what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the tag “River Cottage”

Doughnuts – River Cottage recipe

New Year, and finally, new baking. Having had my fill of lovely Christmas things I didn’t fancy anything with dried fruit in today, which is most unlike me because I love my dried fruit. So, taking some inspiration from the celebrity Sport Relief Bake-off programme which featured doughnuts as a recipe, I’m trying them for the first time. The easiest-looking recipe I had to hand was from the River Cottage handbook 3, and which also handily appears on the Telegraph website (sssshhh, don’t tell the Guardian I’ve gone off-piste, but it isn’t the same without Dan Lepard). You can try Paul Hollywood’s recipe over here too.

As I often do with recipes when trying them for the first time, I’ve only done a half measure of all the ingredients, and I’ve used fresh yeast, not dried. I don’t have a mixer so I’ve adapted the River Cottage recipe to the Dan Lepard method.

I mixed all the ingredients, left it for 10 minutes, kneaded lightly and then repeated two more times. In between I left the bowl cuddled up to the big pan I have boiling oranges for marmalade (I use Delia’s recipe for that, and there’s a blog over here about it from last year, nothing new to say on that subject this year) as the kitchen is heading for Baltic conditions again – currently 18.7 C.

Then I left the bowl to allow the dough to prove for about 45 minutes before making it into balls and rings. My son doesn’t much like jam doughnuts, but he does like the ring ones. I just poked my finger through like I would for bagels. I’m also making pizza so need to fit it all in together. They got to rest for about an hour before being fried.

Some time later…. Results are in. Not bad for a first attempt, but a bit stodgy. Next time I might let it prove a bit more the first time, fry them with a bit more oil, or make them smaller or make them all ring doughnuts. The ball ones expanded a bit, then split, but the outer surface was cooked before the inside had finished expanding. Here are some pictures of what went on! I’ll definitely be needing a good long run tomorrow.

All mixed up

All mixed up

After kneading

After kneading

All shaped

All shaped

After rising

After rising

First two

First two

Three balls

Three balls

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.

Bagels, or beigels?

At the end of the summer holidays the boy and I visited the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood run by the Victoria and Albert Museum. The boy was 10 years old last Thursday and is nearly too old for this sort of place, but for now he still enjoys seeing old toys and playing with the piles of Lego in the museum. We were supposed to be thinking about Victorian children for his holiday homework, but that didn’t take too long.

On the day we were there we could watch the Suitcase Circus for free. They did a half-hour show, which was enough for most of the small people there. I think the ‘frog being sick’ will stick in everyone’s memory for a long time to come. You can watch a clip of the show for yourself on YouTube .

We got to Bethnal Green on the tube, but decided to go back to the Euston Road by bus. The bus we hopped on went past Brick Lane so we jumped off and visited the 24 Hour Beigel Bake shop. As it was just after lunchtime and I’d already schoffed my sandwiches I didn’t have one of the hot beef beigels, although they smelled fantastic and I will remember that for next time. I spent 30p on a buttered beigel for the boy and bought 4 plain beigels to take home. The boy of course scoffed his up and declared it delicious, and only 2 of the other beigels made the train journey home.

So, this morning, as we have a family party this afternoon I have made a batch of beigels. I mostly used Dan Lepard’s recipe from Short and Sweet, and checked it against the River Cottage Handbook No. 3. Dan has flour, yeast, salt, caster sugar, water, white wine vinegar. River Cottage doesn’t have the vinegar so I left that out, and also didn’t use the eggy wash that they suggested. I did use the brown sugar in the boiling water that Dan has included in his recipe. And I made 12, not the 10 that Dan suggests, as it’s for a party. If they were full sized they’d be more like those in bags in the shops, but as they are they are similar size to the Brick Lane ones. I wish I’d had time to take more photos as I made them as they looked a bit ugly when they were boiled, but they puffed up a bit and look fine now. The only problem is I don’t think they’ll last until tea time!

sourdough with 3 flours and doing slow things quickly

Sourdough with 3 flours – rye starter and then 50:50 extra strong wholemeal and strong white flours, and some salt. That’s it, no oil, no sugar, no yeast, no seeds, no absolutely anything artificial.


Indescribably good!

As a part of learning how to do this I’ve also found my oven goes up to 275 C – dare I go that high? These were started at 260 and turned down to 200 after 10 minutes.

Doing slow things quickly – what does that mean?

I’ve heard it said that people don’t make bread at home because they don’t have time. Having a breadmaker makes it easy because it does it all for you. What they are missing is the hands-on feel of mixing, kneading, smelling, judging, flouring, slashing, and finally baking. Something I have found with trying sourdough is that because it is really slow, it is paradoxically really quick and easy because the amount of baker intervention is small and spread out. With yeasted breads they have to be watched reasonably carefully to make sure they don’t rise too quickly and the cook books give periods of time like an hour, or an hour and a half, things you need to measure. Sourdough is happy to fit in around the baker. For instance, with the River Cottage approach I have been using I add starter to flour and water and leave it ‘overnight’, or in my case, ‘about six hours while I’m at work’, then it needs mixing with more flour and some salt  and kneading for about 10 minutes. I do that stage when I get home before going to do the school run. Then it is left for an hour, and then worked into a ball. So I do that when I get back from the school run – but with no rush. Then it is rested and worked into a ball again – up to four times in total – you decide! I decided on one more ball stage while I made and ate dinner and then worked into three loaves and left it to rise. Again, you have to wait for the dough, so the book says 1 to 4 hours. For me last night it was about three hours and in that time I went swimming and put Adam to bed, see no worries about the bread. Then finally when everything was quite I could bake the bread and it’s done and dusted and ready for the morning.


crumpets round 1

Crumpets are another flour based item that I think have risen in price beyond what is reasonable for what they are. The River Cottage bread book contains a recipe for them, so I thought I’d get some crumpet rings and give them a go.

Recipe is for 12 so I halved it to give:

225g plain white flour, 175ml warm milk, 175 ml warm water, half teaspoon fresh yeast, 5g salt, half teaspoon of baking powder.

The recipe said not to add the salt and baking powder to the dried things, but by the time I had read that it was too late!

Left it for about an hour and 20 minutes and it looked like this:

Then it had to go into greased rings in a pan. I think I had the pan too hot to start with and put too much in the first few and it might have been a tiny bit too thick:

In the last few I put a little less batter and they aren’t too thick. In all I made 7, but I think that quantity could do 8. Here are the last 6, the first one was eaten hot while I was doing the others. Well it has been hailing here today like a winter’s day, so what better than winter food?


sourdough end of day 4

It seems to be progressing OK with lots of tiny holes in it. This looks very like the first signs of fermentation as described in the River Cottage Handbook number 3 bread. So I’ve scraped it up and fed it again and left it for another day.

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