Tag Archives: Bread

Small Breads, a Bundt and Speculaas Biscuits

2nd January 2014

For those of you who don’t know IMK, Celia curates an ever growing list of lovely bloggers who share things happening in their kitchens across the world.  Click on the link to go to Celia @ FIgjamandlimecordial.com to find out more. I don’t have lots of wild and exotic things to show you that arrived for Christmas as I spent Christmas on the beach but you might like to see these photos anyway from my Bristol kitchen.

Sesame coated rolls

My current favourite thing to do with dough is to make the date syrup kefir dough with a healthy scoop or two of stoneground wholemeal in the mix and then shape it into a loaf and a tray of rolls. I am somewhat enamoured of rolling the rolls in sesame seeds before leaving them for their final prove as I love the taste that sesame seeds add to the dough and it makes a change from the usual floury tops I tend to make. These rolls use about 85 – 100 g of dough and bake on a tray in about 20 minutes at 210-220º C. They freeze well and are very good for slicing for emergency toast, for a lunch as here, and perfect stuffed with salami for a picnic. Continue reading

Cheese and Onion Crispy Soft Rolls

4th July 2013

cheese and onion crisps Golden Wonder

I used to be completely obsessed with cheese and onion crisps and I suspect I am not alone in this. So you are in for a rambling old post today with a recipe at the end if you keep reading. Golden Wonder were the brand of my childhood, now overtaken by Walkers I believe, who have coloured their cheese and onion packets blue which confuses me utterly, because in my mind cheese and onion will always be green.  The power of the brand is strong in my mental map.

I ate these every day on the 716 Green Line Bus that swooped down into Hammersmith Broadway on its cross-capital journey (from Welwyn Garden City to Chertsey and Hitchin)  and away to Kingston on Thames after a long school day. Continue reading

Semolina Bun Bread with Wild Garlic and Sundried Tomatoes

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23rd April 2013

The Dan Lepard fan club knows that in his repertoire of awesome buns are some absolute treasures to which one returns time and time again. My favourite three are the legendary soft white bap, the top teacake and our eternal favourite, the BBQ semolina bun. Known in this house variously as the duvet bread or the pillow bread because of the scoring to the top, I make this bread over and over again. The recipe for the Semolina BBQ buns is still available on the Guardian website and I don’t change anything at all when I make it.

Today I made a double batch and made a duvet with one portion. With the second batch of dough I thought I would try something a bit different for me. When the dough had finished its first prove, I patted and gently rolled it out into a largish rectangle and spread it lightly with some wild garlic, grated pecorino cheese, ground almonds and olive oil made into a pesto-like sauce and a few sundried tomatoes. I rolled it up gently into a sausage shape and curved it into a ring. I set it on a sheet of baking parchment on a tray and put it inside a clean bin bag to prove. Before baking, I slashed small slashes in the top and brushed it with water and sprinkled fine semolina over it.

I baked it at 240º C (220º C Fan) for 15 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 200º C (180º C Fan) for another 15 minutes and then took it out of the oven and left it to cool and stop sizzling on a rack. The bottom was very crusty. If you don’t like crusty then bake it a bit cooler.

The trick with doing this is not to squash all the air out of the dough when patting it out to the rectangle, use the flat of your fingers to start the process off. When you use the pin, roll as gently as you can from the centre of the dough towards the corners to get a rectangular shape, and take your time. If the dough is pinging back a lot, walk away for five minutes and let it relax before you try again; try not to compress the dough too much, you are sort of stretching and fluffing it, rather than rolling and squashing. I am thinking about the way I pat out pizza dough rather than use a pin, though that is of course a different dough and more delicate than this.

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My dearest old neighbour from where I used to live came round for lunch and we ate in the garden, yes really it was warm enough to eat outside!! We were accompanied by the sound of building work from two doors down, visits from some very large bumble bees, and the grumbles of small poodles, but you know what, it was glorious!

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Brian had bought an entire box of aubergines for the sum of £2.75 at the weekend and even though he gave two-thirds of them away we still had lots left to cook, so it was more swooning and more olive oil and more Imam Bayildi for lunch today. I changed the spices slightly this time and left the onions chunkier, using allspice and a very new hot smoked paprika. We are still swooning… and I promise not to mention it again, but it is really very good indeed.

Singing Crusts and Rising Bread

Zeb Bakes Apple Bread

This is going to be what I now believe is called a ‘longform’ post. i.e. more than three lines and two photos.

It has been about five years now since I picked up a bag of flour and wandered dustily down the bread road.

Other people in the same time span have started their own businesses, gone to baking school, and done all sorts of wonderful things seduced and entranced as they are by the whole baking world.  I still haven’t made croissants or doughnuts, but I like to think I can make a reasonable loaf of sourdough and great pitta bread.

In this post I just wanted to have a little chat and a meander through my baking past such as it is,  because I sometimes think that people don’t quite believe that we all go down the same road more or less trying to figure out this bread thing, which is how to make bread that makes us and the people we share it with happy!

I have spent a bit of time trawling through old photos, many of which were taken by Brian, (the clue is that his have that fancy blurred background thing going on).  I will try and do a ‘with hindsight’ running commentary on what was going on, and what might have gone wrong, but it is hard to know exactly. If you knew me when I posted on Dan’s forum you will have seen these photos before as I puzzled over what to do to put things right the next time…

First Mill Loaves!

Here we have two of my very earliest loaves, I was very ashamed of them, but I also thought they were quite funny so I took their photo vowing that I would do better next time.

They were both made from the same dough, the flatter of the two on the right had stood for about an hour longer than the other one before being baked and was completely and utterly overproved. The very dark one had been in the oven for ages at a very hot temperature. All those hours of waiting and I wasn’t very impressed.

However my best loaf possibly ever and the one that makes me smile the most is this one:

Mouse Cathedral 1

This was an experiment in not kneading and not folding and putting dough in the fridge overnight. I thought I would be even more minimal than the most minimal of bakers and very clever. I hadn’t really understood that you have to get rid of some of the bubbles in the dough, or stretch and shape it.

Mouse Cathedral 2

As you can see it turned into a mouse cathedral, and rose in a way I have never been able to replicate since. I think there was so much air in the dough that it just didn’t know what to do. Ah me.

White LevainThis was my first attempt at a basic white sourdough made with Dan Lepard’s recipe in the Handmade Loaf. It is a simple dough but not an easy one to handle if you are starting out. I read somewhere the other day that simple is not the same as easy, and this certainly applies to bread making. I think I had used so much oil to handle the dough that the crumb took on a shine resembling my face after a day in the kitchen. Using oil to shape dough is very useful, but too much can cause problems, particularly when it comes to sealing the seams underneath with a firm dough. Use it sparingly and save yourself this grief.

At this point I spent a lot of time reading about flour and reading bread books and decided that if only I had the ‘right’ flour I would make much better bread. In fact I hummed and hawed about this a lot, bought all sorts of different flours and experimented madly, and spread myself so thinly that I never really knew what I was doing.

Sourdough overnight baguettes - 9

I made an attempt at  overnight sourdough baguettes and was appallingly pleased with myself. In fact it is just sourdough in baguette shape but no matter. As I have said before I am not a perfectionist and am easily pleased! Look at their funny little shapes and their slashes!

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I proved these in my old cotton teatowels, no fancy couche cloth here, not a clue really what I was doing, but I do remember eating these, baked from cold from the fridge and being extremely happy and greedy.

How many can I eat?

I carried on making breads and posting about them on Dan Lepard’s forum, I shyly chatted away to people who also posted. I made friends, I asked questions, I began to think I knew some of the answers and tried to help people who also turned up, the curse of being an ex teacher and wanting to share knowledge, partial though it was and still is.

It was a lovely forum, with a great mix of people from experts to beginners and was very gentle and friendly. I admit I bought brotforms, in those days not as easy to find as they are now,  so I ordered some from Germany. I found two french banettons with linen liners in a catering suppliers in the UK too.  My early banetton loaves had a ghostly white pallor as I had read somewhere to dust them with potato flour to stop the dough sticking. It works fine but doesn’t change colour in the oven at all. The loaves were beginning to look like loaves that made sense to me at last.

Mill Loaves again

I am not the most consistent of people and I maybe never took the baking or the blogging quite seriously enough to be a bona fide food blogger nor a baker but every so often I get a nice comment or an email from someone who has been brave enough to make something based on what I have written here and then I feel very pleased that I have helped which brings me to the highlight of my blogging week:-

Highlight of the week

JoH Bakes Beautiful Sourdough

Look at that crumb!

Look at that crumb!

Sharing and Baking

These are photos of JoH’s sourdough that she sent me this week which I am allowed to show you.  I think her bread looks just great and I am delighted that she too is jumping up and down with happiness at making a loaf that pleases her. She was working from my weekly sourdough sheets which you can find here → Weekly sourdough pdf

So here’s to all of you brave and foolhardy people who drag a bag of dry flour into the kitchen, squint at a recipe, wonder over instructions like ‘give the dough a turn’ or ‘ form a boule’, who convert cups to grams and ounces to handfuls,  burn your arms and skid on semolina, to those of you who sit by your ovens and smile as the bread rises,  feed your friends and family, share pictures and stories, advice and lore on the internet, with your salt and your leaven, your ferments and baskets, I salute you, may your bread rise and your crusts sing and crackle!

Oh and a last word of my best well-meaning advice – don’t worry about what they do on TV, follow your instincts, take it all with a pinch of salt, they don’t know it all, no one does – question everything, practise lots, study your failures, as they will tell you more than you think, and have a good time!

Jeffrey Hamelman’s Rye and Flaxseed Bread

Rye and Flaxseed Sourdough Bread copyright Zeb Bakes

Flax or linseed is a wonderful and healthy addition to a good loaf of bread. In the UK we get both golden and brown linseed, I have used golden linseed here as I like the colour. If you soak the seeds overnight before working them into the dough then they release a sticky mucilage that I believe improves the cohesive quality of a high content rye dough and for those of you who are struggling with shaping and slashing it also helps in that department. All the loaves I have ever made using a flaxseed soaker open and spring well.

linseed old bread bread dough copyright zeb bakes

This bread is made following a recipe of Jeffrey Hamelman in the updated edition of Bread. It is made with fermented whole rye flour, strong white (bread flour) linseeds and an old bread soaker. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of an old bread soaker, who are wrinkling your nose and going ewww, an old bread soaker is not made with a green and furry piece of ancient crust, not with a three day old slice of supermarket pap but with a drying piece of a good bread. In this case I used a slice of the sourdough I was currently eating which was about two days old. As I routinely eat my sourdoughs for up to a week after they have been baked, there was nothing scary about this at all.

Like most things you might choose to add to your bread, the secret is not to add too much that it alters the character of the loaf in an undesirable way.

proving loaves in cloth copyright Zeb Bakes

The recipe is given in full on Modern Baking’s website here (it looks like a legal site not one of those horrible rip off places) together with his notes on the bread and his comments on using an old bread soaker for those of you don’t have a copy of the book yet. I scale the recipe down by dividing the metric column numbers by 10 as I do with nearly all his recipes for my use at home. I followed the recipe very closely as I tend to do when I make Hamelman’s breads. I might add a little more or less liquid depending on the absorbency of my particular flours that is the only difference.

If you are trying an old bread soaker you may need to experiment with how you prepare it though. I suggest making sure the bread is a sort of porridgy slurry before you mix it into the dough, so you may need to process it a bit in some way first.

Rye and Linseed sourdough copyright Zeb Bakes

This is a strong and fully flavoured bread which reminds me vividly of German breads. I adore it. It is not one for people who don’t like rye however. I return to bake it ( and variations on this theme )  again and again. It has a lovely mouth feel and bite and a rich complex set of flavours.

I made three easily shapable loaves and put them in between folds of cloth to prove before baking in a hot oven with steam on a baking stone.

Give it a go if you fancy something different, you never know you might like it! There are lots more of Jeffrey Hamelman’s breads buried in the old posts of my blog if you want to get an idea of the range and breadth of what he offers the aspiring bread baker.  I have added a menu page which gives links to these breads  which I baked with the Mellow Bakers project for ease of reference here.   I might revisit baguettes this weekend …. what are you baking?

Related Posts :

Multi seeded bread with an old bread soaker with recipe

Cecilia’s Amazing Kefir Bread – did I doubt her?

11th March 2013

Kefir Grain Zeb Bakes

In 2012 I was lucky enough to be sent some milk kefir grains by Carl Legge, a generous and enthusiastic baker, grower and published author who lives in North Wales.

Kefir FermentingI fed them for a while and experimented with making rudimentary soft cheese with it, but found that the grains grew bigger and bigger and fermented the  milk faster and faster and I couldn’t keep up. So I followed instructions on Dom’s Kefir! and froze them. I defrosted them about a week ago and have been giving them lots of love and so far they seem to have survived freezing fine. Continue reading

Sourdough and Forgetfulness

Forgetful Sourdough Zeb Bakes

One of the best things about sourdough baking is that once you have persevered and got going with it, you can return to it and like riding the proverbial bicycle just get a starter going and well, make a loaf when you feel like it.

I found myself making up a couple of lots of starter to send in the post and was left with various bits of starter in various stages. I had one semi dried bowlful, another a bit past its best squidgy one and I looked at them and thought, chuck or bake, chuck or bake? So I baked.

I started late afternoon (not the best of times to think about making bread) and then around 7 pm when the dough was ready to shape, arrived at another decision point. Chill or shape, chill or shape?

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So I shaped, then I tucked the banneton in the oven with the light on and ate supper. And then I fell asleep. I woke up and was just about to crawl off to bed at around midnight and I remembered the dough. I thought, oh it will have just collapsed, oh no, but in fact it was puffy and bubbly and so I heated up the oven and sleepily slashed it and chucked it in. Went back to the sofa, watched forty minutes of TV, read about yeast water on the Fresh Loaf, took the loaf out, left it and here it is this morning.

The point of this is to say that sourdough in a cool climate can work to the advantage of the scatty brained and forgetful. It will wait for you for a surprisingly long time, where a yeasted dough would just collapse in a hiss and a froth of frustration.  So if you are starting out on your sourdough experiments, it really does get easier as you practise, trust me! If you can find someone to show you how to shape and give you all their little tips, the things they do without thinking then that is invaluable, but you can pick up loads just from reading and thinking about it. We all get there in the end.

Have a look at Celia’s brand new tutorial if you want to see how it is done superbly in the hotter climate of Sydney, Australia. Or if you want to read a bit more about how I go about it when I am concentrating, ahem, have a look at this post Weekly Sourdough Bread.

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Forgetful Person’s Sourdough

  • 150 g of starter
  • 320 g water to start with, maybe add more once you have mixed
  • 500 g bread flour
  • 10 g salt
  1. Mix all but the salt, if the dough is very tight then add water 20 g at a time and mix in till you have a dough you feel comfortable with.
  2. Leave for half an hour, tip dough out of bowl, sprinkle salt on and work into dough.
  3. Shape into ball and
  4. Put in lightly oiled bowl
  5. Leave somewhere sensible, in winter near a radiator or in an oven with the light on until the dough shows that it has started to grow, and you can see bubbles under the skin.
  6. Then either put in fridge till the next day
  7. or shape into a ball, this time using flour to shape
  8. and put seamside down in a well floured basket
  9. cover with a shower cap or a teatowel or cling film
  10. put somewhere warm
  11. try and remember it before you go to bed
  12. put the oven on for 20 minutes or so before you bake, nice and hot 220C at least,
  13. put a little tray in the bottom of the oven on a lower shelf
  14. tip dough out of basket, dust with flour if needed, slash the top with a sharp knife
  15. slide dough into oven onto tray or baking stone
  16. Boil kettle and put boiling water into hot little tray below
  17. Bake for 10 – 20 minutes  till bread is browning and is fully risen, and open door, let out steam for a few seconds
  18. Reduce heat to 200C and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your loaf
  19. Leave on wire rack to cool
  20. Go to bed – 0100 knowing there will be fresh bread in the morning