Wednesday, 22 February 2012
I have a confession to make: I hardly ever bake bread. This is strange, perhaps, for someone who enjoys baking as much as I do. But even though I don't have a very sweet tooth, I've always found cakes and biscuits more fun to experiment with.
But when my dad came to visit at Christmas, he introduced me to the idea of bread mixes. It feels like cheating, and I was very reluctant at first, but he persuaded me to have a go. I was really pleasantly surprised by how fresh and delicious the resulting breads were. My favourite was the ciabatta mix, which makes two loaves or (my preference) 10 really nice rolls.
Despite my purely emotional resistance to the idea of baking from a packet mix, this is actually significantly less cheating than what I usually do, which is just to buy a loaf of bread from the supermarket when I need one.
I thought it might be fun to compare the cost, time, and effort involved in the two methods of acquiring bread. These comparisons are based on the assumption that we need to go and buy bread outside of our regular grocery shopping, requiring a separate trip, which is quite often how it works out.
A loaf of ciabatta at the nearest supermarket costs £1.14, plus there's also the cost of petrol (we're a couple of miles away). Compared to this, a packet of ciabatta bread mix is 75p, plus electricity to heat the oven. The ciabatta mix makes a larger quantity of bread than a single loaf, almost twice as much.
Driving to the shop, buying a loaf of bread, and driving back again takes about 25-30 minutes depending on queues. Making up the bread mix only takes about five minutes, but then there's 35 minutes of rising time, and 15 minutes of baking (for rolls) - giving a total of about an hour before the bread is ready to eat.
Going out, the whole time is spent driving or shopping. By contrast, the actual work involved in making up this bread mix is about ten minutes - mixing, kneading, and moving the bread in and out of the oven. While the bread is rising and baking, I can put my feet up with a good book.
In conclusion, we can get bread a little quicker by driving to the shop, but baking it myself results in a much fresher, tastier loaf. It's also cheaper, and takes less actual work. I've swallowed my anti-packet pride, and have now taken to keeping a few packets of this mix in the cupboard for when I need them.