Now I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too. There's a 'national' celebration for anyone and everything these days. National Cupcake Week and National Cherry Day (14-20th September and 16th July respectively, in case you were wondering) are all well and good, but the PR girl in me can't help seeing them for little more than the great big marketing campaign that they are. Sigh.
So why am I getting behind Real Bread Week? Quite simply, because the event exists solely to promote enthusiasm for real bread - bought from honest, independent retailers or, even better, baked yourself. Their website is dated, yes, but the ethos is parked exactly where it should be. They have so much wonderful advice for anyone looking to learn about the health benefits, cost benefits, or just happiness benefits of baking and eating real bread.
Bread-making has garnered a rather unfair reputation as being difficult, and beyond the capabilities of novice bakers. This is crazy far from the truth, which is that with a little reading of the basic science involved, everyone can make beautiful, pillowy loaves and rolls of their own.
To mark Real Bread Week, here is my recipe for milk dough and poppyseed bread. It tastes delicious, looks impressive and isn't nearly as tricky as you'd think. Give it a go or, if you don't have the time (which so many of us don't), stop by that bakery you've always admired but never been into. You won't regret it.
250g strong white flour
10g caster sugar
150ml full fat milk
5g fast action yeast
100g poppy seeds
zest 1 lemon
Weigh the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the salt and sugar to one side and the yeast to the other. Drop the butter into the middle, then warm the milk until it's just warm. Add the milk, then mix together with your fingers. Once the dough has picked up all the flour, tip onto an oiled surface and knead for 10-12 minutes. Place in a clean bowl, cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise in a warm place for around an hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it onto a clean, lightly oiled surface. Without knocking the air out, roll into a rectangle which is roughly 35x25cm.
Add all of the filling ingredients to a small pan, then gently bring to the boil over a medium heat. Remove the pan as soon as the seeds have absorbed the liquid. Spread this evenly over the dough, leaving a slight margin around the edge.
With the long-side facing you, roll the dough as tightly as you can. Now slice this in half longways, so you have two long sections of layered dough and filling. Wrap these around one another, seal then gently transfer to a 1kg loaf tin. Leave to prove for a second hour, until the bread has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Brush the risen bread with milk then bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and baked through.