This is the spot for the things that I make pretty much all year round.  Bread, Yoghurt, Cream cheese, other stuff will come to me... and when it does... I shall post it here!

There is nothing complicated about bread.  And all I really want to say is don't be put off if your first attempts are not as great as you hoped.  Keep at it, bread really is one of those things that gets better with practice.  Having said that, I still have occasional mishaps and disappointing outcomes - usually if I am interrupted or trying to do too many things at once.

Most people are put off things that they think might have a chance of failure simply because they do not like to waste ingredients - I agree, but bread is one of those things that is worth the effort and expense (although the ingredients are not onerously expensive) of trial and error.

I use fresh yeast that I get from my local bakery - but I know that you can get it from Sainsbury's in the UK and I am sure most of the supermarket bakery departments would sell you some if they carry it and don't just rely on 'packet mix' ingredients to make their produce.

Since bread is baked at a very high temperature it is more economic to fill your oven - so plan to make more than one loaf.  You can always freeze some for later use.  And I also try to make a cake to put into the oven once the bread has come out and I lower the temperature.  It's to do with saving a few pennies here and there... we know it all adds up.

This is my basic bread recipe:

15g fresh yeast: 1tsp sugar: 260ml tepid to warm water: 30ml sunflower oil: 450g Bread flour: 2tsp salt: 2 tblspoon Skimmed Milk Powder (optional)

Rub the fresh yeast straight into the flour and make a well in the middle.  Mix in the skimmed milk powder if using.  Put the sugar and salt at opposite sides of the bowl to each other and pour the sunflower oil into the middle of the flour.

Add the water into the centre of the bowl in small amounts and mix with your fingers.

All flour is different and you may find that you don't need quite as much water as I've suggested or that you need a touch more.

Work at bringing the flour into the wet dough little by little until you have a rough dough lump in the middle of the bowl.  Turn it out onto a floured surface and begin to knead.

When I first began making bread, the internet had not even been invented and since I was learning from a book, with no real explanation of what was involved in kneading I spent many years just beating up the dough and pounding on it with fists... needless to say my bread wasn't always quite what it should have been and it was jolly hard work.  I think now that it should be called stretching not kneading... because that is a more accurate description of what you are doing.

For total beginners I would suggest going to Youtube and looking for Paul Hollywood's demonstration of kneading technique - this will show you perfectly what you need to be doing.

Just a few minutes (about five) of very satisfying kneading will leave your dough smooth and elastic like... if you push a thumb lightly on the top it will spring back into shape straight away.

Now it needs to be put back into the bowl and covered (these days everyone suggests clingfilm or plastic bin bags but in the olden days they used a damp cloth... it works just as well) and left in a warm spot to rise.  Another thing I discovered by accident really is that when the recipe books say 'a warm place'... they actually mean a really warm place.  Room temperature is usually not warm enough for the dough to rise in the time stated in the recipe... but don't worry if your dough takes longer to double in size... just give it the time it needs.

Once the dough has risen you need to knock it back or poke all the air out of it.

Shape it and pop it into the loaf tins, or simply shape it and put it onto a floured baking sheet.  I have a proving basket that leaves nice artisanal basket lines on the bread... doesn't make a blind bit of difference to the taste of the loaf so don't think you have to have anything fancy.  Now is the time to get the oven heating up.  220C to start with.

Once the dough has risen again... just proud of the top of the tins or once again almost double in size, and the oven has reached the correct temperature it is time to put the loaves in.

I bake them for ten minutes at 220C and then lower it to 210C for another 20 minutes at which point they should be done.  If you tap the crust of the loaf it will sound hollow - a good indication of the bread being cooked to perfection.

I leave the loaves in the tins for a few minutes and then turn them out onto a wire tray to cool.  If you allow the air to get to the base of the bread it will firm up the crust.  If you cool the bread in the tin the bottom of it is in danger of becoming soggy but certainly will stay soft.

Do not eat the bread when it is still warm, no matter how inviting the smell!  The bread is still cooking and if you cut it open while hot you will simply spoil your loaf.  If you want to cut it into slices with an electric slicer I would suggest leaving the bread for a day beforehand... it cuts easier with less crumbs.

 Once your bread is out... reduce the temperature in your oven and get your cake mix underway.  If you have prepared yourself for a day of batch baking then your cake mixture will be ready to go into the oven as soon as it has cooled to the correct temperature.  Today I made a very simple baked cheesecake.  The biscuit crumb base was made and put in the fridge while the bread was baking and then the cheesecake mixture was made while the oven was cooling down to 170C.  You could be super organised and get some scones into the oven before the cake goes in... and then some biscuits... and then the cake... always the temperature in the oven getting cooler each time.  Saves money, makes sense but takes a lot of organisation and planning before hand.  I don't usually manage much more than a full oven of bread and then a cake or two.

A plain baked cheesecake flavoured with a little lemon and a sugar and cinnamon topping.   As it cools the top will sink down and crack a little... it's meant to... and it's delicious... and it will also freeze so we don't have to eat it all in one go!  But we might!

Yoghurt is the easiest thing in the world to make.  All you need is milk and a spoonful or two of live yoghurt to start you off.  Here in Extremadura fresh milk is only available in the bigger supermarkets so most people just buy uht milk in bulk and use that.  Luckily uht milk makes wonderful yoghurt!  To start with you must have everything scrupulously clean - your yoghurt container should be scalded before each new batch is made.

A pint of milk is heated to almost boiling point and then cooled to blood temperature.  To which you add a heaped teaspoonful of live plain yoghurt.  Stir it well until totally mixed in and then leave in a warm place for about 8 to 10 hours.  Now a warm place could be above a radiator... beside your cooker on a baking day.... or in the airing cupboard.  I use an electric heat pad.  Yes I know it's electric and normally I would try to avoid that but its very low power and it just takes the uncertainty out of the procedure.

My yoghurt sits undisturbed (kind of important) for at least 8 hours when I might tilt the jug slightly to make sure that it has set.  If it hasn't leave it a few hours more.  But if your yoghurt was live to start with then you should get results.  Live yoghurt is really any of those 'healthy' one's that list strange sounding ingredients... L casei and bifidus ... you know the ones.

fresh yoghurt with bananas and brown sugar

Put your yoghurt into the fridge and when cool use it for whatever you want.  On muesli at breakfast or with fresh fruit to start the day just right!  When your yoghurt is almost finished, keep that last spoonful to use as the starter for the next batch of yoghurt!  You will never need to buy yoghurt again!

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