what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

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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19 thoughts on “Paul Hollywood’s Bloomer

  1. Nicey IC. Yeah going by weight for salt and yeast is a bit worrying. I go by teaspoons myself. One of each every time!

  2. I tried to cook the Paul Hollywood Bloomer – I am a bit of a bread virgin but keep trying. My first rising rose well, but my second rising spread outwards not upwards, which leaft me with a very nice, but flat and quite dense loaf. Any Tips?

    • You might have had a bit too much water, but with a soft dough you can also try folding in thirds a couple of times before you shape it finally. Pat it out to knock out the air, then fold in on itself from top to leave the bottom third uncovered, then fold up the bottom third to form a pile 3 layers thick, turn through 90 degrees and fold in 3 again, then turn again, pat it out a bit and fold in half with the seam underneath. Don’t pat it out into a long and narrow shape, leave it kind of brick shaped and it should hold together. You might also be leaving the 2nd rise too long. Keep trying though!

      • Thanks – i’ll give that a try. I’ve had this a couple of times. At one stage I was using too little water and getting really hard bread. Since then I’ve been adding more water. Maybe gone a bit too far. Experimentation needed I think.

      • Good luck and keep trying. It’s not an exact science. It also depends on how warm your kitchen is and how accurate your oven temp is. You could also try raising the temp in the oven a bit and turning it down a bit sooner. I mostly bake at 240C and turn down from there.

  3. Gavin on said:

    I’ve now tried the Hollywood Bloomer twice (having had no real experience of making bread) – on both occasions the bread looked like it was under-cooked when you cut into the middle of it. It was good for toast, but definitely tasted a little doughy. We have a fan assisted oven. Should I be dropping the temperature and cooking for longer?

    • I think it might have been under-proved. If you can squidge the cut loaf and it goes back together, then it needs a bit longer on the rise time (but not too long), it should still be a bit springy to the touch when it goes in the oven. See PH’s own comments – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/food/2010/09/paul-hollywood-answers-your-qu.shtml
      It is a fine line however sometimes to spot if it is just right or gone too far, if it doesn’t spring back when you’ve poked it you’re almost too late. If anything bake hotter as well. Fan ovens tend to have a maximum temp like 200C, so always start go as hot as it will go with a fan oven. The recipe says start at 220 and drop down to 200, but if you’re using the fan then start at the hottest, reduce by 20 deg, and keep an eye on it for burning. Good luck, keep trying.

  4. Bornfree66 on said:

    Hi, I am a complete novice, and have had the same problem with two attempts at Paul’s bloomer and am grateful to all the answers given. My loaf seems to spread outwards rather than upwards on the second prooving, could this be the way I am shaping it? I feel like I need to put some barriers in place at the side so it only rises upwards! I have followed step-by-step on the iplayer but maybe I need to fold into thirds a few more times. I shall try again! Wonderful blog by the way, I will be visiting regularly now that I have got the home bread-making bug!

  5. hiri on said:

    hi, i have paul hollywoods book, but not sure if i can use the recipe for a sourdough and substitute wholemeal flour instead of plain flour to make wholemeal sourdough??

    • Hi – I don’t have the book so I don’t know what PH says about making wholemeal sourdough. You can make a starter with white or wholemeal or rye or whatever mix you like really. For sourdough bread you can also choose whatever % of different flour you like. However, River Cottage do make it, once they’ve got the starter going – they mix a ‘sponge’ from some starter, strong wholemeal flour and warm water, leave it overnight, then the next day make a dough with more wholemeal flour and salt, and knead it, knock it back a couple of times and leave it to rise twice and then bake it. Dan Lepard, in Short and Sweet, starts off with 300g strong white flour, 100g strong wholemeal and 200g white starter, water and salt, and says that 100% wholemeal can be quite dense. I think I’ve tried it once or twice and it is a chewy experience, so maybe start off with a % of white/strong and see how it goes for you. More Dan help here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/27/sourdough-recipe-dan-lepard . Good luck x

  6. heather graham on said:

    Had a go with several bloomers .taste great but dont or cant keep shape , like quatermass experiment they just seem to spread out over the whole baking sheet.any ideas?

  7. Margaret Hodder on said:

    My bloomer always spreads and ends up flat, the first one I made was good but have not made a good one since. Feel like giving up !

  8. Kate on said:

    Still relatively new at bread but tried Paul’s bloomer… Looks great but Sooo salty! I put in salt as per recipe and too a bit out as it seemed too much… Will stick to a small tsp next time!

  9. I baked a bloomer but I had sifted the flour together with the salt before adding the yeast. I had a dough that was maybe a little too wet and when I added the olive oil to the work surface it kept sticking to the durface no matter how much I kneaded it and even adding more oil. It proved as normal but when I baked it it was maybe a bit heavy and tasted of yeast but was still edible. I would like to perfect it if you can help, please

    • Bread can taste yeasty for lots of reasons, such as: if it is proved at too high a temperature; if there’s too much sugar; or it has risen too long; or not baked at a high enough temperature. Try not to rush your bread baking. Even if you follow weighing instructions accurately the type of flour you use can influence how much water or other liquid you need. Keep trying is my advice.

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