what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the category “ingredients”

Don’t waste bananas

News today suggests people throw away slightly bruised bananas and that’s bad for lots of reasons. Guardian article here.

If you want to stop wasting bananas but only have one occasionally, then pop it in the freezer until you’ve got a enough to make something. It doesn’t matter if the outside goes all black and the inside is squishy, just defrost them when you want to use them.

Here are some of my blogs about banana recipes, but there’s plenty more things out there to try.

Banana 1 – Butterscotch Banana Cake

Banana 2 – Banana Bread with Spelt Flour

Banana 3 – Dark Banana Ginger Cake


Banana bread with spelt flour

I have an old and splattered copy of The New Internationalist Food Book, first published in 1990. It is out of print now, but second hand copies are available. It contains recipes from Africa, Asia and Latin America, worked out for Western kitchens and with some information and food facts. I guess it was published long before we all got exercised about food miles, food waste, eating locally and still appreciating the foods of other cultures. It is a book that I go back to from time to time for recipes and ideas. Today I retrieved it for the Caribbean banana bread.

Ingredients are: 3 large bananas, 175 g margarine, 175 g sugar, 225 g flour, pinch of salt, half teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 large egg, 125 g chopped walnuts, 100 g raisins or sultanas. The cinnamon and dried fruit are marked as optional.

Instructions: mash the bananas, beat in the margarine, then the sugar, then the dried goods, then the egg, and finally the fruit and nuts. Bake for one and a half hours in a 1 kg loaf tin at 180C.

I had a couple of squashy bananas in my fruit bowl and one I’d tucked away in the freezer, so I was good to go. Because the recipe is not specific about sugar, I find it easily accommodates whatever you fancy. Today I went with light soft brown sugar, but another time I might have used a heavier sugar. As the recipe only needs plain flour I’ve also tried something for the first time. I spotted Sharpham Park Organic Spelt White Flour in Waitrose the other week. As it claims it is suitable to use anywhere white wheat flour is used, I’m taking them at their word. I have used spelt flour in baking before, but not in cakes so far, unless it was just a bit mixed into the carrot cake recipe. I’ve also replaced the walnuts with some chopped brazil nuts.

Some pictures below of the mixture, and then one of the finished result. It takes quite a while to cool down, but finally after the wait I can say that the cake was …. delicious, or as my husband said “you wouldn’t know there was anything different in it”.

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Christmas cake and a word about marzipan

I realised that I hadn’t blogged the making of a Christmas Cake. This year’s trendy thing to do apparently as sales of dried fruit and other cake ingredients have risen by over 30% compared to last year, according to The Times (but you’ll need a subscription to read the rest). Now this could mean several things – we’re not just making Christmas cakes and puddings, we’re making all sorts of lovely things packed with sultanas, raisins and currants, cherries, peel and nuts. It may also mean that the stores have over-ordered their own Christmas offerings and there will be lots of cut-price goodies on Boxing Day, so if you’re not making your own, hang on for a post-Christmas blitz, but don’t blame me if I’m wrong.

I must say there are few things I like more than good fruit cake. However, at this time of year it is all to easy to end up with everything tasting of dried fruit and spices so sometimes it is good to go outside the box. So I will be making Panettone and probably stollen just to keep us going until the big day. There’s a great Dan Lepard recipe for stollen which I also don’t seem to have blogged about yet, so maybe next week for that one.

You can find all sorts of recipes on the web from all the celebrity bakers, and they’ll all be just slightly different, also they’ll be telling you “you should have made your cake a month ago”. Does it really make a difference whose recipe you follow and how long you leave it to sit? Personally I don’t think so. I’m not that keen on treacle in cake recipes or filling them up with alcohol so I’m here now with my split-at-the-spine copy of the National Trust Christmas and Festive Day Recipes, another copy of which I may have to put in my trolley next time I’m on Amazon, as it has suffered. For a good read about historic Christmas cakes you could do worse than read Ivan Day’s blog and course where he talks about yeast-leavened plum cakes.

I reduce a 6 egg recipe down to 4 eggs and proportion all the ingredients likewise, as while we like the cake, if it hangs around the house much past Twelfth Night I find it’s gone a bit dry. Absolutely nothing tricky in here: sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries, peel, some orange juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, plain flower, salt, baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds, lemon juice, brandy/rum or sherry and vanilla/almond or ratafia essence. Some pictures below as I went along and one of the finished article.

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It won’t be getting decorated until much nearer the date, but I do also like to try and remember to make my own marzipan, as along with how shops treat dates at Christmas, I can’t be doing with the added stickiness of the syrup that shop-bought brands contain. The above-mentioned book also includes a recipe for almond paste which features ground almonds, caster sugar, icing sugar, egg, lemon juice, brandy or sherry, vanilla essence, almond essence and orange-flower or rose water. The finished mix my be a little more gritty than shop bought, and the cake does benefit from leaving for a week wrapped in paper before icing, so is not a last-minute thing, but most importantly, does not stick to the teeth!

And here’s the finished article. Maybe a bit on the blue side, but my son said it was awesome, so who am I to argue?


National real bread maker week and disappointment in Waitrose

Just a little plug for the Campaign for Real Bread’s National Bread Maker Week.

“Real Bread Maker Week is Britain’s biggest annual, national celebration of Real Bread and its makers.

Its aim is to encourage people to get baking Real Bread or buying it from independent bakeries to support their local communities.

This year, as well as raising awareness for Real Bread, we knead your help raising cash.

The Real Bread Campaign has great new plans to help people who, for one reason or another, have a tougher time than most of us enjoy the social, therapeutic and employment opportunities Real Bread making offers, but we need the dough to do it!

Can we count on your support?”

If you’ve never made bread why not try – you’ll be surprised how easy it can be. I’ve suggested lots of recipes on various pages of the blog, or search for Dan Lepard’s recipes as a very easy way into making bread at home.

Still not convinced? Then why not try your local independent café or bakers or farmers market and see what they make and check out the difference between factory-made bread and bread made locally.

If you’ve never bought flour from a local miller, then why not search one out. To coincide with the week there’s a number of water and wind powered mills open. Check out this list and see if you can find one to visit this weekend. We had a fab visit to Mill Green in Hertfordshire recently, we learned a lot and got some great flour. If you can’t get out there’s some deals on mail-order flour on the campaign website.

Disappointment in Waitrose? They have opened a spangly new supermarket near us and it doesn’t have an in-store bakers. They’ve just got ovens to give factory prepared loaves a suntan. A real opportunity missed by Waitrose.

Me? I’ve been baking sourdough again – got a lovely sweet starter going right now and I bake it with white and wholemeal flour. The warmer weather still means it takes about 10 hours to do its stuff, but it’s been great, but doesn’t seem to hang about long enough to get a photo taken. And I’ve been doing a bit of biking too for my LondonSurrey 100 mile event, so haven’t had a lot of time at weekends to do much baking. But least I use the calories I’m scoffing the rest of the week.

Paul Hollywood’s malt loaf

Another recipe from Paul Hollywood’s tv series. [Edit 2 Oct 2013] This page is getting lots of views this weekend, I’d appreciate any comments you have about why you’ve searched for it. Thank you 🙂 I see that they are repeating Paul Hollywood’s tv series at the moment, which is great if it encourages more people to start baking. I’ve made loads of these loaves over the last 5 months, they are very easy. I’ve also found that if it looks like too much, then cutting a loaf into thirds or halves and freezing a bit is a good idea. Now back to the story….

I’m making this because frequent readers will know I’m training for the LondonSurrey 100 mile bike ride in August. As a result I am eating carbs like they are going out of fashion, and I need something that’s not too sugar loaded and isn’t cake to be taking on rides and eating as snacks. So as I do buy the occasional Soreen loaf I thought I’d have a go at the Paul Hollywood version. Original Soreen contains similar ingredients to the Paul Hollywood version, but no treacle and includes E150c (caramel) and preservatives.

The recipe is available here. A pretty straightforward selection of ingredients, with treacle to give it browness. I’m not sure why he tells you to go to a baker for malt extract, I got mine in Holland and Barrett and Potters’ Herbal Rayners Essentials , Meridian Foods brands are  also quite widely available. There’s also the whole other world of brewing malts that could also be used. Some readers may recognise malt extract as ‘Roo’s strengthening medicine’, from the Winnie the Pooh stories. Like Kanga, my mother also used to give me malt extract on a spoon as a dietary supplement. It apparently contains vitamin A and riboflavin, and according to a Daily Telegraph article, the sugars are too easily absorbed causing an insulin spike and possibly diabetes in the long run. Well, a little of what you fancy won’t do much harm I suppose. I quite like the taste but don’t like the stringiness getting it out of the jar.

For my effort, I found I didn’t have any sultanas so threw in a selection of golden raisins, regular raisins, currants, and a few dried cherries that looked like they needed eating up. I also don’t have two 1lb loaf tins so it all went in one big one, and I used a flexible silicone one in case it stuck fast.


Easy recipe, mixing the gloopy ingredients and butter first. I used the microwave as all my small pans were in the wash after Sunday lunch. Then add to the dried ingredients with some water. No tricky kneading, just enough to make sure it is mixed up evenly. Then it goes into the loaf tin for a rise. I gave mine an hour and a half as I thought two hours looked too long, given the speed it was going it. Finally into the oven. The recipe says 30 to 40 mins, mine got the full 40, the last 10 with a foil cover.

It didn’t rise a lot in the oven. I have topped it off with the recommended tablespoon of warmed honey (in the microwave again!).  Then it was left to cool.


Results? Yes, you get what it says on the tin. It’s not overly sweet, the fruit is plentiful and it’s not a fluffy bun-like crumb. The crust is nice and a bit crunchy. It will definitely get eaten. It would probably survive as a cycling snack wrapped in film or foil and put in a pocket, but it could be a bit less robust than a bun. Having worn my legs out cycling up the Col de Cogenhoe today, I’m not so sure it’ll last until my next long outing, so I might have to make another one for next weekend. At least it’s easy.


Mill Green, Hatfield, flour

On Tuesday this week I took my son to Mill Green water-mill in Hatfield. There isn’t a whole lot to see there apart from the mill itself, and some small displays of Hatfield history. The miller was great, and talked a lot about how the flour is made and how the mill itself works. There’s a couple of hands-on milling exhibits for small people to use up some energy on. And to my slight surprise my son was actually rather impressed by the whole thing, the size of the mill, the water power, how hard it was to grind flour by hand. He spent quite a long time grinding about a big tablespoon of flour from some wheat grains they had there. So I think he learned something. Being a bit of a smarty pants he commented on some other children who came later who didn’t read the direction the stones had to go in and were therefore doing it wrong.

We bought some flour and today I baked a couple of wholemeal loaves with it. I wish this was smellyvision because they actually smell like roasted wheat. So if you’re down that way, do drop in, they are open Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Sundays, which is twice as much as nearby Redbournbury,  as featured by Paul Hollywood, which opens only at the weekends. The more cunning of you could get both flours and do a compare and contrast. We had to go Tuesday as it was the only chance this week, but I’ll definitely try to hit both one weekend soon.


Coffee and ricotta marbled cake in the oven which I realise I haven’t made for nearly a year. Can’t wait to try both the bread and the cake!

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.

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


Wessex Mill Six Seed bread flour

A couple of weeks ago we were in Stony Stratford and I bought a bag of Wessex Mill Six Seed bread flour in a deli there. The first loaf I made was just using a white bread recipe and it was rather sadly to be classed alongside the Mesopotamian mud bricks that I sometimes make, so I didn’t show it off on here. It was edible and we ate it, the flour is rather tasty – it contains Wheat Flour, Linseed, poppy-seed, Sesame-seed, Millet, Sunflower Seed, Kibbled Wheat, but the loaf was rather shallow and thick. So before using any more of this lovely stuff I had a little think about how to make it into something that was edible. And today I came up with using Dan Lepard’s wholemeal recipe from Short and Sweet – which is a bit like this but uses entirely wholemeal flour and only 1 teaspoon of salt.

The result was a loaf that was going places in a hurry (a good thing in my cold kitchen), which had great oven spring and is nice and soft and spongy inside. So before I eat it all, here’s the pictures and I commend both Wessex Mill and Dan to you as usual.



New Year’s Resolution and Chocolate Coconut Chunks

My NY resolution for 2013 is not to buy any more cookery books, but to explore further the ones I already have and to revisit older favourite recipes that I may not have made for a while. Now the last bit of slightly stale Panettone and hardened Christmas cake has been eaten I can start 2013 baking. Yipee! Much as I love seasonal baking, I do like making things regularly and I haven’t baked anything except bread since before Christmas Eve.

To kick off 2013 today I made Chocolate Coconut Chunks from Pat Ring’s Cake, which was the last cookery book I bought towards the end of 2012. This is an excellent recipe for using up relatively small quantities of a large number of ingredients you may have lurking in your cupboards, plus a bit of butter, an egg and some milk in the topping. Without giving away quantities, you’ll have to get the book if you want to make this, there is: butter, walnuts, plain flour, baking powder, soft brown sugar, dessicated coconut, cocoa, sultanas, Weetabix (the secret ingredient), egg, vanilla extract. The topping is meant to be milk chocolate, butter, milk and icing sugar, sprinkled with more coconut. I didn’t have any milk chocolate (well the child wouldn’t sacrifice some of his bar) so made do with plain (which I generally prefer to Cadbury’s any day). I used an 8 inch square tin to bake it and that was fine, and cut it into 16 pieces. Using MyFitnessPal‘s data I calculated each piece contains about 260 calories.

choc coco chunks

As you can see from the picture, this bake has a slightly chunky texture, a bit like flapjack. The nuts and fruit makes for a treat that you can’t just swallow down without chewing. Yes, I have had cake that you don’t need to chew and there’s a time and place for everything and early in the year when we’re getting over Christmas excess by reducing calories I think you need to chew everything thoroughly and make sure you get every bit of flavour and texture out of your food. We can get to cake you don’t need to chew later in the year!

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