what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

sourdough baking results

This week I have had two attempts at using the sourdough starter.

The starter looks much like this now:

So I tried a ‘recipe’ from Knead to Know, which was basically mixing some starter with water, leaving it for a while, then adding rye flour and salt and putting it all in a tin. And the result was as might be expected, a mesopotamian mud brick!

 It doesn’t taste too bad, but it is rather solid.

Rather more success was had with a Dan Lepard recipe – some wholemeal flour, white flour, water and salt, kneading lightly, leaving for a couple of hours, shaping, proving and then baking.

And inside it looks like this

The crust is rather chewy, but the texture is good and tasty.

Sunday baking loaves and buns and cookies

Here’s what I have been doing this afternoon – starting with two loaves for Monday and Tuesday’s breakfasts and lunches. This is based on Dan Lepard’s wholemeal loaf, but with some white flour to lighten the loaf. The ingredients are: water, yeast, sugar, salt, wholemeal and white flours, and some sunflower oil.

While I was doing that I also made Dan’s hot cross buns  from this week’s Guardian magazine. I made 15 rather than the advertised 12, and didn’t put the crosses on. Very yummy!

And after that I put in a batch of Hairy Biker’s Norwegian cardamom and lemon cookies. Only the final result for them, you can watch how to do it on the BBC website.

Norwegian cardamom and lemon cookies

sourdough end of day 4

It seems to be progressing OK with lots of tiny holes in it. This looks very like the first signs of fermentation as described in the River Cottage Handbook number 3 bread. So I’ve scraped it up and fed it again and left it for another day.


So far I’ve used dried packet quick yeasts but things have gone a lot better since I started using fresh bakers’ yeast from Sainsbury’s. I buy 200g at a time from the in-store bakery and then divide it into teaspoon sized bits that weigh about 7g each and then I freeze them in a plastic tub. This quantity has lasted me about 3 or 4 weeks a time so far. One counter assistant was a bit more generous and I got 280g which lasted me a bit longer.  I have started reading the River Cottage Handbook 3 for bread and it says that yeast shouldn’t be frozen because it dies more often than it lives. I can’t say I have had any problems with keeping these tiny pieces for a few weeks so maybe there’s a limit to when they should be used.

Anyway, when I make bread I pop the required number of teaspoon pieces into the warm water or other liquid and let it melt and mix it in before adding anything else. It’s also possible to cut these small pieces with a sharp knife if a recipe only needs half a teaspoon of yeast. Dan Lepard says that one teaspoon of fresh yeast is the same as one teaspoon of dried yeast, so his recipes are really easy to convert.

Here’s a picture of what this looks like:

sourdough end of day 3

 There were teeny tiny bubbles visible on the surface this evening. And it smelled kind of sweetish.

Some tiny bubbles were visible on the surface

After feeding it looked like this.

So it’s back in the box and we’ll see how it is again tomorrow.


sourdough starter for 10

The apogee of breadmaking is thought by many to be sourdough bread. This is naturally leavened without the use of bakery yeast or other starters and is made using a starter that contains mostly just flour and water and uses the natural yeasts from the air and flour to start fermentation.

Here are some pictures of my sourdough starter during its first few days. It is stoneground rye flour and water, that’s all. I keep it in a plastic tub on the worksurface in my kitchen. My kitchen isn’t very warm so I’m hoping for some warm spring weather to get it going a bit.

Day 1 just starting

Day 2 before adding extra flour

Day 2 with extra flour

Day 3 steamed up lid

 I wonder if this is a good sign!

Day 3 inside morning

I’ll be adding more flour and water this evening.


The Real Bread Campaign has a definition of real bread that includes what is and what is not included.

These are the principles that I aim to follow with my baking. I got tired of 50:50 and other pappy shop-bought long-life loaves that cost a fortune. Baking, even with supermarket ingredients is cheaper and tastes better. On this site I’ll try to list all the things I put in my baking and refer to the sources of inspiration and recipes I’ve used.

Currently I source my ingredients from the major supermarkets near where I live, so the choice is usually Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, or the Co-op, with occasional forays off-piste into ASDA or Morrison’s, Lidl or Aldi. Dan Lepard says it’s OK to use supermarket flours as the basis for loaves so that’s cool with me, although I have been trying some of the less common flours as part of a loaf.

So, as the RBC says, everyone will have his or her own idea of what constitutes real bread. The Campaign believes that the only essential ingredients of bread are:

  • Flour
  • Water 
  • Yeast – cultured or naturally occurring (as in sourdough), though some flatbreads don’t even need yeast
  • Salt

Additional ingredients are great as long as they are natural (e.g. seeds, nuts, cheese, herbs, oils, fats and dried fruits) and contain no artificial additives.

If you add anything but salt to butter, you have to call it something else; if you add anything at all to milk, it’s no longer milk.  So why does similar legal protection not apply to that other staple food: bread?

The making of what we call Real Bread does not involve the use of any processing aids, artificial additives, flour ‘improvers’, dough conditioners, preservatives, chemical leavening or, well, artificial anything.

Which is more than can be said for many of the products out there that are marketed as bread.

E481 (sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate), E472e (mono- and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids), E920 (l-cysteine), E282 (calcium propionate), E220 (potassium sorbate), E300 (ascorbic acid), E260 (acetic acid) soya flour, vegetable fat and dextrose are just some of the other things that you might find in an industrial loaf.

What’s more, its production also could have substances including phospholipase, fungal alpha amylase, transglutaminase, xylanase, maltogenic amylase, hemicellulase, oxidase, peptidase and protease but legally, the manufacturer wouldn’t have to declare so on the label. 

This could apply to a wrapped/sliced factory loaf or one from a supermarket in-store bakery. The latter does not even have to have an ingredients label to help you make an informed choice.

multigrain and honey loaf

For a first time effort, that didn’t go too badly, however, inside at the bottom was slightly undercooked. I used a silicone loaf ‘tin’ and I don’t think that they transmit the heat as well as metal ones, so next time I’ll try it in a metal tin and see if there’s a difference. Another option might be to take it out of the tin for the last 5 or 10 minutes.

But it makes fab toast!

What? bread?

My first blog entry is about some bread I made today. I’ve been exploring the ideas of the Real Bread Campaign for a while now and getting quite good at using recipes by the fabulous Dan Lepard.

Today I made two loaves of 60:40 wholemeal:white and one  multigrain and honey loaf.

The 60:40 is something I make regularly from Dan Lepard’s book “Short and Sweet“.   

The loaf contains water, flour, fresh yeast, salt, brown sugar, sunflower oil and to give it some whoosh a vitamin C tablet. I double up the quantities and make two of these at a time. Everything goes in the bowl together and it couldn’t be easier.

The multigrain and honey loaf is another of Dan’s recipes. This one uses the sponge method. In the morning I mixed up the water, some white flour and the yeast and left it to start fermenting while I went to work. In another bowl I mixed what Dan calls the porridge – some oats, honey, linseed seeds, sunflower seeds and water. When I wanted to start making the bread all I had to do was to rub some butter into some flour, both plain and wholemeal, add some salt and then mix in the sponge and the porridge.

Dan’s recipes use a method that doesn’t involve heavy kneading, just gentle folding and resting at intervals. And the results seem to turn out OK. Here’s some of the 60:40.

I have started a sourdough starter using rye flour and water and hope to have some results to show for it soon.

Post Navigation