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