“Ron’s wreck of a mother used to give us buttered bread with hundreds and thousands on it. It was like being handed a slice of powdered rainbow.” (Clive Thomas 1980)

Sometimes I find that I go through creative phases.

One week I will be inspired to draw in spontaneous fits and then have to sit back and catch my breath when I’m all drawn out.

Other times I will want to do nought but curl up on the couch with cups of tea, a good movie and just knit.  Constantly.  I will knit continuously throughout the day, ignoring all else that I really should be doing and finally, with sore fingers be able to hold up something I’ve completed and feel ever so satisfied with myself.

This week however, although I have been thinking about drawing (although not quite managing to make the commitment) and have been knitting (distractedly, while watching sci fi movies, which results in messed up knitting and missed plot lines) the creative pursuit that has been threatening to overcome me has been baking.  I cannot get baking off my mind and I blame bread.

I have been baking bread every second day or so and have been consumed with the pursuit of the perfect loaf of wholemeal.   I started out baking my own bread because we did not have much money or food in the fridge for one particular week, and so, having scoured the pantry, I came away with flour and yeast and voila!  This made me remember just how much I love home-made bread and I continued the pursuit of trying to make it healthier by using wholemeal flour.

Now- I am aware that baking is often considered the more fastidious of all forms of cooking, but that’s not how I roll (pun intended).  So I’ve effectively had 2 weeks of good bread and bad bread, depending on what my instinctive hands chose to throw in a bowl.  Today, I can finally say- I have made the perfect loaf of bread!!! It is dark and crusty and fluffy and smells amazing.  P seems almost angry at just how delicious it is…

There was really only one thing I did differently this time around, and that was simply adding a teaspoon of molasses.  This is what gave the bread such a dark crust and the sweet smell wafts up through the yeastiness.  I think I have mentioned before that I started out using a Woman’s Weekly recipe, however, I can hardly call it that anymore because I’ve adapted it so much.   So here is an approximate idea of my recipe.  If you want to make such, I suggest using this recipe but going mostly by feel, because there are so many factors which can influence the dough.

Angela’s tasty,wafty loaf of bread inspired by the Woman’s Weekly Basic Bread Recipe.

3/4 cup of milk

3 teaspoons of dried yeast

2 teaspoons white sugar

1 cup white flour

1 1/2 cup of wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon salt

1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon molasses

1/2 – 1 cup of cool water (depending on how dry your dough is)

Step 1:  Warm the milk and then add yeast and sugar, whisking them in with a fork so it is all combined. Cover with cling wrap and leave somewhere warm for about 10 minutes or until it has frothed up.

Step 2:  place flour, salt, oil, molasses and yeast mixture together in a bowl and stir until it all clumps together.  At this point I usually add some water to make a wetter dough as I found that wholemeal flour can cause the dough to be quite dry.

Step 3:  Start kneading the dough on a floured surface and with floured hands.  Do this until the dough feels elastic and springs back.  Once it reaches this point place it in an oiled bowl with cling wrap over the top and sit this in the warmest part of your house. Let it rise until it is about doubled in size.

Step 4:  Take the risen dough out of the bowl and punch it down, kneading until it is back to its original size.  Place it on an oiled tray and using a very sharp knife, cut some slits across the top.  Sprinkle with a little flour, then cover with a clean tea towel and place back in the warm spot.

:  Once the dough has risen to the size you want it, pop it into a preheated over at about 180 degrees celsius and bake for about 25 minutes (depending on your oven.  best to keep an eye on it). Once the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it, it is ready.

Step 6:  EAT!  (and enjoy- because you made your own bread and that is at least one awesome thing to happen in your day)

My baking endeavours today were not just limited to bread.  I also made granola bars from Smitten Kitchen, which I had been eyeing off for a while now.  I wanted to make something reasonably healthy that I could take to uni to get me through the 5pm slump that hits me when there’s still 2 hours of lectures to go. I didn’t want to buy muesli bars from the supermarket because they’re always either cheap but packed full of fat and sugar, or have good ingredients but don’t fit into my budget.  So I went searching for a recipe that ticked all the boxes.  L directed me towards Smitten Kitchen as she had made this particular recipe before, and, having commandeered a lot of her baking ingredients (she’s moving to Germany, hence the clean out) I happened to have most of the ingredients ready.

First I toasted the almonds, coconut and oats in the oven.

and chopped up the fruit while that was happening.  I chose to use dried apricots, prunes, dates and some sultanas.

The you mix everything together and press it into a tray really hard (in order to create bars, rather than clumps for cereal). Bake it about 25 minutes or until a nice golden colour.

Once it’s out of the oven wait until it is completely cool before you try to cut it into bars, otherwise it will just fall apart.  It’s hard waiting- I know, but in the end its worth it.

I’m very happy with these.  They are tasty and filling like you wouldn’t believe.  I think they will perk me up suitably at 5pm when the next 2 hour lecture starts.  You never know….they might even help me concentrate on what is actually being taught.

All in all a very productive day on the baking side of things.  Pity I  can’t say the same about the growing pile of uni work to do…