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.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Beginners, start here…

Breadmaking is seen as a scary thing for some people, but all my teaching is geared towards removing that fear and showing it to be the simple cooking tool that it is.

The fact is, that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you cannot stop your bread from rising!

All my recipes follow the same path – and they all follow three simple breadmaking rules.

The three simple rules which you should bear in mind when making bread are:

1. Use strong, breadmaking flour – look for the words ‘strong’ or ‘bread’ on the packet. Plain flour will work in an emergency, and a mixture of strong and plain will work fine.
2. Use lukewarm (hand hot) water, and don’t put your dough anywhere too hot. Forget airing cupboards and radiators, the bread will rise on your worktop.
3. Give your bread time to rise after its final shaping and before it goes into the oven. White bread will double in size – a pizza base should look puffy compared to when you rolled it out.

And that’s it!

There’s also a couple of things to bear in mind, but aren’t rules as such:

1. Make sure your dough is soft and squishy – never be afraid to add more water whilst you’re mixing the dough.
2. If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.

Yeast: Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.

Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add it straight into the flour.

As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as fresh – so if the recipe says a dessertspoon of fresh yeast, use a teaspoon of dried.

But don’t worry too much about the amount of yeast you use: the more yeast you use, the faster your bread will rise; the less you use, the longer it will take.

A bread dough made with 400g (2 mugs) of flour will make a medium-sized loaf, about 8 bread rolls, two or three pizzas or 8 sizzlers (wraps, really) – or any other savoury bread you can think of!

I want to use this blog to demonstrate just how easy and accessible home breadmaking can be (is)! So here's a couple of breads to start you off.


Firstly, here's a savoury bread (sizzlers), and a sweet bread (Chelsea buns). (I'm on YouTube with both of these - but please ignore the 'After 10-minutes, put it in the oven' instruction. You need to see that the bread has risen before baking it.)


Or, if you want to get straight into making some rolls, here's my bread rolls recipe.


Or, if you prefer to begin by making a loaf, here's my basic loaf of bread recipe.

Breadmaking is far easier than pastrymaking, and the dough is much more forgiving. What's more, virtually anything that can be made with pastry can be made with a bread dough – which can be completely fat free!

Apart from all this, there are several other reasons for making your own bread:

It's a lot cheaper - a 1.5kg bag of own-brand white flour, which will make three large loaves, currently costs less than one loaf of bread in the shops. A 25cm (10") cheese and tomato pizza can be made for around 70p. And you can make a batch of Chelsea buns for the price of one in a baker's shop.

It's healthier. You control the quality of the food you feed your family. Check out the number of ingredients on a wrapped sliced loaf.

It's more convenient than buying your bread - one of my students, who lives about 300 yards from a large supermarket told me she thought it was quicker to knock up a batch of rolls rather than nip to the supermarket.

At home you can make many different varieties of breads that you cannot even buy – or are very expensive to buy in the shops.

If you'd rather have organic bread it's much cheaper to make your own. If you want bread without salt, you have to make it yourself. The only way to make breads like pane casereccio (filled with Italian sausage and Gruyere), or tarte Alsace* (a thin dough covered with creme fraiche, then thinly sliced onions then lardons of bacon – or slices of mushroom and tomato) is to make them yourself.

It's very enjoyable, dammit! It's fun to make your own bread - it's very satisfying to see a batch of terrific-smelling, great-looking bread come out of the oven. You get a sense of achievement you cannot get with any other branch of cooking (IMO!) (But beware – it can become very addictive.)

And if you're around kids, it's lovely to share the experience with them. Kids and breadmaking just go so well together.



11 comments:

  1. hi paul,
    u have a great blog here. thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    i now regularly bake bread and i enjoy it very much.
    i am a novice and was just thinking of going one stage up and start using fresh yeast or even better preparing my own starter. but i sense that u dont have any preference between different types of yeast.
    how do u suggest i proceed from instant to other yeast types
    yours
    john reed

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi tayfun

    Thanks for the feedback!

    About yeast - here's what I tell my students:

    Yeast: Whatever yeast you’re using – fresh, active dried (comes in a tin) or easyblend (comes in sachets), treat them all the same.

    Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water until dissolved, then add it straight into the flour.

    As a general rule, use half as much dried yeast as fresh – so if the recipe says a dessertspoon of fresh yeast, use a teaspoon of dried.

    But don’t get too hung up about the amount of yeast you use: the more yeast you use, the faster your bread will rise; the less you use, the longer it will take.

    I prefer to use fresh yeast, but I've always got a tin of dried active yeast in the fridge - it keeps for years!

    Cheers, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  3. A friend of mine has just recommended your blog to me, and I think I'm going to find it really useful! I'm currently living in Brunei (I'm British) and am finding it the ideal climate in which to make bread - it rises incredibly well in our non-air-conditioned kitchen, which is usually at about 30 degrees centigrade! Also, the bread you buy in Asia tends to be very sweet and sugary - not to our taste at all.

    Many thanks - I look forward to trying out lots of your recipes!

    Kate

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Kate

    Thanks for getting in touch!

    I went on your blog and took the liberty of copying the "Parents' evening' poem to my daughter, who's a primary school teacher here in the UK. She loved it!

    What age(s) do you teach?

    Love to know which breads you try out - and how you get on!

    Best wishes, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Paul,

    No problem - I love that poem and am more than happy to share it! Good old Allan Ahlberg - the man's a genius!

    I teach Year 3 in an International School. We're living here in Brunei for 2 years and I'm really enjoying the experience of teaching in such a multicultural school.

    At the moment I am making a loaf of plain white bread (although often with about 1/4 wholemeal flour) every week. I use the Basic White Loaf recipe from Nigella's Domestic Goddess book. It's lovely bread, but I'm keen to branch out a little. I'll let you know when I try some of yours! I'm thinking of attempting a sourdough at some point as I think it would do well in this climate.

    Kate

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Paul

    I've just stumbled across this blog thanks to Rachel Cotterill linking to your Thai Curry post. I wish I'd come across it when I started baking bread but better late than never. I have a few comments on the above post:

    > The fact is, that if you mix flour, lukewarm water and yeast together – you cannot stop your bread from rising!

    Relying on wild yeast, however, can be a somewhat more frustrating experience. I seemed to get a lively enough batch to start with but I just couldn't get the resultant loaves to rise.

    > White bread will double in size

    What about wholemeal? Using a mixture of white and wholemeal bread flours I find I get very little rise in my loaves although they taste good.

    > If you have the slightest doubt whether your bread is done or not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. Look for colour on the bottom of your bread.

    In my experience, a much more reliable method than tapping the bottom to see if it sounds hollow. I've had loaves which sound hollow when tapped but which were still raw in the middle. Waiting until they're a nice dark brown is much more reliable, as is cooking them upside down for the last ten minutes or so.

    > Check out the number of ingredients on a wrapped sliced loaf.

    I haven't bought a loaf of bread for quite a while but I recall searching in vain for a list of ingredients on the wrapper last time I did buy one. However, if one buys a pre-packed sandwich the list of ingredients in the bread appears on there and it's quite a scary list.

    > It's very enjoyable, dammit! It's fun to make your own bread - it's very satisfying to see a batch of terrific-smelling, great-looking bread come out of the oven. You get a sense of achievement you cannot get with any other branch of cooking (IMO!) (But beware – it can become very addictive.)

    I'd agree with all of that, despite the fact that I do enjoy general cookery most of the time. See my blog at:

    http://vegaunaturele.blogspot.co.uk/

    for details of my exploits, both bread related and more general.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Paul,

    It's Bobby from http://www.52fastdiet.co.uk. I've just scratched the surface of your blog and it looks as though I'll be spending some time here.

    I can't wait to try many of your recipes.

    Cheers,
    Bobby

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Bobby

    Thanks for stopping by - and the kind words!

    See you on the forum.

    Cheers, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  9. Paul, I am trying to get in to bread making but I always seem to fall down with the kneading, I am either to chicken and add more flour if the dough looks wet or I don't knead it to much....what should I be looking for really.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kneading - a much over-rated part of breadmaking, IMO.

    For the simpler, basic breads, the only purpose of kneading, IMO, is to distribute the ingredients evenly, finishing up with a smooth dough.

    With a small batch of dough, this only takes about 20 flattening and folding actions. I tell my students to stop kneading before they get fed up! :)

    About adding flour: you're looking for a soft, squishy, slightly tacky dough that can be kneaded without it sticking. I don't recommend scattering flour on the worktop, since the tendency is to use it all, regardless - and it does get everywhere. Better, I feel, if extra flour is deemed necessary, to add some to the mixing bowl, then turn the dough over in the bowl, bring it out and knead it again.

    When kneading, use light swift actions, so that the dough doesn't stick - which it should be moist enough to do if you press down hard on it for too long.

    HTH!

    You've got me thinking I should enlarge on the subject of kneading in a blog post - there's much more to add when looking at using kneading to incorporate more water into your bread - always a good thing to do! Look out for it.

    Thanks, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  11. Because of the large number of spam messages- all coming from 'Anonymous' - I've been receiving on this post, I've opted to unsubscribe from any notifications.
    If you want to comment on this post, please go to the 'Contact me' page at the top of this blog.
    Thanks, Paul

    ReplyDelete