Love your loaf is baker’s win­ning recipe

DAILY GRIND There’s noth­ing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread. Food tu­tor and bread baker Michelle Steel talks to re­porter Jess Lee about why she’s stepped back in­side the kitchen af­ter ditch­ing her chef whites long ago.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

The se­cret to a good loaf of bread is love. That, and a head for sci­ence, Michelle Steel says.

‘‘Bak­ing bread is a fine art. You can ac­tu­ally taste the dif­fer­ence in some­body’s food when they’ve made some­thing they are pas­sion­ate about.’’

The Ep­som baker started blog­ging about her re­turn to the kitchen a year ago be­fore she de­cided to pass her en­thu­si­asm for baked goods on with her Greedy­bread web­site and pri­vate cook­ing lessons.

‘‘It’s nice to see peo­ple come through, that aren’t re­ally in­ter­ested, be­com­ing com­pletely in­volved.

‘‘You’re just ba­si­cally tak­ing flour and sugar and mak­ing some­thing. Bak­ing is a sci­ence – if the bread doesn’t rise prop­erly there’s a rea­son.’’ And any­one can bake, she says. ‘‘You don’t need a level of skill but it’s like any­thing, you have to re­ally like it.’’

Ms Steel was a pro­fes­sional chef but, be­cause of the stress and long hours, she gave it up when her three sons were born. She now sells her bak­ing and teaches bud­ding chefs what­ever culi­nary skills they lack. But she has no de­sire to set up shop in a bak­ery.

‘‘I do it be­cause I en­joy it. I make what I want in the quan­ti­ties I want. If I had to make it ev­ery day that would be a dif­fer­ent story.’’

To be­come a good baker the first things to un­der­stand are the vi­tal dif­fer­ences be­tween types of flour and the care­ful bal­ance of sugar and salt to mix with yeast, she says.

It’s no sur­prise the tech­niques ap­peal to Ms Steel who holds a post­grad­u­ate diploma in sci­ence.

Her grand­fa­ther was an army chef but a flair in the kitchen doesn’t run in the fam­ily, she says.

‘‘I can still re­mem­ber the dis­gust­ing things he used to cook so I don’t think that had any­thing to do with it.’’

While many bak­ers lean to­wards sweet treats, it’s savoury foods that get her cre­ative juices flow­ing.

‘‘I don’t get that same joy out of cook­ing a cake as I do mak­ing bread.

‘‘Prob­a­bly be­cause I don’t en­joy eat­ing cake as much. I ap­pre­ci­ate it when some­body’s done some amaz­ing work but then I recog­nise I can’t do it to that level.’’

Ic­ing cakes also takes a lot of pa­tience, some­thing Ms Steel ad­mits she has a short sup­ply of.

‘‘I just re­ally, re­ally like bread. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see what it does. You can be knead­ing it for 20 min­utes and that’s what’s great about it be­cause it bounces back.’’

Just like Ms Steel.

Photo: JESS LEE

Daily bread: Michelle Steel is teach­ing bud­ding bak­ers the art and sci­ence be­hind bak­ing the per­fect loaf of bread.

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