Last year, due to the lockdown, I was in touch regularly with distant friends. We often exchanged cooking and baking experiences and tips. I was sent, by an American friend, an ancient recipe for baking wholemeal bread, which used a slightly different method and approach to the one I had used for over 20 years. 2020 was a year for change and adaptation, so I was thrilled when I tried the new method and baked the best loaf I had ever made.
The idea of sharing this recipe with others sparked the notion of setting up a group to exchange favourite recipes and, if possible, demonstrate the procedure. I launched the idea with some trepidation in February. The group, Recipes Online, now has 35 members who get together once a month for an hour.
The baking session (normally one and a half hours) had to be worked out carefully to fit into a 30-minutes time-slot. Writing up, photographing and filming started well ahead of the group’s start date.
I wrote a very detailed, illustrated recipe, citing the method, the ingredients and the utensils needed. I hoped that some would bake alongside me in their kitchens, so there was a photo for each step of the recipe.
I had my husband film on my mobile the first three steps of the recipe so that on demo day I could show a short film of steps 1-3. This meant I could start the live demo at step 4. This shaved 30 minutes off the bread-making time.
Live on screen, I then prepared the bread through to the point of leaving the dough to rise and talked the group through the rising and baking times required. The decision to cut out steps at this point shaved off another 30 minutes.
To wind up the demo with the finished product I presented a loaf I had baked the day before and sliced it to show the consistency of the baked dough. The whole live demo including video footage took less than 30 minutes.
The session inspired much discussion about different breads and different methods. Three members did their bread-baking during the demo and all forwarded emails after the session with photos of their wonderful loaves. Other members took notes during the session and made their bread later.
I asked for all types of recipes from the group and have been circulating them around the members to try out. Our second session was a fish risotto, which went down very well and could be prepared live on screen within 30 minutes.
Our third will be on 30 March and is called Make your own chocolate Easter gifts. The response has been very enthusiastic. This again can easily be done in 30 minutes.
Having different demonstrators shifts the focus and the spreads the work. I always host the ‘show’ so that I can record the live session and rerun it for anyone who missed it on the day.
The two short videos taken with my phone needed to be brought together and a couple of visual glitches removed. Using a digital editing software called Shotcut, downloaded free from the internet, I was able to eliminate unnecessary frames and bring the two pieces of footage into one. My learning curve shot up that day!
I have found this group demanding, inspiring and rewarding. Making food together is such a pleasure. Living and learning at its best.
Wholemeal Loaf Recipe
1 tbsp dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
14 fl. oz/400ml warm water
6oz/170g wholemeal flour
24oz/700g wholemeal flour
4oz/120g mixed seeds (optional)
9 fl oz/250ml warm milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lge measuring jug/bowl for yeast
1 medium measuring jug for milk
Tablespoon and teaspoon for measuring
1 whisk or fork
1 mixing bowl
1 stirrer (rigid spatula type)
1 x 2lb bread tin
1 rack for cooling baked loaf
Baking tin lining – baking paper, silicone (I use a reusable silicone lining sheet – see below)
Bowl or oven-tray of hot water for oven steam
Oven gloves/thick tea-cloth, etc.
- Prepare the yeast in a large jug or medium basin. Add sugar to the finger-warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle and distribute the yeast over the surface of the water. Give it a good whisk with a fork. Leave this mixture to froth, 10-15 mins.
- When the yeast is frothing happily, add 6oz/170g of flour and mix thoroughly into the frothing yeast. Leave to bubble for about 20 mins.
- Turn the oven on at 50ºC. Put a bowl full of hot water at the bottom of the oven. Prepare your bread tin and lining. If no lining available, butter the inside of the tin thoroughly.
- Weigh out the bread flour into a mixing bowl. Add two teaspoons of salt, 4.5oz mixed seeds (optional). Mix thoroughly with your chosen stirrer.
- Heat the milk to finger warmth (I put cold milk into the microwave for 30secs) and then add the vegetable oil to the milk. Into a well in the flour pour the frothy yeast and the milk/oil mix. Stir to incorporate the flour and the liquid. Use the stirrer until most of the water is absorbed.
- Wet your hands before and while handling the sticky dough. Then knead until it’s a smooth cohesive consistency, about 1-2 minutes.
- Place the dough in the prepared tin. Press and smooth it into the corners. Switch the oven off and put the tin into the warm, steamy oven on a wooden cutting board for protection. The dough will take about 20-30 mins to rise but don’t let it overflow.
- Remove the bread tin from the oven. Place it down gently. Risen dough can easily deflate. It will continue to rise while you wait for the oven. Turn the oven temperature to 200ºC/400º Fahrenheit. When the oven is ready, open slowly due to the steam, and place the bread gently on the middle shelf and bake for 20 minutes at 200ºC/400ºF, then at 180ºC/360ºF for a further 20 minutes.
- When the bread is ready, open the oven slowly to let the steam escape. Tip the loaf out of the tin onto a rack and strip off the lining. Leave to cool and become firm, (several hours) before slicing.
Note: I slice the loaf and put the slices into bags to freeze, saving the last 2 inches to eat fresh. Toast from frozen on the highest setting or revive
the frozen slices quickly in the microwave with 30 secs on full power.