Baking badly for years and it's time to try learn doing it right
I’m a pretty decent cook, but my baking breads are always sub-par.
They’re usually dry and hard, or airy without any taste or character. I seem to follow recipes but it doesn’t turn out right. I realise that some things simply can’t be made properly without a woodfired oven (eg. pizza oven, tandoor), but surely some breads made at home can taste as good as a bakery. My idea of a good bread is one so nice when you taste it out of the oven that you can’t stop eating it even though it’s without any topping.
In Adelaide, Australia I find it hard to find a good bakery outside ethnic neighbourhoods, and I don’t have transport to get there. Most bakeries are large franchises making breads that lack the fresh taste you get from bread straight out of the oven. I think most Australians are unaware of what good bread is like because it’s not in our culture, eg. we don’t have outdoor tandoors at bus stops from where bread literally comes from the oven to your hand, or French laws governing bread standards, or cold Scandinavian winters where dark rye breads are made and eaten daily. Supermarket ‘square’ bread is the norm here, and even the ‘artisan bread’ of the major supermarkets is made in Ireland then shipped to Australia and baked months later, and it’s around $5 a piece!
I usually use generic ‘no frills’ plain flour, instant yeast, and tap water. I’ve purchased bread flour in the past but it made no difference. Sourdough starter has never even bubbled for me, and I think it’s because of the tap water (bottled water’s expensive here- nearly $1 a liter/$4 a gallon). Is it essential to buy fresh yeast and mineral water to make good bread?
If I owned a house the first thing I’d instal is a pizza oven. There I’d make Central Asian flat breads, Lebanese breads, pizzas, ciabatta, panna di casa, Naan and more. Until that time I’m stuck with an electric oven and so far, poor quality ‘bread’.