The alternative to spending an outrageous sum for a 'proper' loaf of bread is, of course, to make your own. Having had a bash on a couple of occasions in the past, though, any bread I have made has been pretty brick-like - I suspect I haven't got the knack of kneading.
So I have a bread maker. This is a pretty good move, as you can chuck into the pan any permutation of bread flour, honey, malt, oil, butter, salt, seeds, bran etc etc and get a pretty respectable loaf.
But earlier this year, my godmother sent me some instructions on getting a sourdough starter going, and to make bread from it pretty much in perpetuity, all without commercial yeast. Intriguing!
I gave it a whirl last week, and spent a week with a jar full of flour and water paste which despite my skepticism, eventually when frothy and I had my starter ready to make bread.
Well, not quite - the starter has to be primed with more flour and water, and left for another 24 hours. And then you can make your bread. Brilliant!
My first go was categorically not a success. I used rye flour, which - if you think of how solid rye bread is - was always likely to be heavy going. A total failure, this went in the bin before it was even dough. My second go was more like it - I did half quantities and ended up with a perfectly edible loaf. Ha!
And this weekend, I've gone for the full thing. The starter was taken out of the fridge, part measured out and primed for 24 hours. Today I added flour and salt, kneaded the dough, let it rise (hours more), and tonight I have knocked the dough into shape and left it to rise AGAIN, and then into the oven.
I must say that it is utterly gorgeous, and I can see that the initial faff factor will soon become routine. But you do have to think ahead!
A success - eventually - and my week 48 Challenge is completed!