Currently, 80 per cent of British bread is made using what is known as the Chorleywood method; an industrialised process introduced in 1961 which creates a uniform, cheap, soft and reasonably long life loaf.

We instantly fell head over heels for the convenience and ease of the “Wonder Loaf'”. Thankfully, there is now a backlash against the emulsifiers, enzymes and other chemicals used in modern baking. The result is a revival of the artisan baker. And, just like baking, home breadmaking is also on the rise.

Though why when it is now so much easier to buy a good loaf, would anyone go to the bother of making their own?

As an avid bread maker, I can tell you why: simply for the pleasure of it.

It is an inexpensive hobby requiring little more than flour, water, leavening and time. You can kiss goodbye to pent-up stress, as a good kneading of bread dough sorts that one out. And you will ditch the air fresheners for the heavenly scent of freshly baked bread. Above all, there is little more wonderful than freshly baked bread with a thick slathering of salty butter. Delicious.

Be warned, though, as I quickly found out: bread making is addictive. One day it may be a simple wholemeal loaf, but before you know it, comes the challenges of salt-crusted, pillow-soft focaccias, multigrain and sourdoughs. And, a fixation with spelt, chestnut and other fancy flours.

If, despite my warning, you want to give it a go (or improve your skills), how do you get started?

Nothing beats learning from an expert. There is artisan bread making courses a-plenty now, check out Cooks at Carlton and master baker Simon Thomas. Or, you can’t beat a good book. Whatever my thoughts about Bake Off Judge Paul Hollywood, he is without doubt a master of his craft and his book 100 Great Breads is a good starting point for beginners.

Currently, I am loving a new book that comes without celebrity hype. The Larousse Book of Bread is by Eric Kayser, a fourth-generation Parisian baker and the owner of the international string of Maison Kayser boulangeries. In this iconic bible of artisan bread, he serves up 80 recipes, all written and presented to remove any mystique with bread making.

If you fancy having a go at making artisan bread at home, here’s my recipe for an easy Ciabatta. This bread has the reputation for being difficult; it isn’t. A Ciabatta simply needs a little time and some planning. To make yours you will first need to make a starter dough the day before, but do not worry, it is super easy to do. The effort is worth it, I promise.
Easy Ciabatta Recipe

First make your starter dough:

500g strong white flour

5g yeast (1/2 teaspoon dried yeast)

Approx 300ml water 

Mix all the ingredients until loose dough is formed. Cover with a tea towel and leave to work its magic overnight in a warm but not hot place.

Ciabatta Ingredients

15g fresh yeast or 7g dried

500g strong white bread flour

500g sponge starter dough

15g salt

Approx 300ml warm water

2-3 tbsp oil.

Mix all the ingredients except the oil in a large baking bowl. You will have loose, dough tacky enough to stick to your hands.

Heavily flour your worktop and tip out the dough. Knead the dough adding the oil a little at a time until you have smooth, elastic dough.

Pop the dough into a well-oiled roomy baking bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm (but not hot) place for approx 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

Heavily flour the worktop again. Gently tip the risen dough out of the bowl and using a sharp knife, cut the dough lengthways in half, and then in half again.

Again, being very gentle, roll and stretch each loaf by pulling through the flour, lift and stretch slightly again onto a greased baking sheet. Dust with more flour. Cover the loaves with a tea towel and leave to rise again for 30 minutes.

While the bread is rising, heat the oven to 220C and just before baking place a baking tray filled with ice cubes on the lowest shelf.

Bake the Ciabatta for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and feels light when picked up. Also, it should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Leave to cool before eating.

About The Author

Following a successful career as a chef and restaurateur, Yorkshire's Elaine Lemm is a highly respected food and drink writer and recently voted one of the top 50 in the UK. Elaine is a member of the Guild of Food Writers and author of three books,The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding, The Great Book of Rhubarb and The Great Book of Tea.

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