I open the oven door to check my loaves. I don’t need to as they’ve only been in for five minutes, and I shouldn’t as I know that it will let some of the precious steam escape and the results won’t be quite as perfect as they would be if I were able to resist and patiently wait until the timer goes off. But I can’t, every time without exception I open the door for a quick look. I’m like a new father checking on his baby sleeping in their cot. I want to see if they’re ok, but I also want to stand back and proudly look at what I’ve made.
That’s what I love about baking bread. It’s everything you need to feel fulfilled. It’s instant creation and the creation of something which everyone else will smell and see and want there and then while it’s still warm. It’s exercise. It’s the provision of something that sustains. It’s basic, simple, unpretentious and ancient.
I bake as much as I need to, which with five people in my house and three of them hungry children, ends up being roughly every other day. A simple recipe with only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast, but the results are always different.
The bread comes out of the oven and sits on the side ‘singing’. it’s new crust cracks and pops as it adjusts itself to the sudden drop in temperature, as it ‘settles down’.
And then it’s a new waiting game. I’m desperate to cut it in half and see if I’ve achieved what I’m always hoping for; huge air bubbles like a French emmental cheese, uneven holes which never fail to impress. But I have to wait until it cools down. You can’t slice hot bread without destroying it.