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Give us this day

Bread making is one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”

— MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating


After having avoided carbs for the best part of a month and neither seen nor felt any benefits what soever there seemed like no better way to return to the fold than by having a nice plate of bread and butter. It turns out that a decent loaf of bread is harder to find in  Nantucket than I could possibly have imagined. There are a couple of artisan bakeries on the island but unfortunately if the surf’s up your chances of  getting your hands on a decent loaf lessen dramatically. I went into one such bakery the other day only to be faced with an empty bread rack. When I optimistically enquired when the next batch of bread would be ready the lady behind the counter just shrugged her shoulders and said “Oh, the baker has taken the day off” and cast her eyes out of the window at the waves crashing on the shore line by way of explanation. Needless to say that bakery and in particular it’s work shy head baker are dead to me now but I non the less wish them every success with their breadless bakery concept.

So, there was only one thing for it and that was to roll my sleeves up and make some my self. What I had been dreaming of was something that had the kind of crust that makes a sound that ricochets around the inside of your head when you bite into it but has lots of chewy inside to drown in butter. The only problem is that I don’t have access to a mixer with a dough hook here so I had to resort to pure manual labour. Fortunately there is a substitute for a mechanical mixer and that is time. This loaf ticks all the boxes but isn’t exactly what you would call a quick fix. It takes 2 minutes to mix, requires no kneading but takes 18 hours to rise. But when nothing else will scratch that itch other than a good loaf this recipe is hard to beat.

The 18 Hour Loaf

3 cups white bread flour

1 cup wholemeal flour

1/4 teaspoon active dried yeast

1 1/2 teapoons salt

2 cups warm water

Method –

Mix all the ingredients together into a rough dough in a large roomy bowl. Cover tightly with cling film and leave in a warm but not too warm place for exactly 18 hours. A kitchen counter over night works well for me.

Tip the bread dough onto a well floured work surface and with a light hand shape into a long rectangle. Place onto a floured baking sheet and allow to prove for 2 hours.

Pre heat the oven to 250 deg Celsius and if you have one place a ceramic baking stone in it to pre heat. If you are using a baking stone slide the loaf gently onto the stone being careful not to deflate it. If you do not have a baking stone simply place the loaf on it’s tray into the oven and bake for 34 – 45 minutes turning the loaf over 10 minutes before the end of the baking time. Remove to a rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.

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