|We'll always be together in electric dreams: the Panasonic SD-2501|
So David Cameron's got a breadmaker, and he never buys Value bread. We don't agree on much (although he's probably been eating at The French during the Tory conference, which I also like doing), but on this we are as one. Xanthe Clay and Dan Lepard, both of whom are great, appeared on PM to discuss Dave's bread. Dan pointed out that breadmakers are handy if you can't knead, while Xanthe was of the firm opinion that breadmaker bread is crap. Well, I've got a breadmaker, and I like it.
Our Panasonic SD-2501 was a wedding present and for a long time after it arrived, we didn't buy bread at all. Now it's the occasional ciabatta, because a breadmaker loaf is the wrong shape to be stuffed with a pork loin and some rosemary salt, draped in pancetta and baked. This is one machine that's never lived in a cupboard or even gathered dust; we use it three times a week, minimum.
I like the idea of making bread by hand, and when I was at Ballymaloe, I did a lot of it. I follow bloggers like Annalisa Barbieri and Rich of Them Apples, both of whom do it properly, out of love, and make the process seem extremely enticing. When I was in Sweden last week, I almost bought a Nordic banneton (just as pricey as the French ones, as far as I could see), for kicks. But - and here you may feel free to adopt the tones of my Lutonian forebears - I ain't got the toiiiiime. I need to be able to leave the kitchen for whole days. In the evening I am likely to be working rather than kneading. I do enough bloody washing up already. Getting meals made from scratch on the table is the priority. We've got a couple of decent bakers not far away, but I don't pass their doors as often as I pass the cupboard full of flour from Bunbury Mill, Little Salkeld or Walk Mill - which would be bedevilled with weevils if it was waiting for me to come along and turn it into handmade loaves.
I'm not pretending that the breadmaker's efforts would rival Poliane or even the bread at Abode, which is consistently the best in town. I know the difference between the fluffy white loaves with crackling crusts that have accelerated our butter, toast and sandwich consumption, and serious, proper, nerdy bread. But if it's a choice between the scent of vinegar and despair that rises from a bag of factory seeded batch and the smell of baking bread that floods through the house at 7am without me having to do anything taxing, I'll take the breadmaker.