This is not a piece of (birthday) cake

This is a slice of toast, from a loaf with a slightly burnt crust to which I forgot to add salt.  It is spread with salted butter and honey my sister brought back from France, and sprinkled with cinnamon (thanks Tabitha!).  It is good.

IMG_0531

I’ve been trying to bake bread for about a year and a half.  My first few loaves didn’t rise properly.  The next couple stuck to the tin.  I learnt to read the recipe (um, yes, well done me) and grease the loaf tins.  Occasionally the crust would burn slightly before the dough was cooked all the way through (or the loaf sounded hollow when knocked on the bottom).  I muddled on, tweaking this, trying that.  Sometimes we would have a few really good loaves for our sandwiches for a couple of weeks.  Then the loaves would burn, or stick, or both.  Or I’d forget the salt.  Often it seems I’m taking two steps forward and three steps back – but hey, isn’t that line dancing?  (I apologise if it’s not.  I’ve never tried line dancing).

As well as the butter, the honey, and the advice from friends, I am grateful for this imperfect slice of toast and a cup of good strong tea for my birthday breakfast.  It is a small paving stone along my path.  It’s a sign of something I’m not particularly good at, and haven’t given up on.  Last year was busy, wonderful, and hard work, I learnt an awful lot (although not, apparently, about bread) and they say life begins at thirty!  I have a feeling this year is going to be bigger yet.

Happy my birthday, everyone!  Any advice about the journey, or bread-baking, gratefully received.

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13 Responses to This is not a piece of (birthday) cake

  1. Jacquetta says:

    Happy birthday!!! Hope you have a great day! Cinnamon and honey on toast, yum. That bread looks pretty good to me!

  2. rusty duck says:

    Happy Birthday!
    I cheat and use a machine ;)

  3. Tabitha says:

    Happy Birthday!
    I love toast and when it’s made with homemade bread it’s just incredible, when I was younger I would go on toast eating sprees for weeks during which I curled my lip at other food, I really could live on it, easting it makes me feel happy!

  4. haggiz says:

    The only thing I have learned through trial and error is not to put yeast and salt near one another or the bread doesn’t rise. Yours looks fab I like the sound of honey and cinnamon too, will have to try it. Happy, happy birthday (hope you get cake later!) Julie x

    • Philippa says:

      Thanks! Most of the recipes I’ve read include salt and I think it does make the bread tastier – but I’ve also read that it retards the yeast, so I try to add it late (and often forget).

      Bread baking seems to be far more art than science – unlike cakes, which are only improved by accuracy and consistency, my favoured trusty partners! I know some people say you’re either a baker or a cook, but it seems to me you can either bake cakes or bread, and sadly for my waist (and pocket) I am much bettter at cakes!

  5. Jen says:

    Happy birthday! No wonder we are kindred spirits. I had my birthday martini on the 4th! Enjoy.

  6. Happy Birthday!! There’s nothing, nothing better than toast with butter. I love the smell of fresh baking bread. The only type I make these days is foccachia. For some reason it seems easier. Yours look terrific. Salt or no salt!

  7. Toast and honey, absolutely nothing better. I prefer it to cake, biscuits, chocolate. I should should get a breadmaker, I miss the VOgels bread you get in New Zealand so so much. The bread here in the US is so sweet and chewy, have not found the equiv of Vogels

  8. tiffany rose says:

    Belated happy birthday to you, Philippa! Oh I would take homemade bread over cake, or any other dessert, any day. I haven’t made homemade bread in a long time but I don’t recall struggling with it, I think the quality of the yeast (make sure it’s fresh!) is very important and lots of kneading. Humidity can affect how bread turns out. I do recall rising the dough to take much longer than what the recipes say but I would wait until the dough properly doubled (or whatever proportion it’s supposed to be) even if it took three times the time. There are times when the room was too cold so I’d put the oven on warm for a little bit, turn it off, and put the covered dough in that warmish oven to rise.

    Enjoy your year! Try line dancing if you get the chance, it’s fun!

  9. Tabitha says:

    I’ve been wondering about your whereabouts, is work ahem a full time job just now?

    • Philippa says:

      I have been lying fallow. And job-hunting in a slightly desultory fashion. All of a sudden I have a new job, which starts on Monday! I feel rather as if it fell out of the sky, so I have been running around like a headless rabbit for the past two weeks, trying to fill the giant gaps in my wardrobe (a year and a half in scrubs preceded by inelegant ward work do not for office-appropriate attire make), stock my cupboards and freezer, and learn some of the things I might need for the job. I’d love to blog about it but none of it’s quite clear in my head.

      I have an old muffin recipe knocking about I might post, though … Meanwhile I will enjoy your wardrobe and Mendl’s vicariously!

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