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Another post linking with Essex Hebridean’s series of Frugal Friday’s.  

Artisan bread seems to be all the rage these days doesn’t it. The upsurge in popularity of artisan bread has meant a renewed interest in small flour mills. 

The Domesday book listed nearly 16,000 mills in 1086 but by 1931 there were just 200 mills left in Britain and by the 1960s there were just 10. (source Independent news article)

Recently I have noticed lots of articles about artisan bread, baking, cookies and other goodies. I am rather amused because I grew up with a Nan and a Mum who loved to bake. My Mum couldn’t cook a meal but blimey she made the best lemon meringues in the world. Baking isn’t something new but I do think it is a bit of a lost art form, rather like knitting I guess. It became the thing not to do when I was younger. I guess that womens lib has a lot to answer for. Renewed interest in all things traditional is seeing a resurgence of mills, we have a few in Wales now. I have also noticed that there is a new wool shop on the high street. Maybe I will try my hand at knitting again soon. 

I have long enjoyed baking my own bread. I find it extremely therapeutic. I love the fact that I can make the bread fresh in the morning and enjoy it with a homemade soup for lunch. I admit that I don’t always buy local as, in all honesty the flour is quite expensive. However if I am passing the Felin Ganol Watermill or I am at a food fair where they have a stall I will buy their flour. It really does make a difference to the bread and tastes so lovely. 

This week I have been using Felin Ganol’s wholemeal wheat flour. At £9.10 for 6 kilos (this the price from a local shop rather than the mill itself as I haven’t passed for a while)  I can make 12 good sized loaves. Adding in the Doves Farm yeast at £1.13 for 125g , sugar and salt at only 2 and 1 tablespoons respectively brings a loaf in at under 90p. I dont use oil or butter in my basic dough. I think that is quite reasonable for an artisan bread similar to those selling on the farmers market at £2.50 each. Remember that this is me using all organic and locally milled flour so these are very special loaves. Again that price is for a basic bread dough. If I want to make it even more artisan I can add any number of ingredients as desired and depending on what ingredients I actually have in which will obviously push the price up. 

If I am really economising then I use flour from the value range in the local supermarket. I can buy a bag of bread flour for as little as 89p for 2kilos when it is on offer. That means that I can make a loaf for as little as 40p. And it still tastes better than the supermarket. 

I am a recipe book aholic. I have lots and lots. This is my favourite bread book at the moment. There are so many recipes from around the world for me to try that I never get bored of bread. 

I also own a bread machine, I struggle with it for some reason. My bread never comes out tasting as nice as handmade. I also worry about the amount of fat needed by the recipe. In fact I would go so far as to say that my bread from a machine is often a disaster. My partner, however makes fantastic bread in the machine but struggles to get a good loaf when doing it by hand. Somehow we recently managed to lose our paddle from the bread machine. I would, in my less conscious days, have probably gone out and bought a whole new machine but these days I am much more aware of what I am spending my money on so off I went to the internet and discovered E-spares website where I could buy a new paddle which cost me just £5.74 including postage. Bread machines are great because if I am short on time or I have forgotten to make a dough then I can throw the ingredients into the machine before bedtime and wake to a kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. 

I do accept that bread can be bought very cheaply in supermarkets. When I lived in a large industrial town, was a lone parent to two dogs and a parrot and lived on a very small wage I admit to being the one that was in the local supermarket at 7.55 on a Wednesday evening stalking the man with the price gun and then stocking up on the 10p reduction loaves. Hey, I had a parrot and two dogs to feed so spending money on bread or the gas to bake my own was low down on my list in those days. The problem, for me, with shop bought bread is that it tastes as plastic as the wrapper it comes in. I am also concerned by the number of additives that go into it to keep it fresh. 

 This blog post isn’t meant to make people feel that they should be baking their own bread. I realise that it isnt for everybody but I do recommend it for more reasons than just a frugal point of view. It is more a chance to promote how satisfying and rewarding it is to make my own bread. Not only from the point of view of saving money (which I do) but also from the point of view of creating my very own “artisan” bread. Who needs posh bakeries that charge the earth when I can make my own bread, rolls, pizza base, flat breads, pitta breads and on and on. As for the excuse of having no time? Well, as I said, the bread machine is a chuck it in, switch on the button and leave to do its thing, effort. Time needed, 5 minutes maximum. 

I have searched in vain for a photo of one of my loaves. I think that I must have been too hasty in eating them. Maybe next time.