Monday, 10 August 2009

Heavenly Benediction

Oh my.

People, I have experienced the holy grail of breakfast. I'm not joking.

I had a birthday treat last weekend, and quite a treat it was. We went to the Wolseley for breakfast on Saturday morning and basked in the glory of it while we drank copious amounts of tea (honestly, the best tea I've ever tasted, hands down), and had a selection of mini pastries to share followed by Eggs Benedict.

Whoever Benedict is, I want to thank him.

I've never experienced a breakfast quite like it. Now, I've had eggs benedict before, but nothing compares to the tower of deliciousness that sat before me on Saturday morning. The doughy muffin lightly toasted topped with a generously sized and beautifully salty slice of ham which married so well with the creaminess of the hollandaise sauce, and the most perfect poached egg I've ever seen. Good thing we'd had the pastries really, otherwise when my tower arrived I probably would have scoffed it down in an instant. As it was, my appetite had been curbed slightly by the support act, and I took my time over the headliner.

AA Gill has written a book on The Wolseley which I am in the process of tracking down now that I have experienced the place. Before we went there were copies of it everywhere, now that I want to find the thing and buy it so that I can pour over it and dream of more perfect breakfasts, it's nowhere to be found!! It's a beautiful book that is filled with the history of the restaurant as well as recipes, and as soon as I happen across it, I'm grabbing it and running to the till!!

I left wanting to recreate the magic, but decided that it would take many many many attempts before I even came close to producing something as exceptional as what we'd eaten there, so I restrained, and decided to bake bread instead, an eternally rewarding and satisfying experience.

I love to bake bread, I love the long process which requires patience from the baker, which makes the ultimate loaf so much more rewarding - you've been waiting for hours from when you started baking to when you can break into the hard crust and reveal the soft interior, then spread on some butter which melts on the fresh, warm dough. It's the ultimate in comfort food for me. Fresh bread with butter and jam and a cup of tea, it doesn't get much better than that.

Here's the simple white bread recipe I use:

500g bread flour
300-350ml tepid water
1 packet yeast (dried)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tblsp olive oil
flour for dusting

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl.
Make a well in the flour mix and add the water and oil gradually.
Stir with a fork until it comes together enough to be able to knead.
Knead for 10-15 minutes.
Leave to rest in a floured bowl with a warm damp cloth over the top for 90 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Beat back (give it a good couple of punches to knock the air out) then knead into a ball and leave to rest for a further 30 minutes.
Shape into a loaf tin, or if you don't have one, into a ball on a baking tray, and spray with a little water (this helps give the bread a crispier crust).
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

To check if it's done, tap the bottom with your knuckles, if it sounds hollow, it's done.

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