A Home Loaf and Britain’s Best Bakery on TV

sourdough with braided top, Zeb Bakes, What I made today, (except of course I started yesterday)

The Day Before Baking

Mix together well

  •  50 g of once refreshed starter
  • 200 g  breadflour
  • 250 g water

Leave for 12-16 hours in a cold kitchen;  6-10 hours in a warm one

The following day

Mix a dough with :

  • 450 g of the above
  • 400 g water (approx, may vary depending on how much strong flour you use)
  • 350 g very strong bread flour
  • 300 g regular bread flour
  • 150 g dark rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon of dark malt dissolved in water
  • 5g dry yeast
  • 20 g fine sea salt
  1. Mix well and knead or not as you prefer.
  2. First prove 3 hours with two folds at hourly intervals.
  3. Shape and Second prove of about 2 hours
  4. Turn out onto peel
  5. Bake in a preheated oven  with steam at 220 °C for 25 mins and then reduce heat to 200 °C for a further 20 – 25 mins.
  6. Cool on a rack.

Baking notes:

Despite the extra bit of yeast, this dough took about three hours to do its first prove. My kitchen was around 18 C most of the day so after an hour or so I put the dough inside my top oven with the door held slightly ajar with a teatowel in the door so the oven light would stay on.  The light was enough to bring the internal temperature of the oven up to around 24 C. I needed to rotate the bowl occasionally as one side got warmer than the other but it works very well and isn’t as expensive as putting the heating on just for the dough!

I then split the dough into two and thought I would have a go at making a loaf with a braid on the top.

I took three balls of 60 g of dough each and rolled them into long even strands and made a three stranded plait which I put in the bottom of the banneton. Then I added a boule of dough on top of that, so that when I turned it out the plait would be on the top.

sourdough with braided top

If I do this again I will make longer strands and a fatter plait, maybe 90 g per strand.  The dough that forms the main part of the loaf weighed 850 g. I made the remaining dough into a smaller loaf.

Why the braid? I have been watching Britain’s Best Bakery on ITV1 for the last couple of weeks, cheering on all the wonderful bakers, patissiers and cake makers who have been brave enough to let a TV crew into their workplaces and film them.

I was very taken with the wonderful showpiece sourdough loaf made by the Metfield Bakery  in Suffolk which had a plait on the top. The judges thought their sourdough was amazing and I had never tried putting a plait on the top of a loaf so I thought I would try for a bit of fun and a sort of homage.   Predictably mine has come out looking nothing like the one I saw on TV, mine looks a bit like a drunken Roman Emperor, whose laurel wreath has tipped over the side of his head after imbibing a bit too much wine…. (Edit: Stuart from Metfield Bakery has left some helpful tips in a comment below, thank you Stuart!)

sourdough, homage to Metfield Bakery

Watching the shows I was struck by how passionate the bakers are, how much they care about their craft.  The show has a competitive element, but in some ways that is the least important part of the show for me. I just like to watch the teamwork involved, the dough being shaped, admire the different ovens, the mixers, the hustle and bustle, and the icing on the cakes.

The judges have a delightful manner and accentuate the positives they find in each and every one of the bakers they talk to; the challenges they set the bakeries are quite fun, but a bit random and not necessarily equal in skill difficulty.   The section where they visit the bakeries and have a look round and a quick chat and a few words from enthusiastic customers is for me the best part of the show. They showcase the bakeries and their warm, inviting interiors and beautiful displays of cakes and breads, their cafés and delighted customers really well.  I found myself making mental notes about where they all were and hoping that one day I would get to pop in and sample their baked goodies for myself.

I really enjoyed seeing my friends at the Loaf in Crich who were on this week, the judges were very complimentary about their big green olive sourdough and it was lovely to see the shop and café humming with life and happy customers. I have almost got the 100% spelt sourdough (my personal nightmare) right now, thanks to expert advice from Andrew at the loaf.

100% spelt sourdough

Here it is looking decidedly more airy than my usual bricks. One of the most rewarding things about dabbling in breadmaking has been all the wonderful people I have come across while doing it. Andrew is one of those people who has always been kind hearted and encouraging. We all need encouragement.

It is well worth having a look at, recording or using Catch up TV options to whizz through the adverts and share in the delight and see places that you might want to visit if you were in that part of the UK. The series is in the second of four weeks, so plenty of time to catch some of the shows as they travel around the UK.

By the way….

In Bristol we have the brand new East Bristol Bakery in St Mark’s Road, Easton and Laura Hart is opening her new bakery this Saturday 8th December, both highly recommended!

I get so excited when I walk past a bakery and I always have to go in and buy something, even if I have a breadbin full at home I can’t resist.

39 thoughts on “A Home Loaf and Britain’s Best Bakery on TV

  1. hotlyspiced

    That’s a fabulous looking loaf. We don’t have that show here but I can certainly relate to enjoying watching shows with masters in the kitchen xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Charlie! There isn’t quite enough in the kitchen for me but it is interesting to see how the bakeries are changing in order to stay viable in these austere times. So many people buy their factoryproduced bread in the supermarkets and that is what people’s palates have got used to. If bakeries tempt you in for a cake, you might just end up with a decent loaf in your bag as well…

  2. Jeannette

    Hello Joanna, Nice to ‘see’ you again! Your bread looks really good too.
    I have caught a couple of the programmes, and I have really enjoyed them, in the same way as you have, I love to see the bakers at work and comparing the way they work the dough with how I do it. Today I remembered to record the programme and set the box to do it until the series ends so that I don’t miss any.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Lovely to hear from you Jeannette – I don’t know if I can watch each and every one but I am recording so I can dip in and out and look for the good bits. Adverts drive me mad and the voice over does as well. I nearly wrote a great big chunk about the voice over and the narrative but decided to stay positive :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It looks a bit like a baldheaded man with the flour on the top, I think less flour in the banneton next time for me. You never use it do you? so I imagine yours will look like an Olympian champion and not I, Claudius ;)

  3. aulda

    Joanna, a lovely looking loaf! And I am off to bed with a warm heart and a gentle smile after reading your kind words. x

  4. MC

    What a wonderful and heartwarming post, Joanna! I love it. I wonder if the shows will end up online. I’d love to see them. Your bread is gorgeous, congratulations! Very festive and elegant. Re: the extra boule which you put on the braid to make sure it’d stay on top. Did you just stick it in the middle where the wreath leaves a hole? I have trouble visualizing it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for your kind comments MC. I really didn’t have a clue what size braid to make so I think it should have been fatter maybe. And yes I did just place the main boule on top of the braid in the basket. It looks as if the braid flattened under the weight of the dough, which you would expect and as if the boule found its way into the bottom of the basket and then came up through the braid with the oven spring. I didn’t slash the loaf so it pushed slightly higher on one side as it rose. I am guessing it opens up at the edges of the braid. I will see when I cut it.

      PS See tips from Stuart at Metfield Bakery who has kindly left a comment for me below !

  5. Le Petit Potager

    Joanna, your loaf looks just fabulous………..lovely to see more of your bread posts!
    I’ve been making your rye grain bread for over a year now with great success and suddenly its behaving differently; the dough starts rising in that first 10 to 20 minutes before the first knead……..the first time this happened it was so sticky and almost sloppy after the bulk ferment, in the end I finished up manhandling from a banneton into a loaf pan.
    The following day I made another loaf and put it in the wine fridge (set at 14 degrees and humidity controlled) for the bulk ferment…..still grew at an amazing rate…. in desperation I put it into the fridge where it still managed to rise up to the top of the banneton.
    The kitchen was 27 degrees and 60% humidity.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you Le Petit P! Your leaven sounds incredibly active and healthy, most people would be very envious! How often are you feeding it? Do you keep it out at all times or does it ever go in the fridge? In hot weather activity increases exponentially and bakers do things like mix with ice cold water, chill the flour, chill the bowls etc and retard dough in quite cold fridges. Yeast will stay active even around 4 C. I have put dough in my fridge which is around that temp overnight and it will prove quite happily.

      1. Le Petit Potager

        Hi Joanna, I bake a loaf weekly, my leaven lives in the fridge until 6 hours before I’m ready to make the starter and cold soaker.
        I usually have everything at room temp and mix the dough in the early morning when its still fairly cool; I’ll keep everything icy cold for tomorrow’s loaf.
        Thanks so much for all the splendid advice. Elaine.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Also meant to say, if you have a thermometer take a reading from the dough once mixed. Another thing you can do is use a little salt in the levain itself to slow it down if it is going through its refreshment cycle too quickly. I seem to remember seeing that in Hamelman’s book. I would try it out on a separate lot just in case it doesn’t like it though. xx

  6. Ann

    What a lovely loaf Joanna – I like the image of a slightly tipsy Roman emperor! Wish i could see that show but unfortunately we can’t get catch up tv from the UK here.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I wonder if Celia knows a way to watch ITV1’s online feed in Australia?
      This is who my loaf reminds me of…

  7. heidiannie

    I love your bread posts, Joanna- they are always humorous and informative and challenging!
    I want to make that bread!!!
    I’d love to see the bakery shows, too- but not sure if they would be showing on Hulu or Netflix-
    my youngest son used to complain that going vacationing with me is mostly checking out bakeries and secondhand book shops. And he’s right- that is exactly where I go when I hit a new city!
    I really love the look of that bread. I think I’m going to try it once I get my Christmas gift baking under control!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Heidi, I haven’t thought about Christmas baking really, as usual I have stuck my head in the sand and am pretending it isn’t happening :) Checking out bakeries and bookshops sounds like the perfect holiday to me too !

  8. gillthepainter

    Which day were your friends on Joanna? I’ve not had the chance to watch the show this week, but quite liked it on for company last week.
    I can catch up on itvplayer today.

    1. Joanna Post author

      the Loaf was on Wednesday this week. The braid on top was my attempt at the Metfield Bakery’s beautiful showstopping sourdough, hee hee :)

  9. sallybr

    mine looks a bit like a drunken Roman Emperor, whose laurel wreath has tipped over the side of his head after imbibing a bit too much wine….

    That was TOO GOOD! I disagree, though, I think the bread turned out spectacular, and I intend to try my hands at that. Of course, my bread will look like the Roman Emperor fell from a horse after the excessive drinking…. But I still want to try it, it looks amazing!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Sally – it’s amazing what the love of bread brings out in the way of imperial purple prose !! I look forward to seeing your Emperor off horseback one day soon. xx Jo

  10. stuart

    Hi Jo – really nice to see we’ve inspired you – I hold your tips and advice in the highest regard :-)
    A few pointers on the braided top – we place the boule in the banneton seam side DOWN. This allows the loaf to open a little without slashing it, yet it is held in place by the braid, which prevents it from opening too far. Don’t use too much dough for the braid – we use about 5-8% of its weight. We also scale them at 1.5kilos for a 1.2k -1.35k loaf
    Hope that helps – oh yes – we also use a dark rye leaven finishing with white flour as the final dough
    Stuart x

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou so much Stuart, you are very kind indeed :-) hope my funny loaf made you smile. I will try with the seam up another time, that makes perfect sense and a smaller braid too. i tend to keep the rye levain for what I think of as predominantly rye breads but I will give it a go ! Best of luck in the competition ! Joanna

  11. Jan

    I love those sort of food programmes – I enjoy the people , the interiors and all the back ground stuff as well as the food. I used to enjoy River Cottage for much the same reasons. Lovely loaf Joanna. We passed a bread stall at a market this morning and I would have loved to have bought several of the loaves – different sourdoughs and spelt breads with things like figs and walnuts or olives, etc etc. My bucket list includes a foodie trail, bookshop crawl and guided garden gawping. Talking of which, now the sun is low in the sky I can go out and continue my earth bothering.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have been having a TV food excess the last day or so. I also watched something callled the Great Brtitsh Food Revival late last night, all about oats and broad beans. It has been a bit parky here this week so it’s been cardigans and slippers and dreaming of long summer evenings; the earth a bit icy to bother but lovely to hear of yours Jan x

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  13. drfugawe

    Is this one one of your own formulas? Looks very interesting. Do you often use yeast along with a starter? (pardon all the questions)

    1. Joanna Post author

      If swapping proportions of flour is significant then I suppose so but it is based on my regular sourdough. I only use yeast along with the starter in various circumstances, if I want either a very mild bread or if I want to speed the process up. I always reference when I do it here, ditto when I use the stronger Canadian flour which says it has 15g protein per 100g. it gives a much more elastic end result and I thought it would help the braid keep its definition. I was just playing about really!

  14. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna I so wish I could get a couple of hands on apprentice lessons with you. I want to get better with my bread and understand it all more, but just don’t have the time to dedicate to the craft at the moment. I see things like your lovely loaf and I just want to run to the kitchen and play! (I’ve been following some swedish bakers on instagram at the moment as well…oh inspiring stuff.)
    There is a baking show starting next year here with Mr Dan Lepard I believe, should be interesting and all I want to do is grab ideas.
    I’m interested in your 100% spelt too. I love the spelt, love the taste, love how it sits in the belly, but I don’t get anything near the crumb that you’ve shown here, impressive!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Brydie, I think those Swedish bakers are fab too! The baking show is the Aus version of the Great British Bake Off. It is a very slick, competitive piece of TV, like Masterchef – I don’t know if one learns that much from it, but maybe Dan will have some good input contentwise, be interested to hear.

      I will email you re spelt with what I did here. I have a feeling that in the same way that all wheat is not the same, spelt grain varies depending on where it is grown, variety etc. Your breads look wonderful from where I am sitting :) xx Jo

  15. spiceandmore

    I want to sign up for one of those apprentice classes too please! Perhaps we have to all entice you to visit Australia and give us all some lessons in bread making and slashing etc (?). I contemplated trying to track you down when we were in the UK earlier this year to say “can I come and watch you make bread”, then decided that was too cheeky.
    I am going to try this recipe. It will be good to try something different from my standard fare when it comes to sourdough bread.

    1. Joanna Post author

      There are so many ‘proper’ bakers teaching these days, you don’t need me. really not, but it is very flattering and terribly sweet of you to say that. And I wish you had ‘tracked me down’. If and when you return please do. There is nothing particularly special about this formula, but again I am always delighted if people feel inspired to play by something written here. Have a lovely Christmas Spice ! xx

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  17. My Italian Smörgåsbord

    hi Zeb, nice to meet you. How many delicious loaves! I will be coming back often. Happy New Year!!

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