Making bread

I made my first bread yesterday. Italian bread, what else?

Well, to tell the truth, years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I did occasionally make a sort of Wonder Bread…without the chemicals (see cartoon on the left), but the bread I made yesterday was entirely different: it wasn’t put in a mould of any shape or size but shaped by (my) hand and placed on a cookie sheet.
I followed a recipe, and, about halfway through, thought I had made a crucial mistake at each step: the dough ended up being too sticky, more like cake batter than pliable dough; I had to add about 200 extra (!) grams of flour to get it to the kneading point; the dough didn’t rise because my kitchen (so I thought) was too cold; enfin, the dough looked nothing like the photo in the book (I have one of those gorgeous step-by-step recipe books with colour illustrations). 
Okay, Margaret, don’t panic. It’s only BREAD. No big deal.

But panic I did. I called one of my best friends, a fabulous cook and also a bread-making goddess. Horrified, she exclaimed, “You tried making WHAT? Have you lost your mind? It’s extremely difficult to make that kind of bread, blablabla. For one thing, you need a wood-burning oven! Why didn’t you just try making loaf bread?” (Well, what she really said was: hai fatto COSA? Ma che ti sei impazzita? Ma chi te l’ha detto di fare quel pane lì? Il pane normale è difficilissimo da fare, eppoi va cotto in un forno a legna, blablabla. Ma perché non hai fatto il pane in cassetta, che è facilissimo, invece?)

I looked around my kitchen: no wood-burning oven in sight, just my electric one. I thanked her and hung up. Sob! 

I began to tremble. It wasn’t bad enough that my sticky dough wasn’t rising properly, now I didn’t have the right kind of oven. Urgh. I called Stefano at work to let him know that he’d better stop at the supermarket on his way home to buy some proper bread. Mine, I told him, was going to be a terrible-tasting tooth-breaking flat focaccia, at best. (For the record: he actually did buy some bread…hmmm, could this be considered grounds for divorce? ).

The misshapen hand-shaped dough that I managed, eventually, to pop in my preheated oven didn’t look anything like the photo in the bread book. Sigh.

I have vowed NEVER EVER to buy another step-by-step cookbook with colour illustrations, things like that just make you feel totally inept. Because guess WHAT?

My bread turned out to be the best bread we have ever tasted! The best bread in the entire WORLD! Stefano pronounced it “delicious!” (which, I am quick to point out, he almost never does, except when I make NY cheesecake or apple pie). He said I should start selling it. This morning, first thing, before even having his usual cup of espresso, the man who never ever eats breakfast (ever!) made himself two salami sandwiches with my bread! Hah! Triumph! Well, I may not be the bread-making goddess, but I am definitely (now) the bread-making QUEEN!

This photo shows all that is left this morning of my, as it turned out, gorgeous bread, crunchy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside! 


  1. Hello Margaret,
    What a very fine bread you bake!
    And so well risen.
    Was it those magic words your friend said to you?
    They certainly look much better in Italian than they sound in English.

    I used to bake bread years ago. Allison’s organic wholemeal.I did it
    the long way, no shortcuts and it would take a whole evening to
    make two small tins, but as bread goes it had no equal in the shops,and as good bread goes it went!
    Enjoy your Staff of Life.
    Old Bill.

  2. Wow! E’ stupendo! Ma dov’è la schiacciata spiaccicata di cui parlavi con Stefano al telefono?
    con invidia 🙂

  3. Different flours absorb liquid in different ways and you were right to add more flour! Good for you! Winnah

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