Posts Tagged ‘Beginner’

It’s been about a year since I first started dabbling with baking bread and I feel like I’ve attempted a decent variety of breads in that time. The vast majority of stuff I bake doesn’t grace these pages as if I documented them all I’d never get round to eating them, and that would be a disaster.  As well as the usual white and brown loaves I make,  I’ve also had a pop at spelt and rye bread, often plain but occasionally with something else thrown in for luck.

One thing I’ve discovered is I bloody well love bread with bits in it, and this is a great example of that. It’s a mix of wholemeal and white flour and some of the liquid is milk which makes it softer and leads to a tighter, more even crumb (I think!). There’s also a dollop of honey thrown in there which adds a slight bit of sweetness, but not so much as to overpower it.

I was very happy with overall bake of these loaves. They had a really nice crust and my single score down the middle of the loaves worked really well. I tend to overproof bread and it goes a bit flat, but this had a great rise and inside it was nice and light.

walnut & honey

As I’ve been baking my own bread for a while I’ve become fairly blasé about the smell of bread baking in my oven (now there’s a wanky sentence I never thought I’d type out) but when these beauties were baking the smell was incredible. I think it was the mix of walnuts, wholemeal flour and honey that created a really comforting smell, perfect for these dark autumnal evenings. I imagine the closer towards winter we get the darker my breads are going to get – they just feel more appropriate for this time of year.

walnut & honey 2

Now I actually added slightly less walnuts than the recipe called for (again, a James Morton one) because there did seem to be quite a few – 200g in total. I decided to lower it to 100g, partly just in case I buggered it up and ended up with a burnt loaf and 200g of wanuts in the bin. Next time I make this I think I will up the walnut quantity, as it was occasionally difficult to spot them hiding in there. It’s really tasty toasted in the morning with some butter and I also used some for a cheese and chutney sandwich. Highly recommended!

walnut & honey 3


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I have very fond memories of toasted tea cakes from family holidays to Ashbourne. I’m not entirely sure why as I really wasn’t wasn’t keen on them at the time… I was never a fan of raisins and thought they ruined pretty much anything they were in. I was obviously a fussy eater as a child.

After thinking about Ashbourne I did a little searching and I’m pretty sure we always used to stop for a hot drink and (tea) cakes at the Tuck Stop on the Tissington Trail. I’ve not idea what it was called back then, but looking at the photos makes me think that was the spot. I got a little wave of nostalgia trying to figure out where it was we used to go!

Anyway, over time I’ve realised that raisins aren’t the work of the Devil, and it turns out I don’t mind a few of the little buggers finding their way into some dishes now and then, and this bread is a perfect home for them.  I followed this recipe, but rather than making one big loaf I made two little ones. I’ll explain why in a bit…


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This bread uses what I think is effectively an enriched dough, so it contains milk, butter and eggs. A fair bit of fat basically. It also contains lots of other tasty things, like sugar and spice. Due to the fact it has a higher sugar and far content then most other bread I make it seemed to take on colour a lot quicker. The first time I attempted this bread it ended up being an absolute bloody disaster. Probably the first time I ended up with something completely unusable.

I put all of the dough into one loaf tin and chucked it in the oven. The top of the bread rose quickly and confidently. Then, like an oven based interpretation of the Daedalus and Icarus legend the bread drifted far too close to the sun. The top started burning so I quickly tried to take the bread out of the loaf tin and flip it upside down but unfortunately the bread hadn’t been in the oven long enough. I managed to get it out of the loaf tin and then it collapsed into a sad, gloopy mess. I was very unhappy.

So this time I thought I’d split the dough and make two smaller loaves, and it was a success! I didn’t score the tops of these, I think they were too low down in the loaf tin to reach. They’re not perfect by any means but they tasted nice.


Due to the fat from the butter, milk and eggs the crumb was fairly tight, but it was also nice and soft. Just like the tea cakes I mentioned before, this loaf is perfect when it’s toasted and has big slab of butter spread over it. You should also definitely have it with a nice cup of tea too.



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Naan Bread #1

I know what you’re thinking… “Why the hell are you still blogging about bread you big idiot?” And if you’re not thinking that, then you’re probably thinking “That’s not a naan bread, that looks like a burnt chapati”. I would agree with you whole heartedly. This did not work out as I expected.


I absolutely love Indian food. I’d say it’s a Young Family Favourite. Whenever we return back to Chesterfield there is a 90% chance of a curry being eaten at some point. If one of us has something to celebrate I’d say it’s 99%. When I was a child I was introduced to the wonders of a curry by my parents and I’ve loved them ever since. I started off preferring a chapati but I steadily moved over to enjoying a good naan bread. Especially a peshwari naan with a fairly spicy curry, it’s the mix of the sweet bread with the hot curry. Brilliant.

I’ve attempted to make naan bread a few times, with decidedly mixed results. I’ve had some terrible ones and some fairly good ones, but I’ve never made amazing ones. I’d like to blame this on a lack of a tandoor oven, but you know the saying – “a bad workman always blames his tools”. So I’m determined to make a perfect naan bread, I’ll just have to keep practising.


I’ve tried various recipes and often they include milk and yoghurt. This recipe was just flour, yeast, salt and water. The actual dough felt fine and I know that it was the “baking” that went wrong.  I say “baking” because this thing didn’t go near an oven, despite the recipe asking for it… Silly me. In the recipe (from this book, as usual) it suggests slapping the bread against the inside of the glass of a very hot oven or if your oven isn’t clean enough then pre-heat a baking tray and slap the bread straight onto that. I did try that previously and failed, so  thought I’d attempt to cook this on a heavy based frying pan on the hob. As you can probably see, this ended up burning it!

It was definitely edible, but it wasn’t fantastic by any stretch of the imagination. It was obviously charred in places, and was also a bit too dense. I’m going to try it again and attempt the hot baking tray, or even better a baking stone. I just need to buy one first… So at some point another naan bread will grace these pages, and hopefully it will look a lot tastier than this one!



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Well, this one was very satisfying to make. And eat. I’ll be honest, I’d never even heard of this bread before seeing the recipe for it and as far as I can remember I hadn’t seen it in any bakeries before.  Since starting baking I have seen it mentioned quite a lot, probably because it’s relatively easy to make but the end result is usually really impressive. Not having eaten it before meant I had no idea what I was actually aiming  for. I just had a rough idea of the shape which I’d seen in pictures on the internet and in my books. I’ve still no idea if the texture of what I created was “correct”, but I can say it was pretty bloody tasty so I’m guessing it was. The recipe I used was exactly the same as this one here by Richard Bertinet.


If you’ve not really baked much bread before I would definitely recommend this one. I personally think it’s easier to make than a standard white loaf because you don’t really get a chance to over prove it, and it’s dead quick to cook because it’s a thin bread. On top of that, due to the fact they always tend to look good you’ll probably feel well proud of yourself (I know I did). That alone makes this a good confidence boosting bread to bake.


The one I made was obviously pretty plain, so whilst being tasty it was also effectively thin, crusty white bread. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes you just want something a bit more exciting. This style of bread lends itself naturally to having loads of tasty stuff just chucked into it. I’ve seen lots of recipes for this with olives, but I’m not a huge olive fan… Apart from olive oil – big fan of that. I think sun-dried tomato and parmesan would be very tasty, or red onion and pancetta. I’m definitely going to try both of them at some point in the future. I’m starting to experiment a bit more with bits in my bread so hopefully I’ll get some of them on here at some point.


Like most bread that just consists of the 4 main ingredients, this goes stale fairly quickly. So that means you either have to just eat it all straight away, which is always fun… Or you can freeze it. I’ve got into the habit of freezing loads of my bread. It keeps surprisingly well, and once defrosted I find it’s fine to eat straight away. You can always chuck it in the oven for 5 minutes after defrosting just to crisp it up a bit too.

So that’s Fougasse. It looks good, tastes good and is easy to make, so there is no excuse to not give this one a shot!

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Well, it feels like ages since I’ve blogged about anything! I didn’t mean to leave it quite so long without an update but I feel like I’ve had a particularly busy summer so far.

I headed back to my home town of Chesterfield to see my family and have my obligatory birthday barbecue. After that Kirsty and myself buggered off to Croatia for a week which was lovely. I took some holiday snaps and when I get round to sifting through them I’ll do a little blog post about my holiday. The photos aren’t the most exciting travel photos in the world but I think I’ve got a couple of alright shots whilst I was out there.

After that it was back to Edinburgh for a wedding, then all the way back to Chesterfield for another wedding! I’ve not had a weekend in my own flat for over a month, so I’m feel rather tired. However most of the summer frivolities seemed to have finished (or more specifically my money to fund these frivolities has finished) so I’ll get back onto documenting my bread baking!

During my time away I have actually done the odd bit of baking here and there which seemed to go quite well. For my birthday Kirsty treated me to a few baking bits and bobs, including “Dough” by Richard Bertinet which seems really good so far! Some quite interesting and fun recipes in there including “Bread Shots” which are basically little balls of bread stuffed with whatever you like!


Kirsty also got me a proving basket which I’ve only used a couple of times so far, but I already love it. It helps shape the bread (especially useful if it’s a fairly wet dough) so you generally get a nice boule shape, and some nice little ridges which are purely aesthetic, but I quite like.

Here is the basket and first loaf I tried – not perfect but a decent tasty loaf of bread.


During my time back in Chesterfield I also showed my Mum and Sister some of the basic recipes I’ve learnt over the last few months. It was really fun doing some baking with my family and they both say they’re going to give it a shot themselves. We made a basic white loaf and a focaccia, which is always a winner with people, it’s just so moreish.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to baking wise over the last month and a bit. I’m always looking for bready inspiration so if anyone has any recipes they’d recommend I’m all ears. I’m going to start experimenting with some other flours over the next few months, and play around with adding more stuff to the bread. I’ve got a big delivery of various flours and some seeds on the way so fingers crossed there will be some spelt and rye bread gracing these pages before too long!


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This was my second attempt at baguettes. The first attempt was actually a success too but I just took a quick snap on my phone, so I thought next time I’ll try and get some nicer looking photos. Baguettes are something I don’t actually buy very often unless I’m on holiday. I don’t know if this is because I associate baguettes with family holidays to the Northern France when I was younger, but for some reason being away in the sun means that I love a bit of baguette action.

When I do get round to buying or in this case making them, then I just like tearing them apart and having them with cheese and chutney, fancy olive oil and posh balsamic vinegar or just dunking them straight into a pot of hummus. Lovely.


Whatever the reason is for not buying them when I’m back in Blighty I don’t know, what I do know is I’m going to be baking them myself a lot more regularly. I just use the usual basic white bread recipe which is strong white flour, salt, yeast and water. I’m always impressed how few ingredients turn into something as tasty as bread! The recipe I used was really similar to the one here, except I obviously shaped the dough into baguettes rather than chucking it into a tin.

two breads

Now, I’m struggling a little bit with shaping my breads at the moment. I find that when it comes to shaping them the dough is just a bit too wet to handle comfortably without my hands sticking to it. I don’t mind this when kneading, but it makes it fairly problematic when you try and create a shape but it just keeps sticking to your hand. I suspect if I knead the dough a bit more it will become smoother and more elastic and less likely to stick… I’m not too sure but hopefully this is something that comes with time.


In the end the shaping of these didn’t go too badly, not perfect baguettes by any means but for a first attempt I’d say they’re alright!  The end results were definitely baguette like, but they did have a bit of ciabatta to them too – the holes were slightly larger than normal baguette but nothing like the size of those in ciabatta. I think this is possibly due to the amount of water I used – 350ml.  I personally quite liked this about them, they were slightly chewy which I find very satisfying. Despite being fairly thin they were also really good for sandwiches.

So I need to work on my shaping technique still which I suspect is something that will take quite a long time to get right. Apart from that, these were a pretty good success – and they were brilliant with cheese and chutney!



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Hmm. Well this didn’t quite go to plan. I would say this was a case of trying to run before I could walk. Luckily I only ended up scraping my knees rather than landing flat on my face.

Looking back it doesn’t seem quite as bad I as thought it was at the time, but it’s still obviously not quite right. I took some snaps to show where it went wrong, but wasn’t going to bother attempting to get some nicer looking photos of this one!


I got overexcited and wanted to start chucking loads of tasty things into my bread, which is exactly what I did. The basic dough recipe I used here was effectively a milk bread – using full fat milk instead of water. I used a James Morton recipe as I’m slowly working my way through that book, but this one here is very similar except I used honey instead of golden syrup and I used 500g of strong bread flour instead of the mix of strong and plain.

Now I had only used this recipe for bread cobs before and they were pretty good, so I thought I’d be fine just using it again but baking it in a loaf tin and adding some cheese and onion. I had a quick look online for a bit of advice about having extra bits and bobs in the bread. I decided to keep the cheese fairly chunky so it stayed as defined bits of cheese. I think if I grated the cheese it would have become incorporated into the dough and changed the way it would prove and bake. So after the first prove I mixed in my cheese and onion, shaped the dough and chucked it into a loaf tin and left it for another hour. During that hour it had risen a fair bit and seemed slightly large for the tin but I was impatient and wanted my bread so I chucked it in the oven.

When I checked on it after 30 minutes the loaf was huge and had started to seep and sag over one side of the tin… Pretty sexy I’m sure you’ll agree. _DSC0157


It was also veeeery dark on top and I had no foil to make a daft little bread tent, so I flipped it out of the tin and returned it to the oven upside down and left it in til I could tap the bottom and it sounded hollow.

So the end result isn’t a complete disaster but the top is definitely burnt and the shape is dead wonky. I’m pretty certain the bread burnt because this dough has a lot more sugar in that the previous bread I’ve baked so is likely to brown (or blacken) a lot quicker. I now know for the next time to put the oven down a bit and keep my eye on it a bit more.



I also need to work on my shaping of the bread before putting it into the tin. This looks like the sausage I formed was thicker on one side which is why it overflowed slightly and the cross section ended up looking like a bit mushroomy.

Despite the obvious “issues” this loaf has, beneath it’s hard, cracked and bitter top was a really tasty bread. The type you can just eat without anything else because the cheese and onion give it enough flavour on it’s own. I’ll be experimenting more with bits in bread in future posts, I just need a bit more practice with the basic doughs.



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