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Simple pleasures of fresh bread

MY DAUGHTER is obsessed with watching the television. It’s an awful confession for a parent to make.

Murray Rhind and sponge white bread

MY DAUGHTER is obsessed with watching the television. It’s an awful confession for a parent to make. But she’s not addicted to the endless round of cartoons, US imports and madcap drama and comedy shows that seem to make up children’s TV these days.

No, Daniella is fixated with cookery programmes. There’s no greater fan of the Great British Bake Off than Daniella.

Our kitchen at home has been turned into a cupcake production line. There’s far more being turned out by Daniella than the Kennedy clan can healthily eat (although we’ve been giving it a good try).

It’s just as well. Because Daniella seems to be a chip off the old fatherly block and has started selling her foodie wares. Just the other day she made £22 – not bad for a 12-year-old.

So good are her cupcakes, that I have pledged to stock them in the new farm shop I’m opening at Vallum just off the A69 in Northumberland.

She isn’t going to make her fortune, but hopefully enough to buy me a generous Christmas gift!

I’m a harsh food critic and my wife will tell you that at home I have a tendency to hog the kitchen like my life depended on it and am not too keen on sharing the family cooking responsibilities.

But I must have been doing something right all these years, as Daniella has already set her heart on a culinary career and dreams of one day owning her own bakery.

Cupcakes aren’t the only string to her bow. She is also proving a dab hand at bread and dreams of being a master baker.

I don’t know many 12-year-olds who would have either the confidence or the patience to make their own bread.

I wish more did. But that’s another story.

My conscience won’t let me take credit for the bread baking mania, however. Daniella has been inspired by the latest addition to the David Kennedy team – Murray Rhind.

He is best known for founding the Café Royal bakery in Newcastle more than a decade ago. Now he is heading up the bakery side here at Food Social.

His hand-crafted creations are on the menu both here in Newcastle and down at David Kennedy’s River Café on North Shields’ Fish Quay, and will soon be available to buy over the counter at Vallum.

His route to bread and patisserie perfection has been somewhat unusual – he fell into it during a 26-year career in the Army Catering Corps.

It seems no one else wanted the task of baking bread and sweet treats for thousands of hungry squaddies.

But he has a natural affinity with all things bready and since leaving the Army he has worked alongside the likes of award-winning baker Dan Lepard.

His mission is to wean people off mass produced and on to good bread made honestly using age-old skills.

The loaves he is producing in the Food Social kitchen are bold with a complex flavour, and far removed from the rubbery and doughy examples packed full of E-numbers and chemical enhancers we’ve been fed for decades by the big commercial bakers.

A slice of Murray’s bread with butter and a hunk of local cheese, and I’m a happy man.

Murray is producing such wonderful combinations as walnut, sour dough, rye, rosemary and sultana, brioche (both individual and loaves), classic Italian focaccia, black pudding, white farmhouse and pain de mais.

He is also helping develop a new line of pies for us, makes the most wonderfully light puff pastry and has brought a new zing to our desserts with his lemon cheesecake.

Baking is a dying art, but it’s a skill and knowledge Murray is only too willing to pass on – great news for our young chefs and kids like Daniella who often lack real-life, down-to-earth foodie role models.

And if people’s appetite for ‘real’ bread continues to grow, hopefully Daniella and other young culinary connoisseurs who might want to rise to the bakery challenge will find there is dough to be made from ‘the staff of life’.

David Kennedy is chef-proprietor of David Kennedy’s Food Social @ The Biscuit Factory, 16 Stoddart Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle, NE2 1AN, 0191 260 5411, www.foodsocial.co.uk.

SPONGE WHITE RECIPE >>>

(Makes two 950g loaves or four 450g loaves)

This is one of Murray Rhind's recipes. It uses a 'sponge' that is left overnight, has bags of flavour, a good texture and a crust you will pay dearly for the privilege of getting on the high street.

250g strong white flour

125g water

2.5g or 1tsp fresh yeast

Mix the ingredients to a smooth dough and place in a covered container. Leave for 12-15 hours at room temperature.

Next day make the dough.

DOUGH

1kg flour

485g lukewarm water (weigh out the water as with the other ingredients)

30g yeast

25g salt

15g shortening

All of the sponge

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.

Sieve the flour on to a clean table or bench and rub in the shortening and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast. Pour the water over the yeast to make a smooth liquid and gradually start mixing the flour into the centre followed by the sponge.

With your fingers spread-eagled lift the rest of the flour through the mixture on the bench (kneading) until you have a smooth elastic dough. This will take approximately 10 minutes.

Weigh out the dough, let it rest for 10 minutes and then mould into rounds, ovals or small buns. Place on to trays which have been dusted with flour.

Cover loosely with a plastic bag and prove until the dough is nearly double the size.

Once proved slash each loaf or the rolls with a serrated knife. Place in the oven. Spray water on the bottom of the oven.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. To check if they are cooked, tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow it is baked. Cool on wire racks.

His mission is to wean people off mass produced and on to good bread made honestly using age-old skills

 

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