I’m weary of cooking up inspired ideas for stale, leftover heels of bread. The complete list of ingenious uses would bore a hole. There are bread crumbs, plain toasted croûtons, garlic toasted croûtons, arch supports for shoes, parsley and garlic croûtons, bird food, bread pudding with no sugar added, chicken fillet inserts for padded bras, bread salad with tomatoes and French vinaigrette, knee pads when gardening. You get the idea; I’m exhausted by it all. So, I decided to cut my bog-standard bread recipe in half. Just to see what would happen. I hoped that two people could polish off a pint-size loaf. That’s a figurative pint. This was all highly speculative, and I felt a bit out of my depths – I, who followed bread recipes to the letter, fearing the loaf might start growling and barking and nipping at my ankle like a sheep dog corralling wayward lambs. For all I knew, I was baking up a boule de’calamité. I sent off an email to my baking-guru, Zeb at Zeb Bakes hoping that she was online to read my SOS. “If”, I wrote, “I’ve halved the original recipe, do I also cut the total baking time?” She replied within a few minutes, asking how much the dough weighed. I ran for the kitchen, leapt over the dog, who always lies prostrate in a blocking position across the hallway, and weighed my proving (that means that the dough is proving I didn’t forget to put yeast in it) …erm… huh?… oh, yeah… dough. I weighed the shaped and scored dough plus the baking sheet. Then I grabbed an identical sheet from below the oven, and weighed it so I’d know how much to subtract from the total showing on the scale. Dough weight: 425 grams.
Zeb said it needed 20-30 minutes at 220C and a further 15-20 minutes at a reduced temperature of 200C.
I gave the loaf last night much more time than I’d usually allow, hoping that it would result in a crispy crust that would stay crispy after the loaf cooled. It did. I was delighted. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that: recipes are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Having said that, the first time that a recipe goes wrong for me I’m apt to reverse that logic with lightening speed.
And today, I’m playing with my calculator again. We’re (that’s the royal We, as I’m feeling quite like the Queen of Kitchen today) … anyway, We are baking a mini-loaf based on ¼ the total recipe. It’s 80% stone-ground wholemeal and 20% strong white bread flour. Not sure how it’ll turn out because the dough does feel a bit tight and tense, not loose and lofty like the dough yesterday. It also required quite a few dribbles of extra water, even though I use oil rather than flour for folding/kneading. This folding method is Dan Lepard’s method of “no-knead” by the way. Dan’s Baking Blog is at Dan Lepard’s How-to-Bake.
The wholemeal loaf baked away happily for a total of 40-minutes, and here’s what it looked like before my husband and I ate the whole darned thing with our dinner.
One slice was kept aside for a bit of Danish cheese just before bed. I don’t do cheese before bed because I swear that it gives me ghastly dreams. It has no such effect on my husband. It just causes him to snore as if there’s some half-starved, carnivorous jungle beast residing in his sinuses. When he snores like that I stay well clear of his nose – I’m just never sure what’s up there.
Actually, I could use some of that leftover bread to stuff up his nose so that the beasty living up there can’t escape and forage around in the middle of the night…..