Sunday, 26 April 2015

The best loaf of bread ever - 30p

Let me tell you how to make the best loaf of bread ever for around 30p.  Two top tips:

  1. (From A Girl Called Jack) You don't need to use special strong bread flour.  Tesco Value plain flour makes amazing bread and you can make three loaves out of a 45p bag of flour, thus 15p for each 
  2. (From Nigella) Using potato water (ie the water that you've par-boiled your potatoes in before the Sunday roast) makes brilliant bread.  Apparently the potato make the gluten more stretchy, makes a softer, lighter loaf, and acts as an anti-staling agent so the bread stays fresher for longer.  But you can just use ordinary tap water too.


500g value plain flour - 15p
7g sachet dried fast action yeast - 10p
1 tbsp caster sugar or honey - 0.001p
1/2 tsp salt - 0.00001p
1 tbsp baking margarine(or olive oil or butter) - 3p
300 mls cooled potato water or cool tap water - negligible cost
Plain vegetable oil for oiling - 2p


Weigh the flour into a mixing bowl.  Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other.  The salt will kill the yeast if it touches at this stage.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix in a food mixer with a dough hook for around 5 mins.  Alternatively, mix by hand then turn out onto an oiled work-surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Even though I use the electric mixer, I like to finish off the dough by kneading for a couple of minutes by hand.  That way I get to feel whether the dough is ready.  It should be silky and stretchy when it's done.

Oil a large bowl with a piece of cling film.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with the oiled cling flim.  Leave to rise at room temperature for around 2 hours until it's at least doubled in size.  Go away and do something else - or you can put the dough in the fridge at this stage to rise slowly overnight then bake it in the morning.

When the dough has risen, punch it with your fist to get all the air out then knead again for a couple of minutes and shape into an oval.  Line a baking tray/sheet with baking parchment (or just oil the tray well) and place the bread on it to prove.  Cover loosely with the oiled cling film and leave for a further 30-45 mins until doubled in size again.

Heat the oven to 220c (200 fan).  Remove the cling film, scatter the top of the loaf with plain flour and make 3 or 4 slashes on the top with a very sharp knife, being careful not to knock all the air out of the loaf.  Bake in the oven for 25-35 mins until golden brown and it sounds hollowed when tapped.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and eat with lovely butter and home-made jam.  Or make a cheese and tomato sandwich :)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Nepal Earthquake

News is flooding in of the devastating earthquake in Nepal; the epicentre was in the Kathmandu Valley, the most densely populated part of Nepal, and the death toll is rising into the thousands, with thousands more affected by a shortage of shelter, water and food.  The Royal College of Midwives has been working in Nepal since 2012 through our partner, the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON).

Our immediate concern is for the safety of our friends and colleagues. Telephone services in Nepal are mostly unavailable and many will have no way to access the Internet. We have contact with some MIDSON members who are safe, but are unaware of the welfare of others. Once we have established better contact we will assess whether the Royal College of Midwives can assist MIDSON in anyway and what the appropriate response might be. Please continue to hold our sisters in your thoughts and prayers and keep alert for further updates about any ways in which you may be able to help.

Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross has a website on which you can trace family members and friends or report that you are safe.

Thank you.

Dhaka Diary

I'm back in Dhaka (Bangladesh), five weeks after my last visit in July, to help facilitate the first ever online election of executiv...