I’ve had quite a few people arriving at this blog because they are searching for reasons why their Paul Hollywood bloomer hasn’t risen. Obviously I don’t know why ‘yours’ didn’t go quite the way you wanted, but here are some points to look out for next time you try, in the order that they might have happened. You might have had several of these things not quite on the button which also would influence what happened.
- Water – the recipe says to add two thirds of the water first then gradually add the rest. Different types of flour absorb water at different rates, so you might not need all of the water. If you used a flour that couldn’t absorb it all, the dough would be sticky and hard to work. Try a bit less water next time. The dough should be easily workable but not sloppy and sticky. River Cottage bakers suggest 300ml to 500g of flour, so 320ml might be too much, but don’t go below 300ml.
- Flour – low gluten flour can affect the rise and make the bread dense and ‘cakey’ according to the River Cottage bakers. If you are new to bread baking make sure you are using ‘strong bread flour’. Supermarket brands are just fine for starters, also try Allinsons or Shipton Mill if you can get it.
- Oil – did it mix in with the yeast? Getting oil on the yeast can slow the activation of the yeast and your rising may have been slow as a result. Too much oil? If too much went in that can affect it as well.
- Temperature – of everything including the water. If your kitchen has been Baltic like mine recently, you might not have got much of a rise if the water was cold as recommended by Paul. I tend to use water that is 1:3 boiling to tap water just to get the yeast going. If your kitchen is nice and warm you can go cold. The water should not feel warm to the touch in any case. If your kitchen was Baltic, then the length of time you need to get everything going for both rises will be longer than Paul says, but bear in mind the touch test below. You can also warm your utensils if you think it is too cold, ie warm a ceramic bowl with hot water before starting.
- Adding extra flour to counteract the stickiness of too much water. If you found the dough hard to work because it was too wet and added extra flour it will have weighed the loaf down and made it less keen to rise.
- Kneading – River Cottage bakers might say you should knead more than you did. Dan Lepard might tell you that you don’t need to knead so much (see my blog on the bloomer loaf). So long as it got folded over a few times you’ll like as not get a loaf of some sort or other, but if you choose not to knead you should take it into account during the rising time and not leave it too long.
- Rising time – Paul says to leave until it has tripled in size – that could be too long and your yeast wore itself out. Other bakers like Dan Lepard say 50%. If the dough smelt yeasty when you knocked it down after the rise, then it might have been left too long. Not leaving it long enough can also make it solid and dense with a rubbery texture, so it is important to get it right. If your kitchen is toasty warm then you may have left it too long. If you kitchen is Baltic cold, you might not have left it long enough.
- Shaping – I like to fold mine over several times when I shape my loaves, so it was a bit taller than Paul’s but not so long. You can also fold it in a ‘blanket fold’ while it is rising, just to keep all the protein lined up and tight. So pat out into a rectangle fold top in, then bottom over, repeat twice during rising. Or add an extra set of fold during by turning through 90 degrees and do a double blanket fold. This fold can also be used for shaping.
- When to bake – Paul says to leave for 1 to 2 hours until doubled in size. Again, this could be too long, and Dan Lepard says 50% change in size again. You need to have some ‘spring’ left in the loaf. If you poke your loaf with a finger, does it spring back or leave a dent? If it leaves a dent, it is almost too late, and it could fail to rise in the oven. The loaf should spring back a bit before it goes in, so try getting it in a bit earlier next time.
- Oven temperature – Paul says 220C which is hot, but if your oven is not entirely accurate it might not be hot enough. Try upping the temperature by 10C next time and see how it goes, if that’s not enough keep going higher next time but reduce the time for the first stage in case it burns. If you’re stuck with a fan-only oven, put it on as hot as it will go. If the loaf still has some ‘spring’ then it will rise during the first stage when the oven is really hot. Then turn down if it looks like burning.
So lots to think about there. Keep trying and I’m sure you’ll end up with something beautiful soon. Other ways of making bread are available, and I’d encourage you to try a different approach such as some of Dan Lepard’s methods as they are less industrial and more suited to home baking.