Fanny is angry. She's fizzing. It's the state of the nations bread that's got to her this time. Raging. She is 'heartily sick' of the National Loaf which spends weeks hidden in a mystery deep freeze before it makes its way to the bakers shelves. These loaves are depressing Fanny, not only in how they look (which is of prime importance to Mrs Cradock) but also in how they taste. According to Fanny, they taste like inner soles or damp flannels. Neither sound too pleasant, not that I've tried them you understand. Fanny blames the commercial production of bread which is pumped full of water to bloat its weight and fool the housewife. But Fanny is not fooled, and is on a mission to urge us all, housewife or not, to refuse to eat the stuff by encouraging already busy women to find some time somewhere to make their own crusty loaves which are a delight to eat and better for us. Phew.
It all sounds so 'today' doesn't it? A campaign for now. To get us all started Fanny suggests a simple White Loaf, but she has a few golden rules to remember first. Always use the correct flour - Strong White. Fanny reckons we would be 'twitching with frustration' and cross with her (as if) if we tried to use her beloved 'ordinary domestic self raising flour' for bread. These days bread flour is fairly easy to find - just pop into any ordinary domestic supermarket. Back in the early 70's though Fanny had to be more wily. She would put on her 'most helpless' female expression and trot into her local bakers to wistfully persuade him to sell her some. It seemed to work for Fanny. I'm sure the local baker made some equally strange expressions when Fanny rocked up.
While Fanny is in the bakers, she works her charms to get him to also sell her some natural Bakers Yeast, which she prefers. I do too. I love baking bread. I have used dried yeast in the past, and still do when I can't get the fresh stuff, but I've become quite adept at tracking down the local 'dealers'. I'm fortunate that my local deli Valvona and Crolla sell the freshest, yummiest yeast ever, so no need for me to practice my helpless expressions just yet.
Fannys best advice for bread making is to keep everything warm. Warm up the kitchen. Warm up your bowls. Warm your tea towels. If in doubt, warm it. For the basic white bread, Fanny uses a technique I've never used before, which I'm finding is not unusual. She mixes her yeast with a fair amount of sugar until it liquifies and adds it to half the flour. She then adds (warm) milk and water (half and half), stirring it to a thick paste before adding salt. A lot of salt. It's like wallpaper paste at this stage. Fanny leaves it in a warm spot, covered of course to keep it warm, for 20 minutes or so.
It's looking quite bubbly by this stage, Fanny adds the other half of the flour and mixes it well. Then the kneading can commence! Fanny says to be firm on yourself and never scrimp on kneading time - 10 minutes is a minimum. However, worry not, as this very energetic job is simply 'marvellous for the figure'. Which no doubt helps when flirting with the local baker to 'score' some flour. Not requiring this, I use Sarah, my trustee assistant to knead it until smooth. It wouldn't be Fanny if it wasn't baked in an unusual tin though - Fanny uses a Savarin Mould, I reach for my faux-Bundt. Fanny pops it in the mould and leaves it to prove for an hour or so until it's doubled in size. Then, bake! After 10 minutes in a hot oven Fanny brushes it with an egg wash and pops it back in. The finished loaf has a lovely dark, shiny crust as a result. Fannys' loaf is great actually, light and tasty, and easy enough to rustle up. The only effort seems to be in making eyes at the local baker. Don't make Fanny angry though, switch from your flannel-tastic supermarket loaf while you can! If you don't she'll make one of her less feminine expressions in your direction. Don't say I didn't warn you.