And the rest of the year, of course, but summer is particularly problematic.
My home-made bread is, as I might have mentioned previously, excellent. It has a downside though – the keeping qualities of a Cameron pre-election promise. Not a defect, except in Cameron, but I hate waste.
A loaf will last me a week, but by day three, especially in warm weather, it’s starting to smell a bit ripe, and by day five it’s furry and in the bin.
OK, not unexpected, as it’s devoid of additives, but an unconscionable waste – I had to find a fix, so I looked at what the major bakeries did to keep their bread from going mouldy. Disregarding a whole raft of undesirable chemicals, it left me with spirit vinegar.
Of all the vinegars, that has nothing going for it, as in my view it’s too acidic for use with food, but I always have Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar in the cupboard (I also have Sarson’s malt vinegar, but the flavour is too strong – the cider vinegar is much less assertive), so, last Wednesday (baking and laundry day), I tried adding a tablespoon for each loaf to the mix.
The result – my bread, 7 days later, is still perfectly edible and no “off” smells. The vinegar is undetectable in the finished bread.
As a bonus, the texture of the bread was rather more open, making it even better for toast. Two reasons for that. First, I completely forgot to adjust the liquid to allow for the vinegar, so it got an additional 30ml, and secondly, yeast loves an acidic environment, something I remembered from my wine-making days (and one reason why Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is sometimes added to flour).
The result was a dough so soft and sticky it was very hard to handle. A dusting of flour took care of the stickiness (don’t overdo this), and as the main working of the dough is done using a stand mixer, all I had to do was shape it and pack it into the loaf tins. During the first proving, though, it was so soft that it expanded outwards more than upwards – not a problem as long as you don’t leave it too close to the edge of the worktop!
It would, I thought, need watching as it rose as, left a few minutes too long, it might overflow the tins. I kept a close eye on it but, in the event, there was little difficulty and, as my slashing knife was freshly sharpened, it sliced through the soft dough without dragging.
For slashing, after trying various blades, including a professional grignette, I’ve settled on an old Kitchen Devils carver. Sharpened before every use, it slides through white dough as if it’s just not there. My normal loaf is rather more than 50% wholemeal, and the dough is far more resistant to the blade. The bran content blunts it quickly, too, so I always keep it razor sharp (I use a 3-wheel – coarse, medium, and fine – Minosharp – in my view the best manual sharpener available).
So, a win, and bread that stays fresh right up to the point where I make the next batch – more than that, one can’t really ask.