A Better Loaf

Monday, 1st May, 2023

I make bread several times a week, alternating between white and brown. My sourdough starter dates from 2009, and if I don’t keep making bread, it will die. The same principle goes for yoghurt, but my yoghurt starters tend to last a couple of years before gradually weakening and needing to be replaced. This year, because of high electricity prices, I have been experimenting with more economical ways of baking bread. To switch on the big oven for 50 minutes just to bake a single loaf seems very extravagant. So I’ve been using my mini-oven. Unfortunately, this doesn’t result in as good a loaf as baking it in the big oven. The top of the loaf gets overcooked and the rest of it dries out too much before being cooked through. Baking it at a lower temperature for longer does not work. In search of a solution, I stumbled on this lidded ceramic  bread pan from the French brand Emile Henry. Reviews were mixed and it’s an expensive product, but I decided to order it anyway and try it out. The results far exceeded my expectations. That lid, with its all-important holes, is what produces the magic. It traps just enough moisture inside the receptacle to produce a good rise and prevent dehydration, but not so much that the loaf would come out soggy. I now have the most perfect loaves I could possibly wish for, cooked in my mini-oven. I wish I’d discovered this wonderful earthenware bread baker earlier. My lidless metal loaf tins will now all go to recycling.