Surprise your sweetheart with the food of love this Valentine’s Day! Everyone knows that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. And there literally isn’t a better declaration of love, than to bake a loaf of fresh bread for your beau.
The Advantages of Homemade Bread
Baking bread at home is a fantastic opportunity to explore new ingredients and methods. And introducing specialty grains not only introduces better nutrition to your creation but will also add a deeper flavour.
Dark rye flour is fantastic when added to your favourite white bread recipe at a low level.
We like Matthews Cotswold Flour — they offer a really wide range of flours. All made from specialty grains which are farmed and milled in the UK.
Using the best ingredients will create a full flavoured loaf with lots of fibre to nourish your family. For example, the 8 Grain flour from Matthews Cotswold Flour contains additional seeds and grains which are full of healthy fats.
Controlling what goes into your loaf can be especially freeing for families struggling with allergies or intolerances. Being able to omit an ingredient or add in extras creates a tailor-made loaf perfect for you. The nutritional benefits do not stand alone though.
There is plenty of research showing the impressive effects baking can have on your mental wellbeing. But also the development of lifelong creative and coordination skills in children.
Baking at home shows young children how important it is to think about our food chain. Plus it positively reinforces healthy habits.
How Baking Can Benefit Us
So many struggle with stress or anxiety through their daily lives. Baking is a fantastic way to switch off and focus on something else entirely.
Having a break from the screens and using your hands is a truly therapeutic experience. It gives an outlet for creativity — and generates endorphins in the same way as exercising.
Starting off small and progressing to more challenging recipes will show how far you’ve come in your baking journey. Documenting it on social media will help encourage others too!
The baking community is welcoming and knowledgeable — there’s always someone to answer your questions.
For older children, baking can also be used as time to express creativity and improve a sense of responsibility. Sourdough bread is fantastic when made at home. But a word of warning! Your starter (a culture of wild yeasts used in replacement of dried yeast) must be maintained.
Like a pet, it needs feeding every day and can even be named!
To bake a loaf of bread at home — from scratch — might seem tricky, but following the right process will show you how easy it really is! There are four simple steps to making the perfect loaf: mixing, shaping, proving, and baking.
Here are some top tips for making a great loaf:
- Use a set of scales to measure your ingredients accurately.
- Make sure to knead for long enough. You can use the windowpane test to check you’ve done it right. (If you can stretch a little piece of dough thin enough to see light through it then it’s done!).
- Use a loaf tin to get the best loaf for sandwiches.
- Before baking, make a score in the loaf to allow it to expand.
- Add a few ice cubes to your oven as you put in the loaf if you want a crispy crust!
It’s also worth remembering that, with baking, practice really does make perfect!
So much of what you can learn through baking comes from trial and error. If you don’t like something about your loaf simply adjust and try again the next time. The good news is it’s very difficult to bake a loaf of bread that doesn’t taste nice! Baking at home is so rewarding, and it’s very easy to become addicted to trying new recipes. Why not try Matthews Cotswold Flour’s Cobb Roll recipe?
- 500g Cotswold Organic Strong White Bread Flour
- 12g Fresh yeast
- 7g Sugar
- 10g Salt
- 1 Tbsp Soft butter
- 320g Lukewarm water
- Measure the water out into a separate bowl, add the yeast and sugar and stir until dissolved
- Weigh out the Cotswold Organic Strong White Bread Flour salt and butter into a standing mixer bowl
- Add the water to the bowl and use a dough hook attachment to mix the dough.
- Knead the dough for around 15 minutes, or until it becomes warm to the touch and elastic
- Place the dough on a floured bench and weigh to 80 gram
- Roll the dough into round balls and place on a floured tray to prove under a clean tea towel
- Prove the dough for 1-1.5 hours until bouncy to the touch and doubled in size
- Score the bread in a diamond pattern, place a couple of ice cubes in the oven before baking the rolls and bake at 220 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
Baking a loaf of fresh bread this Valentine’s day is bound to show your loved ones how much you care.
Best of all, it can even be personalised!
After proving your loaf use a pastry brush or your fingers to dampen the top of the loaf (be gentle to avoid knocking out any air!).
You can then sprinkle sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or even oats in a pattern to spell out a name or create a heart.
There is no end to what you can do with a classic loaf of bread to show it was made with love!
PS — we’ve got a fab giveaway coming up with Matthews Cotswold Flour in the next couple of weeks. Don’t forget to keep checking our competitions so you don’t miss it!
Featured image photo by Marta Dzedyshko