When people talk about the baking renaissance, they mean cakes and pies - bread barely gets a look in. I have a feeling that may be about to change.
You only had to watch the first few minutes of Paul Hollywood’s Bread (8.30pm, BBC2, 18 March), to realise that however convenient and passable the loaves you get from a bread machine or the supermarket are (and they are SO much better than they were), they are poor cousins to the loaf you mix, knead, prove and bake in the oven yourself.
The Great British Bake Off judge kicked off the series with classic British breads, starting with the “perfect learner loaf”, the bloomer. Out came the strong white flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and cold water. So far so… wait a minute, cold water? “It’s a myth, it’s a legend, it’s rubbish,” he said, disabusing me and no doubt countless others of the notion you’re supposed to use warm water.
Cold water apparently enables the yeast to grow more slowly, producing a better tasting loaf. And boy, did the end result look tasty as did the roasted vegetable picnic loaf he used it to make, and the rye, oat and ale round, malt loaf and trencher that followed.
Better still, while they were time-consuming and labour-intensive (Hollywood winked conspiratorially at one point that kneading “gets rid of the bingo wings”), they didn’t look too tricky to make.
It’s not often that a programme has me rushing to the kitchen to see whether I’ve got the necessary ingredients. This one did. I’ll be using my loaf and watching again next week.