Category Archives: Bakers

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.

I have a dear friend who reads my blog who thought she’d have another try at making sourdough this week.  Building up to this she has been out and looked for a banneton substitute and enterprisingly found a basket in a local charity shop. She then went and got some linen like material with which to line it. However, having set up her new basket ready for baking, she came back to the kitchen to find…

….. Sunny Silverstar – chocolate burmese torte in residence (aka the Baker’s Cat)

I love the way her tail just doesn’t quite fit in there!

Pic shown by permission of Sunny’s Mum. 

And here’s someone else who is not supposed to be in a basket… tsk tsk…

Forums and Bake-Alongs

The Mellow Bakers project of baking through Jeffrey Hamelman’s great collection of recipes in Bread, A Baker’s Book of Recipes and Techniques,  has come to an end.

This is a sort of thinking aloud post, so I’d be interested to hear any thoughts particularly with regard to using wordpress for group baking. You may of course think there are plenty of places already to do that, but I think it is always worth experimenting with different formats, as different things suit different people.

 I was just having a quick read on the Mellow Bakers forum to see what they are up to and it looks as if there will be a brand new group of bakers starting working their way through Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman this year,  so if you wanted to join in last time but felt it was too late to do so, have a look on that forum and see what’s going on.

jeffrey hamelman five grain bread

The principles are very simple.  It’s a free to join, no strings, come and go as you please internet space, run and moderated by Paul.  You can write about your baking there, you can post photos, links to your blog, ask for help, chat. Bake some, all, or none of the recipes.

I began Zeb Bakes because I wanted a home for my bread posts while I was baking along with Paul, Abby, Andrea, Jacqueline, Ulrike, Melanie, Geraint, Doc Fugawe, Natashya, Steve to name but a few of the many fantastic people who dropped in and baked and chatted there. Some people only popped in once or twice, some people baked everything they possibly could. It has been a fairly relaxed affair and I have learnt so much while I was doing it. Thank you all of you!


I really enjoyed baking along with some great people who dropped in and out over the course of the Hamelman project. I take my hat off to the amazing bakers who baked every single one of the recipes.  I managed forty five (I think!) different bread recipes out of all the ones we could have made. You can see the ones I made by clicking on these two pages in my menu bar, here and here.

There are of course other forums to join up to if you want to talk bread, there’s the Real Bread Campaign in the UK, which you have to pay to join. I was a member for one year but it seems more aimed at would be professionals than at people like me so I have let my membership lapse.

There’s also the Fresh Loaf in the US, which has members from all over the world and is a very fast moving and big forum. If you speak German or Spanish these are links to two forums in those languages.

Terry, who I met at Joe’s and Martin’s baking weekend in Yorkshire, runs a wood & pizza oven forum where they talk bread and pizza in particular and is well worth visiting too if you have questions about oven building.


And then there are the one off Twitter bake alongs where people teach you how to make a starter, or how to make rolls like Luc Martin did recently. I made brioche one happy Sunday following the @halfdrunkduck’s great instructions.

Zeb checks the mise en place for Dan Lepard's Dundee Cake

It reminded me of Dan Lepard’s Dundee Cake bake off which was one of the funniest things I have ever done on my own, Sally BR and Gill the Painter were in on that one and we have been great friends ever since –  I wish we could do another one day, though I know they take a lot of organizing.

Thinking along those lines, maybe we could do one using the P2 group theme on WordPress which allows for realtime updates?  If anyone is interested in giving it a go, maybe one Sunday later this year,  do let me know.

For those of you unfamiliar with how WordPress.com (not wordpress.org which is the self hosted side of the business)  works, you sign up as a user (free) and then you have a wordpress name and password and you can be added to a group blog where you can upload text and photos without having to have a blog if you don’t want one.

Of course if you do want a blog, you just opt for that. WordPress don’t charge you for the basic blogs, but they do have fees if you want to keep your blog advert free, like this one, or to register your own name, and various other things, all explained on their site.

I could set one up and see if we could make it work for one-off bake-alongs if there is interest.

If you want me to add a link to any non commercial bread forums or upcoming low cost bread events that I have missed out, please put something in a comment below and I will edit this post.

Happy Baking Everyone!

NB I’ve edited this post a bit since I first wrote it to make the bit about wordpress clearer.

22nd Feb 2012

I have taken out all references to group baking of Dan Lepard’s books as this seems to be causing problems lately. For more on this see Paul’s recent post on Mellow Bakers and if you wish join in the discussion there.

I have left people’s comments on this post as they are.

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