In his book Ottolenghi, the author (Yotam Ottolenghi, believe it or not) observes that “when thinking about what to serve alongside any given dish, it’s all too easy to revert to the suggestion of some ‘crusty white bread'”. He uses this as an intro to his crusty white Italian loaf recipe, which I fully intended to make this weekend. Except I kind of wanted to have a crusty white bread to accompany dinner on Saturday night. Which was fine, except I decided this on Saturday, and Yotam’s European extravaganza is a two day affair. Now I could have delayed the whole meal until Sunday, but instead I pivoted. Rather than make the surely delicious (but time consuming. And probably difficult?) Ottolenghi crusty Italian loaf, I made the crusty white bread recipe on the back of the bread flour box.
Where the Ottolenghi recipe calls for two days of work, requires creating a ‘Biga’ (fancy Italian version of a starter that you prepare ahead), involves a dough so wet you are convinced you’ve screwed it up and needs you to acquire something called ‘dark malt powder’, the Lighthouse box asks only for a few hours of your time, yields a normal (but rather stiff) dough and calls for ingredients you really should have on hand.
In return for your minimal effort you receive…what you deserve. A loaf that meets the objective of providing crusty white bread to accompany your dinner. A loaf that fills the house with the smell of baking. A loaf that is undeniably a white bread. But it is a loaf that is quite misshapen (your results may vary) and rather dense inside. It’s not a loaf that makes you marvel at your ability as a baker or declare that you’ll never buy another bread again because this one is so heavenly and causes you to radiate smug self-satisfaction. It’s a loaf that I basically already forgot I made and it’s still in the house.
So here is what I propose. I will pit this forgettable loaf against the very loaf I meant to make in the first place. Next week I will be organised and make the crusty white Italian bread from Ottolenghi and we will be able to see just how much value adding the word ‘Italian’ into the recipe title creates.
In the mean time, please enjoy this picture of the bread toasted with homemade peanut butter.
Now, instead of more information about this week’s bread, let me tell you about this homemade peanut butter and the trauma that home-making it induced. My mother and several internet sites (here, here and here) all assured me that making nut butter at home is the easiest thing in the world. So easy, in fact, that it was EMBARRASSING that I had never tried. So I went out and I bought peanuts. Unable to easily find raw ones I bought pre-roasted and, per the instructions, heated them for a few minutes (5) in the oven to remind them of how roasted they really were. Then I transferred them to a food processor. I processed them for a minute, as instructed. Nothing happened. I transferred them to a blender. Now we were getting somewhere, the nuts were immediately crushed into tiny granules. According to the recipes the next step is to continue blending and watch in amazement as, over a couple of minutes, the nut granules become nutty lumps and then smooth nut butter. I blended for five minutes. I transferred back to the food processor and blended for another five minutes. I still had nut couscous. I threw it out.
Two days later I tried again. This time more nuts and a longer time roasting. Once again I had the same problems – the food processor was indifferent to the nuts and the blender basically lost interest after initially grinding them. I reckon I spent half an hour transferring the nut granules between appliances until finally, in the blender, with the assistance of honey and peanut oil (both things you allegedly do not need to add until the very end and then only if desired), the mixture turned into a thick but undeniable nut butter. Heaven forbid I accidentally eat smooth peanut butter, I immediately threw in a cup of reserved whole roast nuts. These refused to blend down at all, so I declared the project compete. Using a spoon (this is not pourable nut butter) I bottled up my gluggy homemade paste, complete with whole unblended nuts, and surveyed the kitchen carnage with the satisfaction of achieving a hard-fought victory. I am going to eat it all and will steadfastly maintain it is delicious. I will never make peanut butter at home again.
Are you still here and hoping you can glean a bread recipe from this rambling sidetrack? Fine. Here’s the back of the box. Good luck to you.