No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A BASIC LOAF OF BREAD - 3 different methods


 There are several methods I use to make a loaf of bread, depending on how much time I have available.

Method A uses the traditional flour to water ratio of 1lb of flour to 1/2 pint of water (500g flour to 315ml). I used this for many years, both at home and it was also used in the bakery where I worked for a while. The dough is mixed, kneaded for a short time, shaped and put to prove.

However, over the past couple of years I’ve become aware of the benefits of adding more water to a mix – the dough rises better and the bread also keeps longer.

There are two methods I use to get more water in a mix, these are detailed in Methods B and C.

Method B is a bit more ‘hands on’ – involving several short kneadings over a 30-45 minute period starting with a fairly sticky dough. Each time the bread is kneaded, the dough gets less sticky. Then the dough is left for an hour or so to rest before shaping and baking.

Method C is what I call the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’ and is the easiest method of the three. The dough for this is simply mixed together, left to prove overnight and results in a loaf that’s full of flavour. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.


Method A. If I want to make one in a hurry – say in my sessions or I want to make one for a visitor to take away with them, I make this loaf:

Ingredients:
500g (3 mugs) strong flour, all white – or a mix of white and wholemeal. I use 400g wholemeal to 100g of white
1/2 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or teaspoon of dried active or fast action yeast
315ml (1 mug) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, but improves keeping qualities)

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it has dissolved. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil if using.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.


Method B. If I have more time, but I still want to make it in a morning, or an afternoon, I’ll use the ‘Several short kneadings over 30-40 minutes’ method:

Same amount of flour, salt and yeast, but 350ml of water.

This mixes into a fairly sticky dough.

Once it’s mixed together, pour a little oil on your worktop and place your dough on top of it.
Pour some oil over your dough and begin to knead – but only for a short time – say 10-20 seconds.
Now place your bowl over the dough and scrape off all the dough from your hands.
Leave the dough for 10-15 minutes and repeat the short kneading action, using oil to make it easier to handle. Once again invert the bowl over your dough and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat the above once more and your dough should by now be manageable without the oil.

Leave it to prove for an hour or two on your worktop. This period of rest gives the bread a better rise.

Form it into your preferred shape and go to Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Method C. But the best and easiest method is the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’. This is left to prove overnight and produces by far the most flavoursome loaf. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.

Once again, 500g flour to 350ml water, but use half the yeast.

Mix the dough together (I mix it in my food storer, so there’s less washing up) but don’t bother to knead.

Just put the lid on and leave it on your worktop. Generally I make it the following morning, but I have left it for over 48 hours in the past and it’s been fine.

When you’re ready to bake it, place it on your worktop and fold it over several times. It should be quite manageable. If it’s too wet, you may want to knead in more flour – say 25g at a time.)

Then continue from Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Note: There’s no doubt that more flavour develops the longer flour and yeast have to mature together. However, in my experience it takes at least 4 hours for the difference in taste to become apparent. That’s why I haven’t included an initial proving time in loaf A.

I find an all wholemeal loaf too heavy for my taste, so I always include some white flour in the mix just to give it a bit of a lift.


My reasons for treating all three types of yeast the same are given in this thread on the old BBC Food Board (now defunct, but the archive is still there):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbfood/F2670471?thread=6659766

Cheers, Paul:)
A word about yeast. Mostly I use fresh yeast it’s just the easiest to use and the most convenient; occasionally I’ll use active dried yeast; and rarely the fast action yeast.

If you can’t get fresh yeast, use dried active yeast (Allinson’s, in a yellow tin, currently 65p; kept near the flour shelves) – half the amount.

(If you’re aiming to make the loaf within 2 hours, then a little sugar or a dessertspoon of fruit juice will help with the dried active yeast.)




Notes:
Use every loaf that you make as a marker for the next one.
Dough too wet? Reduce the water by 25g.
Too dry? Add another 25g of water next time.
If you do make changes to the recipe, make a note of what you’ve done.
Try and get into a regular bread making routine: Practice makes perfect, etc, and every loaf you make will improve. 
A basic loaf of bread

There are several methods I use to make a loaf of bread, depending on how much time I have available.

Method A uses the traditional flour to water ratio of 1lb of flour to 1/2 pint of water (500g flour to 315ml). I used this for many years, both at home and it was also used in the bakery where I worked for a while. The dough is mixed, kneaded for a short time, shaped and put to prove.

However, over the past couple of years I’ve become aware of the benefits of adding more water to a mix – the dough rises better and the bread also keeps longer.

There are two methods I use to get more water in a mix, these are detailed in Methods B and C.

Method B is a bit more ‘hands on’ – involving several short kneadings over a 30-45 minute period starting with a fairly sticky dough. Each time the bread is kneaded, the dough gets less sticky. Then the dough is left for an hour or so to rest before shaping and baking.

Method C is what I call the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’ and is the easiest method of the three. The dough for this is simply mixed together, left to prove overnight and results in a loaf that’s full of flavour. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.


Method A. If I want to make one in a hurry – say in my sessions or I want to make one for a visitor to take away with them, I make this loaf:

Ingredients:
500g (3 mugs) strong flour, all white – or a mix of white and wholemeal. I use 400g wholemeal to 100g of white
1/2 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or teaspoon of dried active or fast action yeast
315ml (1 mug) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, but improves keeping qualities)

Method:
1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast until it has dissolved. Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil if using.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Method B. If I have more time, but I still want to make it in a morning, or an afternoon, I’ll use the ‘Several short kneadings over 30-40 minutes’ method:

Same amount of flour, salt and yeast, but 350ml of water.

This mixes into a fairly sticky dough.

Once it’s mixed together, pour a little oil on your worktop and place your dough on top of it.
Pour some oil over your dough and begin to knead – but only for a short time – say 10-20 seconds.
Now place your bowl over the dough and scrape off all the dough from your hands.
Leave the dough for 10-15 minutes and repeat the short kneading action, using oil to make it easier to handle. Once again invert the bowl over your dough and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat the above once more and your dough should by now be manageable without the oil.

Leave it to prove for an hour or two on your worktop. This period of rest gives the bread a better rise.

Form it into your preferred shape and go to Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Method C. But the best and easiest method is the ‘Overnight, no-knead loaf’. This is left to prove overnight and produces by far the most flavoursome loaf. For this I find a food storer with a snap-top lid is invaluable. I use one which holds 2.8ltrs.

Once again, 500g flour to 350ml water, but use half the yeast.

Mix the dough together (I mix it in my food storer, so there’s less washing up) but don’t bother to knead.

Just put the lid on and leave it on your worktop. Generally I make it the following morning, but I have left it for over 48 hours in the past and it’s been fine.

When you’re ready to bake it, place it on your worktop and fold it over several times. It should be quite manageable. If it’s too wet, you may want to knead in more flour – say 25g at a time.)

Then continue from Step 4 or 5:

4. Oil a large loaf tin and have it ready, shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath.

5. Or: For a freeform loaf, shape the loaf by pulling up the dough at the sides with your fingertips and pushing it down in the middle; do that all round the dough. This will have the effect of smoothing the underneath of the dough. Then turn it over and shape it into a round. Place it on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

6. Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until it has grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for about 25-30 minutes.

7. The loaf is ready when it has browned on the sides and bottom. You may need to put it back in upside down, for a few more minutes. It is better overbaked than underbaked.

Note: There’s no doubt that more flavour develops the longer flour and yeast have to mature together. However, in my experience it takes at least 4 hours for the difference in taste to become apparent. That’s why I haven’t included an initial proving time in loaf A.

I find an all wholemeal loaf too heavy for my taste, so I always include some white flour in the mix just to give it a bit of a lift.


My reasons for treating all three types of yeast the same are given in this thread on the old BBC Food Board (now defunct, but the archive is still there):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbfood/F2670471?thread=6659766

Cheers, Paul:)
A word about yeast. Mostly I use fresh yeast it’s just the easiest to use and the most convenient; occasionally I’ll use active dried yeast; and rarely the fast action yeast.

If you can’t get fresh yeast, use dried active yeast (Allinson’s, in a yellow tin, currently 65p; kept near the flour shelves) – half the amount.

(If you’re aiming to make the loaf within 2 hours, then a little sugar or a dessertspoon of fruit juice will help with the dried active yeast.)




Notes:
Use every loaf that you make as a marker for the next one.
Dough too wet? Reduce the water by 25g.
Too dry? Add another 25g of water next time.
If you do make changes to the recipe, make a note of what you’ve done.
Try and get into a regular bread making routine: Practice makes perfect, etc, and every loaf you make will improve.

MONTHLY BREADMAKING SESSION IN TAUNTON


Monday 27th October 2014
3rd session, 5 students (with 3 apologies, so numbers are building up), 4 of whom made pizzas and chocolate rolls, and one (who had just popped her head round the door to check where we were) came with no ingredients, so she made a batch of fancy dinner rolls and some iced buns.

Cheese and tomato pizza - with olives

Leaky pain au chocolat! Some chocolate leaks more than others.

Next month we're making a fruit dough (possibly apfel kuchen or schiacciatta con l'uva) and cheese and tomato sizzlers.

Monday 20th September 2014
2nd session, 4 students this time, who all made a loaf of bread, 
All these loaves were made with a 4-strand plait - one freeform and two tinned




Two-toned loaf-half white, half wholemeal and white, shaped into a 4-strand plait and fitted into a bread tin
…and Chelsea buns:


Each batch of Chelsea buns, made with around 150g (small cup) of flour  and 100g of sultanas  costs less than half the price of a Chelsea bun in the shops

Next session, on the 27th of October, will feature cheese and tomato pizzas and petit pain au chocolat (again!) - but also one of the students would like to make croissants.

7th August 2014

Last Tuesday, I began what is intended to be a regular breadmaking session at St George's Church Hall, Wilton in Taunton. They will be held from 2-4pm on the 4 Tuesday in the month (to be confirmed).

In the first session, five students - most of them fairly new to breadmaking - made a soda bread focaccia, cheese and tomato sizzlers (wraps) plus pain au chocolat and jam doughnuts. 


Italian soda breads - or, soda bread focaccias! The one at the top right is a failed attempt at a gluten-free version!


Add caption

Fancy dinner rolls and sizzlers



Pain au chocolat, jam doughnuts and jam pasties

It is proposed that each month we will make a variety of different breads so that students will build up a bread portfolio.

There will be space for about a dozen students on the course, so there's plenty of space ATM!

The next session is planned for Tuesday 26th August, when we shall be making loaves and fruit bread - there'll be a choice between Chelsea buns/Swedish tea rings/apfel kuchens and more.