Escape to an Island in the Sun


Baking Bread

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Expats in many countries, and particularly those in Spain, Portugal and France, will quickly discover many wonderful bakeries. Forget the plastic bread on sale in the supermarkets, but that wonderful bread baked in relatively small quantities by people who recognise that it is the taste of real bread that buyers are looking for. I like a simple, freshly baked loaf of bread, preferably white and with a dark and crispy crust. However, I still cannot quite find the taste and texture of a loaf that I was used to in the UK, despite having a wonderful bakery in the village where all types of loaves are baked.
I am pleased that I had the foresight to pack the bread maker when we left the UK. I had tried several models over the years, and all failed after a few months; it was friends who recommended a model made by Panasonic. Twelve years later, the bread-maker is still producing two or three loaves a week, with additional loaves made for friends and neighbours. The smell of freshly baked bread is one of the most evocative in the world, and is to be highly recommended if you are entertaining, or trying to sell your property!

Two months ago, our trusty bread-maker developed a strange grating noise. Twelve years of faithful baking was a reasonable lifespan in an age when planned obsolescence seems to be the norm, and so I ordered a replacement model from Amazon. A week later, a huge box arrived with the replacement machine. In many ways, the new machine looked very similar and baked a perfect loaf of bread the first time that I used it.

Before disposing of the old machine, I gave it a good shake. I heard something click inside, and I felt the need to give it just one more try. I put in all the ingredients and the four-hour process began. It now appeared to be working perfectly, with no grating noise. It too made a perfect loaf of bread, so clearly a good shake was the answer!
We now have two bread-makers in our house. Some may think it strange or maybe obsessive, but I have found it to be a real advantage. I can bake two loaves of bread at the same time. I can open only one packet of yeast and flour without any waste, and the job is done and forgotten for another week. Another advantage is that I am in control of the ingredients. There are no added preservatives and salt and sugar are kept to a minimum, unlike loaves purchased in the supermarkets. Also, bread is very cheap to make at home, which is another advantage during these difficult times.

Yeast has been difficult to find in Spain and the Canary Islands. Bread-making machines are not popular in Spain and the Canary Islands, and most home bakers use fresh yeast from their local bakery. This is not advised for use in bread-making machines and dried yeast is not easy to get. I usually rely on thoughtful friends bringing a supply of yeast from Tesco or Sainsburys in the UK, although in an emergency I can get an expensive supply from the El Corte Ingles department store. During my first hesitant attempts at bread making in the Canary Islands, I used ‘levadura en polvo’, which I thought was dried yeast. The dreadful result sent me heading for the dictionary where I discovered that ‘levadura en polvo’ is actually baking powder. What I really needed was ‘levadura de panadero’, which is bakers yeast. Well, as expats, we certainly 'live and learn'.

If you are also tempted to bake your own bread, give it a try; I am sure that you won't regret it. Bella (our dog) and I are just off for morning coffee, toast and Marmite (of course)!

I have tried several models of bread makers over the years, and all failed after a few months; it was friends who recommended a model made by Panasonic. Twelve years later, the bread-maker is still producing two or three loaves a week, with additional loaves made for friends and neighbours. The smell of freshly baked bread is one of the most evocative in the world and is to be highly recommended if you are entertaining, or trying to sell your property!

All Panasonic bread makers come with an easy to follow recipe book, from which you can make many types of bread, including gluten-free. You will need strong white flour if you are baking a white loaf - make sure it is not too old as this can be critical; I usually purchase mine from Spar. You will also need very small quantities of salt and sugar, fresh or powdered milk (I use powdered) and two tablespoons of margarine, oil or butter (I use olive oil). You will also need about 350ml of tepid water. Do watch the water temperature, particularly in hot weather. If it is too hot or too cold you may find that the bread will not rise; warm to the touch is fine.

The magic ingredient is yeast, of course. It is not that easy to find dried yeast sachets in the Canary Islands, although the groceries section of the El Corte Ingles store usually stocks it. I find it is better to ask a family member or friend to bring some packets when they visit from the UK, or to post them. Remember to keep this in a cool place.
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Flour and Water

I have received several requests from readers asking about the flour that I use. I buy strong white flour, usually from my local Spar, which is less that 50 cents a bag. The secret is to only purchase flour that is fresh and has a long sell by date. Sometimes, flour from other supermarkets that I have tried is old stock and gives poor results.

Water temperature is also important when making bread. It is best to ensure that water is tepid and not straight out of the fridge!

Recipe for a Basic White Large Loaf


Several readers have asked for the recipe that I use for baking a white loaf. I have included this below, but please remember that it is for the Panasonic bread maker, although I am told that it will be fine to use in other bread makers. I use the measuring scoop that came with the unit, but have converted the quantities to teaspoons and tablespoons. It is just a basic white loaf, nothing fancy.

(Put into baking tin in this order)

Yeast - 1 teaspoonful
Strong/white flour - 500 grammes
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Salt - 1 teaspoon
Milk powder - 2 tablespoons
Virgin Olive Oil - 2 tablespoons
Water (tepid) - 350 ml

Set the bread maker for a large loaf. It takes 4 hours to bake.

I have found that success depends upon the freshness of the flour and yeast, as well as the temperature of the water - especially in the Canary Islands!

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.
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