what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Salt in bread

Since I posted about making Paul Hollywood’s bloomer last week and pointed out that the salt content was a bit higher than recommended by the Campaign for Real Bread I’ve had quite a few hits by people looking for information about the salt content of that loaf and of bread in general. So just a quick post to summarise what I said and the advice you can find about salt in bread.

The basic Paul Hollywood bloomer has 10g of salt to 500g white flour, and that’s twice the amount recommended by the Real Bread Campaign for home bakers to use. They are following the advice of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health where you can find some quite startling facts about the effect of salt on health, specifically the evidence which links high levels of dietary salt with high blood pressure, which in turn can affect the chances of an individual having a stroke or heart attack, or contributing to the worsening of symptoms in a whole range of other things. So, salt is generally bad for you. The recommended daily maximum amount of salt in the diet of an adult is 6g. Most people have more than this, currently over 8g per day, and one of the major contributors has been found to be bread, which most people eat quite a lot of these days. Bread has accounted for 18% of salt in the diet, and is therefore an easy target for reduction. There have been successes in getting industrial bread producers to reduce the amount of salt in their baking, and most supermarket loaves have reduced it. However, some craft and other bakers still seem to think they are immune from the requirement to get their salt down, which is where the Campaign for Real Bread has stepped in.

I usually follow the advice of the campaign and use approximately one teaspoon per large loaf. I’ve made Paul’s bloomer and it really is quite salty if you use 10g of salt. If your palate is used to store-bought bread that comes in bags you’ll probably find the bloomer recipe too salty as most large retailers have reduced the salt in the bread that goes into supermarkets.

In Real Bread and industrial loaf baking salt in small quantities helps to:

  • Enhance flavour – if a loaf isn’t hanging about the kitchen for too long while it is rising, then it obviously helps to put some taste in.
  • Strengthen the gluten network
  • Aid the browning process
  • Act as a natural preservative – although I find real bread doesn’t hang about in our house and this isn’t a reason we need salt in our bread

The bloomer recipe uses olive oil, which is obviously not a traditional ingredient in British bloomers, and can be quite flavourful in its own right, so using extra salt doesn’t seem necessary to me.

Dan Lepard says in Short and Sweet to go up to two teaspoons of salt for 500g of flour and it won’t affect the rising of the bread. He also says you can leave the salt out but you might find that the dough is a little sticky to shape, that it rises faster, and that the bread doesn’t colour as quickly.

The guys over at River Cottage also recommend 10g of salt to 500g of flour, and even more if it is sourdough. Well, I think these people are going to have to adjust to the changing tastes of their customers.

So if, like me, your kitchen is cold, having the bread rise a little faster because you’ve left some of the salt out might also be a good thing. I also tend to use the half sponge method that Dan endorses in his white farmhouse loaf method. Half  of the mix sits on the counter for at least six hours while I go to work and it’s ready for me later. This long period gives the yeast time to do its stuff properly. Using wholemeal for the other half of the flour is also a great way of making bread that has some texture and flavour without resorting to the salt pot.

Also, if you’re baking for children, don’t forget they need a lot less salt in their diet than grown-up people do, so it is definitely a good thing to reduce salt in any bread that children may eat, even if you’ve made it yourself.

If you didn’t like Paul Hollywood’s bloomer first time round, reduce the salt and try again. You’ll soon find a level you like, and one that won’t add to your daily salt intake. However, if you like your bread salty then you might want to think about the other things you eat and how much other salt you’re eating. If you make a lot of your own food from scratch you can control what you add, but if you buy prepared food, or eat out a lot, then you might be getting more salt than you think, and maybe it is time for a review of salt.

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Paul Hollywood’s Maneesh flat bread

Slightly sooner than I actually intended making it, I bring you Paul Hollywood’s Maneesh flat bread from yesterday’s episode of Bread. My 10 year old son was watching with me and asked if he could try making the Maneesh ‘tomorrow’. Of course I said yes, you have to encourage youngsters when the mood takes them. And as he still wanted to try it this morning, I popped into Waitrose on the way to work to pick up the necessary sesame seeds, dried thyme and dried marjoram.

We dashed home after school as the window of opportunity is a bit limited in our house on a Tuesday as we have to get out to our evening activities by 6pm. So it was straight into washing hands and weighing out ingredients. As the recipe said it makes three large breads I thought we ought to do some damage limitation and divide by 3 to try to make one large maneesh. We’ve already got plenty of bread that needs eating up and there was a high risk that the boy wouldn’t like it and we’d be stuck with it, assuming it turned out OK and was like a paving slab. By dividing by 3 I could also offer cross-curricular maths while he did the calculations as to how much of everything we needed.

We may have had a bit more water than was actually required, and getting the dough into a kneadable state required a bit of extra oil and some flour, but eventually between the two of us it was in the bowl by 4pm, ready to rise.

As previously mentioned my kitchen is Baltic so I employed a little artificial heating to try to get some life into it. Given that we had the deadline to get out by 6pm I reckoned that it was only going to get about an hour to rise, til about 5pm, then it had to be rolled and left for 20 minutes, at which point I’d put the oven on and that was all it was going to get before the topping went on and it was baked. Then there was probably enough time for it to cool so we could try it before we went out.

The pictures today aren’t that great but the bread was delicious! We decided it would definitely be good as a starter with dips, and he’d even like to try making it again for his Cubs ‘cooking badge’.

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Paul Hollywood’s rye, ale and oat bread

The second of my Paul Hollywood bakes this week is the rye, ale and oat bread from the first programme.

For beginners this might look a bit scary. It’s mainly rye flour, and its got treacle and some ale in it. Rye flour doesn’t have much gluten in it so it is never going to be a bright and bouncy loaf. If you like bread with a bit of heft to it, this is one for you. There’s a lot of different brands of rye available these days. I’m using Bacheldre watermill flour, which is available in some supermarkets.

I’m also using fresh yeast as I do find it more reliable than packet yeast. A quick word on fresh yeast, it is available from all the supermarkets that have instore bakeries, sometimes I get charged 1p for a little bit that’ll last a week, sometimes 10p, and some charge proper money (Morrisons and Sainsbury’s are about 60p for 200g). Don’t be shy if you want to try, just say the magic words “can I have some fresh yeast please” at the bit where you can get your store-bought bread sliced and see what they give you. Other sources of retail may include wholefood shops (not to be confused with healthfood shops which are nothing of the sort) and local bakeries that bake on site, although you’ll be taking custom away from them if you bake a lot of your own bread so buy something while you are there.  Weight-wise, just use twice the weight or volume of fresh yeast to dried yeast, so two teaspoons where one is given or 20g for 10g as in the case of this recipe. And I’ve cut down on the salt, as mentioned previously I think 10g is probably twice what you need.

In the programme I think Paul mentioned making bread with ale or barm is a very old technique, and where we get the word ‘barmy’ – in the sense of mad, crazy and frothy. This loaf doesn’t use leaven with the ale so isn’t really all that old-fashioned.  There’s quite a discussion about barm and the place of malt and hops in making bread in times before commercial yeast became available in Dan Lepard’s The Handmade Loaf. Commercial yeast was created to make bread making more standardised and less prone to natural changes in the starters that bakers used. There’s also  a recipe for barm bread using a barm made from beer or ale, flour and leaven which I’ll have a look at when I’ve got a new batch of leaven established. So, because Paul’s loaf uses commercial yeast it isn’t really a barm, but hopefully it will taste good. I’m using Black Sheep Golden Sheep pale ale today as it was all we had apart from a chocolate porter, which I think I’ve reserved for something else.

For this loaf I did diverge from the recommendation to knead for 5-10 minutes. It was a very wet and sticky mix so I used the Dan Lepard approach of mix, leave for 10 mins, knead very briefly, leave 15 mins, knead briefly, and finally left for 30 mins and kneaded very quickly. My kitchen is baltic today due to the cold weather, being east facing and taking the brunt of the east wind. So I left it for about an hour and a half after that lot. It had risen quite well despite the cold. I made up the beer batter topping, and it was rather a lot so I think if I did it again I’d only make a half quantity. Then it was left to sit for an hour and a half while I did the typing above and pictures below.

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It was then left to prove for a further one and a half hours. And was rising well during that time. I also had to patch up the coating while it was rising as it strted to split a little, so just as well I didn’t throw out the spare coating mix. So how did it turn out? There was certainly some anxious pacing outside the oven as it started baking.

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Got a bit of a rise there, the cracks opened up. And now waiting for it to cool down so we can cut it up and have it for tea with some cheese.

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[Edit the next day] I don’t think Mr Hollywood got more of a rise out of it than that, it is quite dense but is very tasty. And I’d probably make it again if I were making a buffet lunch with a range of breads on offer.

Paul Hollywood’s Bloomer

First of all, it’s my blog’s birthday. what?bread? is one year old today. Thank you to everyone who’s ever taken a peak and I hope you’ve found what you’ve come looking for. If not, please leave a message or ask a question.

This month is going well and I hope to continue for another year at least! The public image of baking has gone from strength to strength this year with the rise of the Great British Bake Off and most recently the spin-off programme with Paul Hollywood.

The BBC has kindly asked the Silver Fox of Great British Bake-Off to put his money where his mouth his and make some programmes to show viewers how to make bread. If you’ve not seen the first episode, you can catch it on BBC i-player.

The first episode starts with a bloomer, followed swiftly by a ploughman’s loaf (lots of lovely brown flour and rye and oat topping), a malt loaf (versatile and could be made into a sort of bread and butter pudding), and a ‘trencher’ to use as a base for some lamb steaks and greenery. That’s all squeezed into half an hour alongside a nice look at a farmer and a miller who have a great working relationship near St Albans at Redbournbury.

I found it all quite exhausting to watch as Paul got stuck in to mixing and kneading, and boy does he knead strong, sometimes one in each hand! To the extent that I stopped watching what he was doing and started taking in the aesthetics of his kitchen and the slightly bonkers range of mixing bowls he had to use. It looked like the set designer had been given the run of John Lewis and got one of every type of bowl that looked like it would hold water. So the bloomer was mixed in a wooden bowl that looked like a salad bowl, then there’s a pyrex bowl for it to rise in, the ploughman’s loaf is made at the bakery at Redbournbury and is mixed in whatever they had, then back to Paul’s own kitchen for a nice white glazed bowl for the malt loaf, and then a blue coated steel bowl for the trencher.

However, that all sounds a bit mean, and you can find other reviews of the programme on the web.

So what about the bread? Well you can get the recipes online from the BBC, which is really what I pay my license fee for. I think they’ve tried to make the ingredients nice and simple, which is good, and so far only using instant yeast. They don’t give conversions for fresh yeast, so if you try them you’ll have to remember that you need approximately double the weight of fresh yeast.

One thing did strike me as not being quite as it should be and that was the amount of salt that is used. The basic bloomer has 10g of salt to 500g white flour, and that’s twice the amount recommended by the Real Bread Campaign for home bakers to use. I usually follow the advice of the campaign and use approximately one teaspoon per large loaf. I’ve made Paul’s bloomer and it really is quite salty. If your palate is used to store-bought bread you’ll probably find it too salty as most large retailers have reduced the salt in the bread that goes into supermarkets.

In Real Bread and industrial loaf baking salt in small quantities helps to:

  • Enhance flavour – if a loaf isn’t hanging about the kitchen for too long while it is rising, then it obviously helps to put some taste in.
  • Strengthen the gluten network
  • Aid the browning process
  • Act as a natural preservative – although I find real bread doesn’t hang about in our house and this isn’t a reason we need salt in our bread

I’ve written another blog about salt in bread to give a bit more information. Click here.

Also Paul’s recipe has approximately twice the amount of yeast you’ll usually find in recipes for baking white bread at home, so it rises quickly even though he says to use cold water. If your kitchen is quite warm and your water isn’t too cold it’ll probably go off like a rocket and you’ll get a good result. All of this mitigates against leaving the dough to rise slowly to enhance the flavour. The recipe uses olive oil, which is obviously not a traditional ingredient in British bloomers, and can be quite flavourful in it’s own right, so using extra salt doesn’t seem necessary to me.

So last night, in between other things, I made a loaf strictly according the Paul Hollywood method, including muscular kneading, and another by the Dan Lepard method. I really should have started the Dan Lepard loaf first, but didn’t think ahead enough to do that. Both turned out OK. The Paul Hollywood bloomer rose a lot and has a nice open soft crumb. The Dan loaf didn’t want to rise too fast, I think the kitchen was a bit cold, or maybe the packet yeast was a bit old, and in the end I had to bake it because it was getting late, it did spring quite well in the oven but didn’t get as large as the Paul Hollywood version.

I’ve had lots of people searching for the bloomer and problems and ending up on my blog so there’s a ‘trouble shooting’ page here too.

I’ll be trying the other recipes when I get the chance, in the meantime, if you want to give it go, do go ahead but go easy on the salt.

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Paul Hollywood Bloomer followed by a Dan Lepard style Bloomer

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Malteser delight cake for Red Nose Day

You may, like me, have recently picked up a copy of the Tesco publication ‘Real Food’ and spotted the Red Nose Day cake made with Maltesers. If you are a Malteser fan, then this is definitely something you’ll like. If you don’t like that malty taste, you’ll hate it. We will, of course, be baking and sharing for Red Nose Day next week at work, and I think that the Malteser cake will be featuring alongside my signature carrot cake from Stones Restaurant, so much so that I might even ‘go large’ and upscale to a four egg quantity. Anyway, here’s the recipe and here’s a picture of this week’s trial run. If, also like me, you find decorating cakes a bit of a challenge and that deters you from baking, this could be the place to start afresh, no skill or talent required.

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