what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the tag “bread”

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


Paul Hollywood’s pitta bread

Still working my way through his TV series recipes. This one is over here.

Pittas are often the first bread that people try to make at home because they are essentially easy and don’t require much effort. I remember making them back in the dark ages, as a student in the late 1980s I can even remember making the pancakes that go with Peking Duck, although I’m not sure I ever did the duck to go with them. Back then I used the pitta recipe in Arto der Haroutunian’s Yoghurt book. Back in those days yogurt had an ‘h’ in the middle of it and the book had no pictures. If you can get one second hand on under the Penguin imprint I commend it to you. I never thought much about the author back then, but the book reads like he knows what he’s talking about from personal first hand experience. It also contains a fantastic banana gateau recipe which I may try again sometime soon. Checking out his website today you’ll see he’s been dead a while but as he was born in Syria of Armenian parents under difficult circumstances, he’d probably not be happy about what’s going on in Syria today.

Nothing particularly tricky in there, nigella seeds can be got from the supermarket, but note that there’s quite a lot, so if you take to them you’ll be spending about 75p per batch just on seeds if you get the Bart ones from a supermarket (like I did – idiot!) I’ll be getting some Kalonji seeds from an Indian grocer or the ethnic bit of the supermarket they have them, not spending another £1.69 or whatever it was in Waitrose for 45g of Bart’s seeds. I’m not entirely sure why they are in the pittas when they normally turn up in naan breads.

There’s quite a lot of yeast for a small amount of flour and also the salt is high at 1 tsp for 250g of flour. Other recipes may vary, like Dan ‘ over here, so let’s see how it turns out. I’m still fascinated by the idea that ‘professional’ bakers can give such different recipes for essentially the same thing.

OK – pictures below. Nothing particular to complain about there. We ate some with some curried chicken leftovers, mango chutney and yoghurt, in deference to the almost naan bread flavouring the nigella seeds give them.

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my bread doesn’t rise

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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 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.


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.


[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.

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.



Launching LakesBakes


I’ve decided to practise what I preach and try and sell some baked goods to local people. I’ve made my facebook business page, so if there’s anyone out there reading this, please take a look and give it a ‘like’.

I’m sorry, you can only order if you’re local enough to collect or for me to deliver.

I have a blog to write later about Christmas pudding, but you’ll have to wait for that while I do some other chores.

cakes and cookies – in the name of charity

It’s coming to the end of the school year and making cakes for charity seems to be the order of the day. Now I don’t mind this as a fundraiser, so long as they don’t charge less than it costs me to make them. Last month, school had a Father’s Day Fayre which demanded baking, so I produced some of Dan Lepard’s gingerbread wafers, some of the Hairy Biker’s lemon and cardomon cookies and a batch of Bake Off Chocolate Crackles (which every man and his dog who blogs about baking seems to have made, so I won’t give you a link – they all put the recipe up if you care to Google, which, obviously I don’t). Two of each in a bag with a nice label, bingo.  Actually the other thing I object to is the mummies that supply a box of stuff baked by the local Co-op convenience store, still in the box so I know you didn’t make it. Really my dears if you can’t do it, or don’t know how, let those of us who do and can get on with the job!

This month it was the turn of the cub pack to do the tea tent at the town’s carnival yesterday. Didn’t much feel in the mood for it, but managed to come up with one of Dan’s dark banana and ginger cakes from the Guardian with a bit of lemon icing on the top to pretty it up. [Note to readers I used 3 large eggs and that looked like enough]. Woefully easy this one and almost feels like it could do you good! Accompanied by some white chocolate and cranberry cookies from the Sainsbury Magazine. As they don’t give you the recipe for that online so far as I can see it is:

125g soft unsalted butter, 125g caster sugar, 2tbsp condensed milk, 175g self-raising flour, 100g white choc in chunks, 40g dried cranberries.

Cream the butter and sugar, beat in the condensed milk, work in the flour, then the chocolate and cranberries. Divide into 50g blobs for big ones, 25 g for small ones, flatten a bit (12 or 24 cookies). Bake at 150C for 25 mins.

A tin of condensed milk goes a long way, and I have found the wretched stuff doesn’t freeze, but can at least be kept in icecube trays in the freezer. A very useful recipe if you’ve got no eggs but need some cookies or something sweet.

For home baking we have also had cake, and another recipe that uses the condensed milk.

Dan’s Brown sugar chocolate cake from Short and Sweet. There’s a version from 2005 on the Gruniad website, but the Short and Sweet version is slightly different.  Having had a quick browse today I see that some people have found the Short and Sweet version challenging but I found it easy and it came out looking like it should. And after all that description and no pics, here’s two of the one that I made.

Being a bit old school I am often sceptical of cakes that move too far away from a basic fat, sugar, flour and flavouring mix, and this one does have some faffing about with melting dark chocolate, adding water, and glycerine(!), and I’ve had some bad experiences with the Hummingbird cake book, sadly for my readers not during the life of this blog, maybe I’ll go back there and we can relive those horrors. Anyway, all was good with that one. I diverted from Dan’s frosting suggestion and just bashed up some butter, icing sugar and cocoa.

And yesterday I’ve made some more bits to take to my auntie (Little Red Riding Hood me!) and she’s going to be on the receiving end of some double choc cookies as per the Sainsbury’s recipe above – 125g flour, 50g cocoa and 100g white chunks:

A marmalade cake from the Bake Off Book. You can Google the recipe if you want, other’s have reproduced it and it’s not for me to do that for you here. I am pleased with the outcome, and also pleased that I used eggs provided by one of my work colleagues who keeps a few chickens. I don’t know what she feeds them on but the yolks always come out very yellow and that helps to colour the sponge nicely. A simple butter sponge with spoons of home made marmalade stirred into it, topped with more marmalade and some icing. 

And I’ve made some strawberry jam, despite haranguing Olly over on http://breadandbikes.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/bread-maker-jam/ about his use of the breadmachine to make jam. Boys and toys! Me, I used a saucepan and a wooden spoon.

And finally she gets a small loaf of 50:50 white and einkorn bread. No pics of that, it’s a small brown loaf! But the trick with that one has been to use Dan’s white bread sponge method over night to get the yeast going in the white flour, add the einkorn this morning, do the kneading stuff and then once it’s in the pans rising, go for a run. Eight miles and a bit – and being an idiot going along the route of the MK HM but thankfully off the course before they passed by, and the loaves are ready for the oven. My oven has an auto timer thing so I can decide when it comes on so it is ready for when I get back. Flour, slash and steam. In they go, 20 mins at 240C while I have a shower, turn down the oven and another 25 mins.

Right that’s me done for, only the lunch to finish cooking and then I’m done. Off to track the Tour de France (go Wiggins – a man who could do with a bit of cake IMHO) next and not watching Wimbledon (Roger Federer looking for his 8th title, no chance Murray), or Silverstone (makes me fall asleep and I’ve had enough of the helicopters going too and fro already today).


light caraway rye bread

The second of June’s Mellow Bakers recipe from Dan Lepard’ The Handmade Loaf (congratulations on yesterday by the way Mr Lepard and David!) http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/22/coconut-mascarpone-cake-recipe-wedding?newsfeed=true

One where you make a ferment and leave it for a bit, then add the other stuff and make yet another brick!

Ingredients include: sour milk – didn’t have any of that so used sour cream, yeast, rye flour, caraway seeds, white flour, salt more yeast, malt – used the liquid “Roo strengthening medicine” type although I think you’re supposed to use some dried stuff, butter to slap on the top and that’s your lot.

Actually I think I need to get another loaf pan that is between a 1lb and a 2lb length and that might impact on the brickiness of some of these loaves. Output tasted OK and got eaten which is always a good thing. I used heavy rye and have been waiting to try again with light rye but got bored of waiting for an opportunity, so here’s the photos.  Today I have been baking with Einkhorn flour and that’s another story!

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