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.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The ‘cloche method’ – undercover bread

(9th April 2011. I've added my latest thoughts and adjustments at the foot of this recipe.)

The pictures show:
1. Wholemeal rolls, just after they've been shaped and before proving - covered with the roasting tin (2).

3. Now risen (you can see how they've spread to the edge of the baking parchment) and just about to go in the oven. Of course I replaced the roasting tin over the rolls.

4. After baking. The rolls completely filled the roasting tin, but the pic doesn't quite capture how flat the top and side of of the rolls actually are.

5. The crumb.

The recipe:

600g strong wholemeal
100g strong white
1 tsp salt
500g lukewarm water
10g fresh yeast
50g EVOO

This made a soft and sticky dough which I kneaded at intervals several times – and then left (in a food storer with lid, saves messing about with tea-towels, etc) whilst I had dinner and watched a bit of TV, so it had rested for about two hours.

I was looking to make this into 100g rolls (after baking), so, with a little over 1200g of dough, I divided it into 10 pieces and shaped into rolls.

These I huddled together on some baking parchment, placing 4 down the middle and 3 on each side. Flouring my hands I held the paper with one hand and pushed the rolls gently in towards each other. My intention is to bake this as a loaf, then split the rolls apart and freeze them when cool.

The cover came off after 20 minutes at 220C - and they were baked after 35.

I have to say they rose as good as, or better, than any I’ve made before.

Undercover method:
When a yeast-risen batch of dough is placed in a hot oven, the bread will continue to rise until the yeast is killed by the heat and a crust is formed.

Enclosing your bread inside the oven - either under a cover, or inside a casserole dish with a lid - slows the formation of a crust, and probably also prevents the heat from killing the yeast as quickly as it might otherwise do.

Elizabeth David mentions this method, and I remember my dad (a Master Baker by trade) telling me that this was one of the tricks bakers would use to enhance their loaves when entering competitions.

For the cloche method, you need a rigid baking sheet and something to cover your bread with.

I’ve been using a large roasting tin, since I make rolls rather than a loaf. But a large Pyrex bowl would do the trick.

You need to ensure that your baking tray is larger than your chosen cover, so that the bread is enclosed.

Here’s a fascinating conversation on both the casserole dish method and the ‘cloche’ method:

And another one here.

And more info on Dan Lepard's forum.

Cheers, Paul

10th April 2011.
My latest thoughts and adjustments to this recipe:
I now add 60g of ground flaxseeds along with the flour - for the omega 3, mainly, but they also add flavour and texture to the bread.

The amount of dough I make now comes to around 1400g, which makes 12 rolls weighing roughly 115g.

I've also changed the timing of the bread, I take the cover off after 10 minutes, then give it ten more minutes uncovered.

Note: This morning, making some white rolls, the bread was ready to go into the oven before I'd even switched it on! I'd left it, covered with the roasting dish, in the warm sunlight. So I put the bread in a cold oven. It took longer to warm up, as you'd expect, so I had to keep an eye on  temperature and timings, but the bread rose wonderfully.

I'll post a pic of the rolls, later.


  1. Hi Paul, lots of good info, I too am an evangelist as far as bread making is concerned. Stone ovens and baking is more than it appears to be, and of this I am very aware.
    The difficulty is how much do you tell the fellow forum members without scaring them off. There is so much I want to say that I am going to start my own blog up, that way I can broach the metaphysical side to my hearts content the two are indivisible as far as I can see. Just as an aside I am not religious in any way but very aware of the godforce at work in my life, and it's accelerating. I don't have a choice any more and neither do I want one now. It's been one helluva ride so far mate:-)
    Hope this is not a step to far I dont do cyberspace very well, I fuction much better face to face
    So thank you for taking the time and effort to helping teach children and adults alike, and as it's said. May the force be with you Paul.

    Kind Regards,

    Davy, aka Rusty on the brick oven forum.

  2. Hi Davy, nice to hear from you!

    I'm only too well aware of how scary some folk find breadmaking. I often call my courses 'Easy-peasy breadmaking' to try to reassure them.

    What sort of an oven do you have? I've no experience in cooking/baking on outdoor ovens, but I hope to get a chimanea/pizza oven sometime soon!

    So I'll be the one asking you guys for advice!

    Besdt wishes, Paul

  3. Hi Paul, apologies in the late reply but I forgot to check your blog, not used to these things.

    No stone oven myself yet, that's to come. I use an ordinary domestic oven a large one with circular pizza stone.

    I'm sure you will have seen these Chimaneas, very small and very limiting, especially so if you want to bake more than one loaf of bread.

    What type of Pizza oven did you have in mind, electric or some other source of fuel?

    Been experimenting with retarding my sourdough bread, what a difference to the taste. And very handy for juggling time schedules. Have you had any experience with retarding yourself? I'm hoping you say yes :-)

    I found this link for a home built electric stone oven. My thoughts on it and why I have decided to go this route for the time being are in the Barrel type ovens section and the thread topic is.
    A future build, one vital question. A few replies down you will come to the link below.

    Hope all is well with you.

    Davy aka Rusty.

  4. Hi Davy

    Only just seen your comment - there's nothing to alert you to the fact that someone has commented on the blog. It's only when I went to the edit page that I saw there were 3 comments on this post.

    Here's the chiminea I quite like the look of - the smaller one of the two:

    If I can find it a bit cheaper I’d be tempted to get one straightaway.

    I admire the craft and sheer hard work that went into that oven build – and those loaves look wonderful!

    I’ve tried sourdough with some success, but I combined two good starters which gave me lousy results, so I gave up on it. I found the rising times to be very unpredictable – you’re not in control – I like to know where I am with a bread dough.

    About retarding a dough, I assume you’re talking about leaving it in the fridge?

    I find that you can keep a bread dough in a food storer for up to 48 hours quite safely on the worktop. If you have it in the fridge you need to bring it up to room temperature.

    But bread is very forgiving – and there are many ways to achieve a good loaf. The bottom line is that the longer the dough is left to prove, the more flavour develops.

    About Family Learning, I had 10 families in my session yesterday, making loaves and pizzas. I’ve got one domestic oven and two small portable ovens. I was far to ambitious, making 800g loaves; I managed to get 7 loaves in the domestic oven which slowed it right down. Only just managed to finish in time!

    Cheers, Paul