Bread and off-topic ranting…

Grr. Or even GRRRRR.

I’ve been really busy with work – which is good when you’re a freelancer – and I haven’t had time to do things I normally would. Things like researching a historical post for here, weeding the garden and chasing Next Door’s Cat away from the bird table (she’s sitting on it as I type, pretending to be invisible).

Or baking bread.

I bake all my bread. I’m not a paragon of right-on virtue, I do not knit my own yoghurt, drive a 2CV, or chant anything. I stay away from tie-dyes by and large and do not own an old copy of The Whole Earth Catalog. I’m no hippie. But I am a foodie.

I bake bread because I once read the ingredients on a loaf of shop-bought, tightly packaged bread and decided I would rather do without. I mentioned this to a very good friend (he sadly died this year, far too young), and he said ‘bake your own, then’. I explained I was crap at breadmaking, made a very good brick but a lousy loaf, and he said – in those irritating, reasonable, slightly incredulous tones which always induce fury in me when employed by a bloke, any bloke, and which are usually deliberately adopted to achieve just that effect – that he baked all their bread, had done for years and that it was easy. A challenge if ever there was one.

I did it. I got the hang of basic wholemeal, basic white, rolls and loaves. I moved on to baguettes, flavoured breads and found my true love, sourdoughs. And specifically pain de campagne. I think I must be chanelling my grandmother.

I love pain de campagne. I love the flavour of it, the texture, the way it makes wonderful bruschetta and goes so well with oeufs sur plat, a.k.a fried eggs. I remember huge loaves of it in rural France and surprisingly in Parisian markets, loaves where you’d buy a half or a quarter rather than the whole thing (I specifically remember one which seemed to be almost as big as me; I may have been about four at the time). Now mine are smaller but they are raised in proper bannetons in true Froggie fashion, after I discovered that you can buy bannetons quite easily – in supermarkets – in France. They are made with a proper starter and proved over a long time; they take a day to rise the two times that are needed.

And that’s why I haven’t had time to make any.

I always bake several and freeze them, and I discovered to my horror that I’d eaten the freezer during this busy period. So there I was in Tesco, by the bakery, and I saw it – pain de campagne, it said on the label. It wasn’t large, and it didn’t look quite like it should, but I knew Tesco had been trying to ‘improve their bread offer’ and I thought they might have done it. After all, French supermarkets sell an acceptable pain de campagne, so maybe Tesco had cracked it.


What I have bought looks vaguely like a pain de campagne on the outside. Inside, it’s pap. Actually, I’m not sure it’s even that good. Bland, soft white bread that squeezes down to nothing, sticks your teeth together, gives off huge amounts of moisture when you toast it and which tastes of diddley-squat when you eat it, but which has a rather strange after-taste. Don’t get me wrong – white bread like this (well, not quite like this) has its uses: bacon sandwiches, for instance, especially from a proper caff or greasy spoon, are just perfect on soft white bread.

But that doesn’t pretend to be what it isn’t. This loaf does. Grrrrrrr. I just hope people don’t assume that it’s pain de campagne. It’s pain de Tesco, and that’s all. To get back on topic, briefly, it’s like a squeaky acrylic yarn masquerading as 100% wool.

Time to get out those raw materials. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I’ve got the dough out of my fingernails!


12 thoughts on “Bread and off-topic ranting…

  1. Lydia

    I am in awe of your breadmaking skills! I tried making sourdough after going to a class on a hot hot hot day in Perth over 35oC. The yeast and the dough melded into a concrete block and my fingers glued together!. Perhaps I will have another go after reading about your yummy bread. Of course, you are so right about the ingredients in shop bought bread as with so many foods that we buy there are lots of very bad not very good for us things lurking…

    1. kate Post author

      Don’t be – it’s just practice (OK, and being irritated by men – a particular man who knew me too well – and having something to prove)…

      Your sourdough experinece sounds very similar to my first one too, but I persisted and worked through the grouting stage. Do have another go, it’s worth it, I promise! At those temperatures it will really go; sometimes mine takes overnight to rise in winter. Brrr.

    1. kate Post author

      I haven’t made soda bread in ages, thank you for reminding me!

      (Our local dairy – run out of a little cottage lean-to like something from 1950s Ireland – recently closed and that was the only place I could get buttermilk. Daresay I could use yoghurt instead… hmmm….)

      1. MariaE

        try leaving some milk to go off, the more lumpy and disgusting looking the better tasting soda bread it makes. Perfect with salted butter and home-made blackcurrant jam, just like my Irish granny used to make. Mmmm

        1. kate Post author

          Now there’s a thought (even if a slightly revolting one, and I’ve just chucked some milk which had gone off, rats). I shall go for it and cite you in my defence!

  2. jim champion

    I am a bake my own bread person of several years standing. bought a one of these Tesco pain de campagne today. You describe it very accurately. I’m going to get my starter out of the fridge and apologise to it.

    1. kate Post author

      I went mad and for some reason bought another recently. It’s still shit… does the Trades Descriptions Act still exist???

      1. Jim Champion

        I ate the rest of it in my lunch sandwiches today. The bread was a total non-event, at least it gave my chutney something to sit on.

        1. kate Post author

          You were brave. I threw mine out for the birds who – wisely – seem to have ignored it. Even the jackdaws!

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