Having started baking bread as a sort of antidote to work frustration, although I only worked out the connection after I had started making the bread, I am now making sourdoung. This means I have a gloopy smelling mixture, my sourdough starter, living in the fridge which I use to make the loaves. The loaf in the picture on the left is, I think, my finest loaf moment so far. I initially used Nigella’s Domestic Goddess recipe which looked fairly good but didn’t taste sourdoughy enough. I then moved onto Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters which tasted fantastic but was only an inch high. For this loaf I used a combination of both recipes and it almost made the perfect loaf. I say almost, as it did have a large crack along the top, which doesn’t impact on the taste but doesn’t look very pretty. Anyway, I am proud of it, even if it does take 12 hours to make.
As a brief diversion from eating out I thought I would post this, a picture of a loaf I made this week. It was my first day off work and I had the urge to bake something, which really doesn’t happen often. I used Nigella’s ‘Domestic Goddess’ book on baking and it was easy. It was a very hot day and I put the dough in the airing cupboard so the rising part wasn’t hard. It took 35 mins to cook and was delicious. Please feel free to cast your admiring glances.
Le Pain Quotidien, which apparently means daily bread, is a Belgian chain consisting of a restaurant and bakery, based unsurprisingly around it’s very high quality and correspondingly highly priced bread. The ‘concept’ is that there are long wooden tables in the centre of the restuarant around which everyone sits, ie you share a table. Although in the waterloo branch there are also a lot of smaller tables for the less european and more squeamish among us. The decor is all unvarnished wood and large wooden dressers selling jam and other such condiments.
I have never eaten an evening meal there so can only comment on what I have had, which is two boiled eggs, fresh bread soldiers and a very aesthetically pleasing paper wrapped french butter pat accompanied by a vat of lovely coffee served in a bowl. Joff has also only had the same, several times. Call us unadvertourous but we know what we like…and we are vegetarians which probably serves us right. Still, I have seen people eating all sorts of things there and they all seemed happy. Service is friendly and the clientele unreletingly middle class, I have never seen so many little boys in faux hand knitted sweaters in my life, except in chiswick.
I like it there. The coffee is excellent, the eggs are fresh, the bread is perfect: crusty, chewy and fresh. There is also something immensely satisfying about cupping a large white bowlful of coffee in your hands. It is of course absurdly expensive if you allow yourself to think about it, which I suppose in these crunchy times you should do, £4 for boiled eggs and £3 for a large coffee. But if spending money on good quality food is what you like to do and you can still afford to do it I recommend you do it here.
I have been excellent toast this week, a rye and carraway seed loaf from De Gustibus in Borough Market. It has lasted all week and becomes crispy round the edges when toasted properly. I like it best with peanut butter.
De Gustibus is a breadshop in borough market, although breadshop is a little prosaic for such a place, they describe themselves as artisan bread makers, and so they are. I just bought a granary loaf there (yes it cost £2.50 but I have gone over the expensive bread threshold and there is no going back) and it smells and looks so delicious that I am already looking forward to tomorrow’s breakfast. They specialise in bread as you would expect but they also had some very good looking sandwiches there and some hugely tempting chocolate brownies…next time.
The bagel bakery on Brick lane has excellent Chola and rye bread. It is open at all hours, meaning that you can buy a soft, fresh, crusty loaf of rye bread with carraway seeds at 10.30 at night – if you wish to.