade - they store everything from spices and herbs to nuts and seeds, toothpicks to birthday candles. They're vital in such a small space with so few cupboards!

  8. lol you only buy one sort of jam? LOVE the jam jar collection :D

    I think conscious objection is a good word. I find I have less issues with conscious objections though, more so with guilty pleasures (peanut butter. chocolate.) because it's easier to convince myself to do/eat something than not to.

  9. Oh my gosh, I love the jam jar storage idea – that's genius, and looks so pretty! We have maybe 2.5m of counter space and four people in our house, so our kitchen nearly always looks like that, especially after breakfast. I really don't see the issue with breadmakers (in fact, I'd love one!) – it's definitely a great way of making your own bread so that you know everything that goes into it. And really, who actually has time to bake fresh loaves by hand every other day?

  10. What a great post and almost a relief to find another bread maker enthusiast - but more importantly what a great soda bread muffin. Love your adaption of the original recipe ...really making this your own. And yes have had experience with the Dan Lepard entourage! Ugly stuff.


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