I had another go at making bread yesterday. I didn't like the bread making experiment to end on a note of failure. That is how you come to believe that things are impossibly difficult. Besides, there wasn't a lot else to do, and it would have been nice to have some bread.
I changed several variables at once, which was not experimentally perfect. In a perfect world I'd have only changed one variable, or rather drawn up a latin square and tested every combination of them, but I only had one bag of flour, one loaf tin, and one morning to fill. I warmed the flour more thoroughly than I had the first time round, in case it had been too cold coming out of a very chilly kitchen cupboard, and I doubled up on the quantity of dried yeast. The resulting dough felt lively at first, didn't rise as convincingly as I remember bread rising in the first proving, and definitely didn't reach the level of the top of the tin in the second. I didn't bother extending the proving time hours beyond what the book said and what I have given it in the past, since I tried that last time and it didn't help.
The resulting loaf was edible but dense. I had some toasted for breakfast with honey, and it was hearty. Just the thing for cold weather, really. You wouldn't be in any doubt that you'd had breakfast after eating a couple of slices. We had some more toasted with Heinz tomato soup for lunch, and the Systems Administrator said kindly that if he'd been given it in a restaurant and told it was artisanal Danish smnorrbrod he'd have thought it was fine. Actually, it tasted OK, but it was about twice as solid as an Elizabeth David basic loaf is supposed to be.
We now have competing bread failure hypotheses. The SA is strongly of the opinion that I should buy some new yeast, while I am becoming suspicious about the flour, which was from a supermarket basics range and perhaps not as strong as bread making flour needs to be. I will probably try again with new yeast and a different brand of flour, since my competitive instincts are now aroused. It is not rocket science. I refuse to be defeated by a loaf of bread.
The drifts in the lane were still large and filthier than ever after breakfast, the top six inches of snow slushy and stained brown by the earth blown off the field. Underneath the melting top layer the rest of the drift was still crisp, white, and completely solid. We both had a go shovelling snow from the tops of the drifts on to the verges and the shallow areas where snow had not drifted and the thaw had already revealed the tarmac. The SA confirmed that heavy rain was still forecast for later, and promised to go and spread the drifts around some when it came to speed the melting.
Going back after lunch to see how the drifts were doing I found they had gone. Heavy tyre tracks in the slush and great slabs of snow on the side of the lane confirmed that some kind person from the farm must have taken pity on us and gone up the lane on a tractor with a bulldozer blade. The SA inspected the tyre marks and said that they had been made by a small tractor, not one of the farm's big John Deeres, and that it must have been our neighbour's son. He has a little Ferguson he uses for cutting their grass, only we didn't know he had a bulldozer blade. It was very kind of them, whoever it was. There were still patches of compacted ice six inches thick in patches, but the rain would get rid of them given another hour or two. Or perhaps overnight. I have been more optimistic than the SA about how quickly the drifts would disappear, and so far the SA has been closer to the mark than me.