Sunday, 31 January 2010


When I opened Los Castanos nearly six years ago, one of the several special things I wanted to give my guests was home-made brown bread for their breakfast. I come from a long line of brown breadmakers and longed to continue the tradition. My guests loved it. Commented on it. Praised me for it. "What beautiful bread! Did you make it yourself?" I would beam with self-satisfaction.

Then a couple of years ago it was suggested that it would be much easier if I were to use a breadmaker. The idea was appealing for several reasons:

The programability meant I could bung in the ingredients the night before and set it to be ready just before breakfast so the hotel filled with that most delicious of all smells - new yeasty bread.

The other problem that a machine would solve was caused by my inability to stay in one place very long. On many occasions I would prepare the dough, leave it to rise, and walk away only to return too late to find it had risen and then plopped over the sides of the tin making a horrible gooey mess. If I didn´t miss the rising, I mistimed the cooking. Beautifully risen, I would pop the tins into the oven then walk away and forget it. When the smells reminded me, I would dash into the kitchen to find the bread more than "nicely browned".

Weighing the advantages, I bought a breadmaker. It performed as promised, wafting heavenly smells through the building and into the nostrils of awakening guests sending them hurrying down to breakfast. But the compliments stopped. I received not one word of praise for my machine-made bread. I would solicit them anxiously: "So, what do you think of the bread?" "Lovely" they would politely say with weak smiles. I was not fooled.

Fortunately for my ego, said breadmaker started playing up after a short time. The bread stopped rising and produced flat, solid, inedible doorstops. Bigger and bigger holes, formed by the rotation of the paddle, gaped in the centre of the loaf. We sought help on the internet and discovered these were common problems. We sent it back. They returned it having done nothing. It sat disconsolately on the kitchen counter until just the other day when John took it to the "punto limpio" for recycling.

My daughter had generously bought me a new Kenwood for Christmas with a massive bread hook so we are back to my own bread. And, when I remember to get it into and out of the oven on time, my heart sings again to the praises: "Oh, what beautiful bread! Did you make it yourself?"

To make the bread, combine 1 kg brown flour with the appropriate amount of yeast. I use two sachets of dried yeast. Add water until the mixture is kneadable. Knead by hand or machine for a few minutes. Put in a greased tin and leave to rise for about thirty minutes depending upon the ambient room temperature. Pop into a hot oven, 200 fan, for half an hour until brown and, knocking on the bottom, it sounds hollow. That´s it.

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