Tag Archives: bread


The following quantities make four naan.

  • 250g strong white flour
  • 2.5g salt
  • 1tsp dried yeast
  • 200mL warm water
  • optionally, 3tbsp plain yoghurt and/or a knob of melted butter and/or some vegetable oil; up to you

Mix dough as usual. It is much harder to measure 3tbsp of yoghurt than it sounds, so don’t worry too much about exact quantities, and the dough may need more/less water depending on the flour. Knead for 5 minutes, rise for 90 minutes, knock down, divide into four balls, roll out and cook in hot heavy pan (no oil) for a couple of minutes a side.


Dough by Dough

Once made, bread dough keeps for two weeks in the fridge, sealed in a plastic container. This might be obvious to you, but wasn’t to me until a few years ago. It can’t really “go off” as “going off” requires the depredations of bacteria, and no bacterium in its right mind would attack commercial yeast, which has been selectively bred to be more feral than a wild boar.

Here are a few notes. I made wet dough (80% hydration) and mixed in a generous slug of melted butter, kneading on a buttered surface, to retain the moisture level. The butter, or some kind of fat, seems to be necessary, otherwise it develops a skin in the fridge.

The first rise was done the normal way, but when I knocked it back, rather than just gently squishing it down, I stretched it sideways to about thrice its length, and then folded it in three, much as though I were making ciabatta. (Stretching the dough stretches the bubbles, so you end up with a more open texture.)

Thence into a buttered tupper, and into the fridge.

Once that’s in place, any time I feel like bread, I just break off a piece of the appropriate size, shape it, let it prove for half an hour, and into the oven.

One difference using cold dough is that it doesn’t rise very much when proving, but seems possessed of an almost preternatural oven spring. Also the yeast will continue to work, exuding water vapour, which will condense on the inside of the container and make the outside of the dough wet, so have some flour/semolina handy to dust it.

Anyway, here’s what I did.

Day Two
Some quick round buns. 10 mins in the oven.
Day Four
Stretched and rolled a strip in semolina, slashed like mad, and got a baguette like thing, although it decided to bend like a banana for some reason.
Day Five
With the Royal Wedding imminent, it seemed only right to make English muffins. Break off small chunks, roll into balls, squish ’em flat, dust with semolina, and cook in a large frypan on a medium hob, turning frequently, so they don’t become spherical.
Day Seven
After all that Britishness it seemed right and proper for something French, so the remainder was rolled thinly, had slices of butter placed in the middle, folded, rolled, folded, rolled, rested, and then turned into mutant croissants.
Looked rubbish but smelt and tasted exactly right. Egg glaze next time, for the all-over tan. Always bake croissants on a tray with a lip, as some of the butter will inevitably escape.

Soda Bread

A fast bread. If you’re organised, you can be tucking into this 45 minutes after you start mixing the dough. Here’s what you need:

  • 250g plain white flour (not “strong” or “breadmaking” flour: soda bread has its origins in areas where the flour had a low gluten content)
  • 90mL milk
  • 90mL water
  • 1½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¾ tsp bicarb of soda
  • 5g salt

Mix thoroughly, and then knead briefly on generously floured surface. Shape into a ball, and then squish it flat, no more than 2 inches thick.

Use a blunt knife to indent a cross on the top, almost all the way to the bottom.

Into a preheated oven at 200ºC – check after 20 mins, might need 25 – usual hollow drum like effect when rapped on the bottom. Cool for 10 minutes.

The results always put me in mind of a giant scone. Apply butter, jam, marmalade or honey. And a gallon of Tea.

Feel free to vary the consituents of the liquid. Pop in an egg and/or some melted butter if you’re feeling lush. A scattering of raisins won’t hurt, nor will a squirt of honey, or a sprinkling of spices.

For a more traditional version, you can use buttermilk. This is a little more acidic, so you’ll need less cream of tartar.

Use 2tsp baking powder if you’ve not got soda and tartar in separate pots.

Extra Strong!

Just a quick note, re the “Extra Strong” Canadian flour from Waitrose. Was throwing together some dough for a small loaf, not really concentrating*, and ended up with a loose, but only slightly too sticky dough. Subsequently peered at the water jug and realised that I’d used it all, so was consequently working with 100% hydration, and the dough wasn’t pouring off the bench. In fact it made a rather tasty loaf with more oven spring and bigger holes than usual.

Must try this again. Soon.

*I don’t have a solution to insomnia, but will sometimes while away the hours by making bread, rather than just lying awake in bed feeling sorry for myself. The results are sometimes erratic when I’m not awake as I think.


Homemade tortillas rock, and are as far removed from the things you buy in the supermarket, as Montgomery’s is from processed cheddar.

Now, be warned, my tortillas aren’t authentic, and probably closer to roti/chapati. And they’re never round, either.

For ten tortillas, you’ll need 300g strong white flour, 200mL warm water, a pinch of salt and, optionally, a glug of oil.

Mix the salt and flour, plus a splash of oil. Gradually add enough of the water, stirring all the while, to form a dough. You’ll probably need about 175mL.

Lightly oil a clean work surface and knead the dough ’til it’s no longer sticky, so maybe ten minutes. Form the dough into a ball and leave somewhere to rest for about half an hour, covered in oiled cling wrap. The kneading and resting allow the gluten to form long strands so you can roll it out.

Get a large heavy frypan moderately hot. Place a large teatowel somewhere tranquil.

Flour the work surface. Break off a lump of dough about the size of a squash ball.

Roll it out. You’ll notice from the photo above that casually using a wine bottle isn’t an option and a proper rolling pin is required.

Shake off an excess flour and pop the tortilla into the pan, no oil, and leave for a slow count of 30. The upper surface will wrinkle and puff very slightly. Use the tongs to turn it over, and you’ll see some reassuring brown spots. If the spots are black then the temperature is too high, no spots or puffing/wrinkling and it’s too low. Once flipped, give it another count of 30, and then pop it onto one side of the teatowel, and fold over. This stops it drying out.

Repeat, building up a stack of tortillas inside the teatowel. With a bit of practise, you’ll be able to roll out tortilla N+1 whilst tortilla N is cooking. A glamorous assistant comes in useful at moments like this.

Pass the chilli.


You’ll notice from the photos that I accidentally left some cumin seeds and dried oregano on the bench when I rolled out the tortilla. Oops.

If you have leftover tortillas, pop them in the fridge. They will be horrid the next morning, but wrap them round some barely scrambled eggs, cheese and leftover salsa, and pop under a relentlessly hot grill. The result will lift your spirits if you had too much Corona with the chilli.

Note to Self: Must experiment with how much/little kneading is required, and whether autolysis might be the answer.


I really ought to make this more often.

Fairly standard bread recipe: make a dough using 500g flour, 350mL water, 10g posh sea salt, and 30mL of nice olive oil. Mix, knead on an oiled surface, form into a ball, and let it rise, covered, somewhere warm, for an hour or so. (If the flour is strong enough to take more water than that, get stuck in. A wet dough is good.)

No fancy shaping required. Knock back the risen dough, stretch it out, and push it into a baking tray; all the way to the edges. You could also just stretch out your ball into a circle and put it in the middle of a baking sheet. The stretching action after the first rise helps produce the big irregular bubbles. If you think your tray might stick, then pop a sheet of baking paper on the bottom first, and maybe not quite go to the edges. In the case of this batch, the 800g of dough fitted nicely into a 10″ × 14″ baking tray, resulting in a layer of dough about half an inch thick, which is about what you should aim for.

Cover with cling film, and allow to rise again. You could also do the second rise in the fridge, obviously you’d need longer, which would suit an overnight rise, or perhaps whilst you were way during the day.

Dressing your focaccia is more fun than dressing your dolls or teddy bears. The classic approach is to brush the top with olive oil, sprinkle with flakes of sea salt, and bung in the oven. Be fairly generous with the olive oil, so the top crust fries as well as bakes!

Twenty minutes only: first ten as-hot-as-it-gets, second ten about 180ºC. Don’t forget to poke holes in it with your fingers to get the traditional appearance. Poke all the way to the bottom.

You could pop a needle of rosmary into each hole if you like. Or you could put sliver of garlic  instead. Maybe some whole or sliced olives? Or sundried tomatoes?

Caution. If you have any more than the merest hint of topping, the foccaccia will emerge soggy and doughy. Peppers in particular will suddenly ooze water at the wrong moment.

Happy Bread

Not really a ciabatta, the semolina and olive oil give this bread a decidedly Mediterranean, and annoyingly cheerful aspect. Therefore ideal for wet, miserable days.

These quantities make a very small loaf. (Multiply as required.)

  • 225g strong white flour
  • 25 semolina (plus extra for coating)
  • 1tbsp (15mL) extra virgin olive oil – in the past I’ve slipped and sloshed in twice this amount and it was good
  • 5g salt
  • ½ tsp dried yeast
  • 200mL very warm water

Mix the flour, semolina, dried yeast thoroughly.

Mix the warm water and salt, so that the salt is properly dissolved.

Add the olive oil, and then gradually add the water, bringing together with your hands into a soft sticky dough. You’ll know it’s enough liquid, when the dough starts sticking to itself and detaching from the sides of the bowl. (You may, of course, need slightly less or slightly more water.)

Put a tiny blob of olive oil on a clean flat surface, and spread with your hands until it’s a thin film. Turn out the dough onto this surface and knead for ten minutes. Form into a ball. (Buy Mr Stevens’ book if you’re unsure on how to do this.)

Clean out the bowl, oil the interior lightly, and pop the dough here, covered, until risen. Deflate the dough, arrange it in your favourite shape and roll/dust it with more semolina. Let it prove, and pop into an oven on max. Ten minutes on max, followed by another 20 at 180ºC should do it.

Pass the olives and prosciutto.

Bread: River Cottage Handbook No 3

Daniel Stevens
Bloomsbury, 2009

Try as I might, I simply can’t like the River Cottage marketing juggernaut. Its smug, ostentatiously wholesome, middle class aspirational branding leaves me cold. Gripes aside, once you get past the wholemeal-coloured cover and the introduction by HFW, this is a rather fine book, that covers the basic arts of breadmaking, without ever getting technical or patronising – just lots of detail about how and why it all works.

The basic bread recipe is a staggering forty one pages long, complete with pictures and troubleshooting information for every step. The section on kneading is useful, with none of the hysteria and theatre of certain other writers. (I suspect I may have to retract the kneading section in my bread recipe as a result.) However, the section on shaping is without parallel, as nobody else seems to cover this at all: no more mutant lopsided loaves for me.

After the initial whopping recipe, conveniently condensed into two pages afterwards, are the usual variations: pizza, foccacia, muffins, brioche, which are all handy to have. (Actually the pizza dough recipe looks very much like the one I had scribbled down years ago so I wonder if they share a source?)

There’s the obligatory chapter on the oh-so-fashionable sourdough (Grauniad readers only) and a few fairly pointless recipes towards the end. Beetroot homous or nettle pesto, anyone?

Of course, the River Cottage branding kicks in for the final section about making a DIY clay oven. I can actually envisage some of my A-List acquaintances getting busy in the backyards of their country lairs, before phoning up John Lewis to order one.

If you’re already a proficient baker, and are looking for the things to show off, I’d suggest aiming for Dan Lepard’s books instead. Likewise, if you’ve only recently graduated from boiling an egg, this might be a bit of a challenge, but get a copy anyway.

Pain au Raisin

I’m sorry, but the pain au rasin in England are rubbish. The worst are made from puff pastry and loads of sugar: they’re dry and oily at the same time. The better ones are made from bread dough, but more often than not glazed in a layer of gelatinous sugary goo. In any case, they are then trucked from one end of the country to the other, until they’re stale, at which point they can be sold.

So sometimes, it’s worth making one’s own. The basis is a fairly austere brioche dough: the origins of this one are lost in the mists of time, but I think it originally comes from the BBC website, although I could find no trace of it when I looked recently.

Here’s what you need.

  • 225g white bread making flour
  • 1 sachet dried yeast (5g)
  • 50mL milk
  • pinch salt
  • 20g caster sugar (maybe more if you have a sweet tooth)
  • 50g butter (maybe more if you fancy)
  • 2 large eggs
  • about a tablespoon brown sugar
  • about 80g raisins or sultanas

Start by warming the milk to about 50ºC – hot enough that when you poke your finger in it you feel you might burn if you left it there. Add 25g of the flour, 5g of the sugar, and the yeast. Stir well, and let this sit for about 15 minutes. (Why? Yeast and butter don’t get along, so this gives the yeast a sporting chance. Other brioche recipes would have you make the dough without the butter, and then work it in between rising and proving. St Julia, bless her, has a brioche recipe that takes a full cycle of the moon.)

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 200g of flour, the remaining 15g of sugar, and the salt in large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, and rub in, as though you were making pastry. You’re aiming for the texture of breadcrumbs.

Break the eggs into the (cooled) yeast/milk mix, and attack with the a whisk until it’s smooth. Add this into the flour/butter mix, and mix into a ball of dough. If the flour isn’t all absorbed, a teensy splash of milk will help. (Likewise, if it’s too gloopy, just let it sit for a few minutes and it will sort itself out.)

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. If it’s warm, and the dough starts to become greasy and slippery, which it may even before you knead, then the butter is melting, so pop it into the fridge for 20 minutes to rest. (It was 30ºC outside and 25ºC inside when I was testing this, so the pastry/dough required two rests in the fridge, and I got lots of washing up done.)

Once the dough is suitably elastic, pop it into a bowl to rise, covered by a damp teatowel. It’ll take about an hour, depending on how warm the room is. An overnight rise in the fridge is also acceptable.

Once risen, punch the dough down, and knead it again for a few minutes. Your kneading and folding should be done with the cunning plan of getting it into a rectangle, about the size and shape of a piece of A4 paper. A rolling pin helps at the last stage – I use a wine bottle.

Lightly sprinkle the rectangle of dough with brown sugar, and press in the raisins/sultanas. It may seem like a lot of raisins, but quite a few will fall out when you slice the thing up in a moment.

Now. How greedy are you feeling? You could roll the sheet along its long axis, and slice it into twelve. That will give you some quite little pain au raisin, something to serve on the side. You could roll it along the short axis, and slice it into eight, or if you want some big chunky fellows, into six. Regardless, the slicing should be done with a very large sharp knife, using lots of sideways action and minimal downard pressure.

Arrange these on two baking sheets with a respectful amount of room on either side. Squish down lightly with the palm of your hand. If your baking sheets aren’t terribly non stick, then a light greasing, or some baking paper will help.

Cover them in cling wrap, and let them prove for about an hour.

They may unravel when proving, so a little stage management, and tucking in will be called for. I squeeze the ends and tuck them under the coil.

To make the glaze beat one egg, and about a teaspoon of milk. Brush lightly all over before popping in the oven. (Why the glaze? Otherwise they look a bit pale on the outside.)

For the little ones, 15 mins at 180ºC should do, maybe as little as 10. The bigger ones will need about 20 minutes.

Onto a cooling rack.


I’ve had a go at popping them into the freezer between the slicing and proving phases. They’ll need all night in the fridge, and maybe a few hours at room temperature to thaw. They baked up OK. Obviously you’ll need room in the fridge to put the baking sheet, and don’t forget to cover them in cling wrap.


You might not bother slicing the thing, once rolled up, but merely let it prove and put it into the oven whole.

You might not bother with the sultanas at all. Just punch down, shape into a loaf, prove, glaze, and bake for about 25 mins. Knock underneath to test, of course.

Origami Bread

Everyone sings the praises of Doris Grant’s no-knead wholemeal loaf, and a solid, nourishing thing it is too. Admittedly, there is more than a hint of housebrick in its ancestry, and if you like your bread light and fwuffy then it might not be the loaf for you. (It does make absolutely awesome toast.)

Nobody mentions that it’s an absolute nightmare to prise out of the tin after baking. My solution is to line the tin with baking paper first. My flatmate at the time poked fun at this act of origami, and the name stuck.

  • 450g wholemeal breadmaking flour (Darina Allen suggests 400g wholemeal + 50g white)
  • 425mL very warm water (that’s right kids – 95% hydration!)
  • 7g dried yeast (a sachet, in other words)
  • 5g salt
  • 8g interesting sugar (black treacle, muscovado sugar, honey, etc.)

Line your loaf tin or whatever you’re using with baking paper. You could use a 2lb loaf tin if you want, I tend to use a very small ceramic baking dish. If you’re feeling particularly confident, you could just grease it with oil or butter.

Put all water, 100g of the flour, the yeast and the sugar into a bowl, and mix. The flour will clump a little, but don’t worry. Let this sit for about half an hour: it will froth up and look like it wants to take over your kitchen, as the yeast is gorging itself on the flour and sugar, without any salt to hold it back.

Stir in the salt, and then add the remaining 350g of the flour, and mix. After a bit of work, it will come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. You may need a teensy splash more water to do this.

Put it, or rather tip it, as it will be quite gloopy, straight into your lined/greased tin. That’s right, no need to knead, although there’s a certain element of struggle in coaxing it into the tin. The dough should come about halfway up the sides of the tin or less. If it comes up too high, it will escape during rising (bad!) or baking (worse!) so just remove the excess dough. (Don’t throw the excess dough away, put it in a sealed container in the fridge and incorporate it into your next batch.)

Cover with a teatowel and allow it to rise, somewhere warm, for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. Maybe up to an hour. You could also do an overnighter in the fridge, for which I’d recommend a layer of lightly greased cling wrap rather than a teatowel.

Here, it's almost risen, so before it escapes, into the oven!

Bake at 230ºC for 15 minutes, then 180ºC for another 25. Decant, unwrap, and back on the shelf for another 10 minutes. So 50 minutes, all up. The usual rap on the underside with the knuckles should yield the usual hollow drum-like sound. Note temps and times are for a fan forced oven.

Onto the cooling rack.

This will not slice properly until it’s almost stone cold, I normally fail at this point and hack off a few messy slices when it’s still a bit warm.