I've been buying gadgets from Lakeland for many years. Their catalogue is one of the ones that I will actually spend time looking at before it hits the recycle bin, and I do like spending time in their shops looking at the gadgets that have taken my eye in the catalogue in "real life". So when small daughter, my husband's cousin and I went to Liverpool last Friday, I made sure that I steered us towards the Lakeland shop. I had some vouchers to spend (a Christmas gift, believe it or not!) and although I could have spent them on something useful for the house, I had spotted something in the catalogue that I wanted to take a closer look at. Something useful, certainly, but something for me. It felt very frivolous to be choosing something that I didn't necessarily need but did think that I wanted - but isn't that the joy of vouchers?
This is what I found:
It's a silicone bread maker.
I don't need another bread maker. I've got my Dad's which works very well for our Soup Night loaf. I've got my cake baker tin which cooks my sourdough loaves in the Aga. But I do like making bread and I'm a bit of a sucker for gadgets which help the process along and I was very taken by the look of this - although a little voice in my head told me that this was surely just a gimmick which looked great in theory but would never really work.
I picked it up, and put it down again. I looked at the display loaf and poked at it, wondering if it was real bread or not. I ummed and ahhed and said that I should probably buy Something More Sensible. Cousin Carol said that I should most definitely not, because vouchers aren't always meant for buying Sensible things. She picked up the bread maker and put in my basket.
Dear Reader, I handed over my vouchers and brought it home.
And this is what I did next. I followed the recipe in the little book to make no-knead bread. Oh, I love no-knead bread so much - it appeals to the lazy side of me perfectly! You weigh your ingredients directly in the bread maker, mix them up with a spoon and ta-dah ...
... your bread is all ready to be left to prove. All you have to do is close the flap, cover the whole thing with a tea towel and leave it for six to eight hours (I left mine overnight).
The next morning, the dough had risen and I put the bread maker straight into the oven to cook. No bowls or sticky hands to wash. Oh yes, this is my kind of bread!
The loaf that came out was a rather strange shape - like a torpedo or a boat, perhaps. Not your usual loaf shape at all.
Cousin Carol and I examined the loaf. It certainly smelled good, and despite the unusual shape it looked pretty bread-like.
"We'd better wait until it cools down before we cut it," we said.
We waited. For two whole minutes, and then we cut the loaf. The texture was perfect and once I'd turned it over so that the flat bottom sat firmly on the chopping board, it was also super-easy to slice.
"We'd better let it cool down before we try eating it," we said.
The butter melts so much better on straight-from-the-oven bread, don't you find?
I was quite amazed. Far from the bread maker being a gimmick which didn't work at all, this loaf was one of the nicest non-sourdough loaves that I had made for a while. And best of all - it tasted fabulous!
In the interests of research, we had to try a couple of slices. No scientist ever does just one experiment, do they? And then we had to toast some to see what that was like. And then we had to toast some more to try it thickly spread with marmalade. The result of our experiment was that it makes very good toast, and it's even better with marmalade. We started to run out of bread to do any more testing.
"We'd better make sure we save some for lunch," I said.
My husband helped himself to the final crust.
I'm very glad now that I didn't spend my vouchers on Something More Sensible instead. I've made several loaves since that first one and each of them has turned out as well as that one did. I'm going to try out the other recipes in the little book, and I'm going to see how my sourdough loaf cooks in the silicone mould.
Isn't it great when a purchase turns out to be so much better than you expected? It's almost enough to tempt me to go shopping more often!