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Calling all makers of bread! As opposed to bread makers, which might be a bit difficult...

(59 Posts)
thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 13:20:48

Hi all!

I really want to get good at bread making and wondered if all you great bakers out there would like to add your tips and recipes on this thread?

I have gone in fits and starts with bread, so I never get good and I give up, it's a vicious circle! We eat a lot of bread as a family and its so expensive. I want to make brown, or half rye, or half wholemeal and half white bread. Anything that's not plain white. But the result is always a very dense loaf which doesn't seem to ever cook through! Although when I knock the bottom it sounds good and hollow. So confusing! I've tried quick baking, longer baking, lots of kneading, no knead (with overnight rising) and nothing is coming out right.

I'd love to have a sourdough starter but I don't think there's any point until I can make a reliable normal loaf. What's so sad is that everyone I ask says, oh, bread is so easy, anyone can do it! Well I can't! I bake other things ok!

Would love any help and tips or good recipes you've found to be reliable and hopefully it'll help anyone else trying to get better too.

Also, I wonder if you find it easier to buy bulk flour etc. and if you do, can you buy organic in bulk or not? I have been buying (and wasting!) Doves Farm but obviously only in supermarket amounts.

DameMargotFountain Fri 04-Jan-13 13:24:12

talk us through your most successful and least successful recipes?

what sort of yeast do you use, and are you sure your oven is running at an even temp?

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 15:39:42

Yeast is Doves Farm organic quick yeast. Can't find fresh anywhere.

Most successful is the no knead overnight rise bread which uses less yeast and comes from an article in the New York Times. If you google it you'll find the article, difficult to do on my phone, sorry. Least successful recipes are anything else I've tried! I've read a lot about the science behind bread making but it all confuses me and I hear lots of tips but can't remember them all. I watch too much about it and everyone has a different method.

Oven is a 3yr old Bosch. I think it's accurate but couldn't be certain. My cakes don't rise very well either, could that be an indicator of uneven temperature? I thought that was from over mixing as I use a kitchen aid.

priscilla101 Fri 04-Jan-13 15:55:08

Top tips are:

1. Always use same brand of flour...different flours require different amounts of water.

2. Master one loaf and make it lots. Get it really right and then you will be more confident with new recipes.

3. You can over prove. Try varying proving times. Make a note of each loaf you make and what changes you made.

4. Have you tried different tins? Some people swear by terracotta...

I have most success when I start the oven temp really really high and turn it down after 5 or 10 mins. Again try it and note down the variations. I also heard about using oiled surface to knead, not floured.......

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Ps fresh yeast is available at my larger Sainsburys in store bakery counter. You have to ask for it and it always feels like I am buying bread-crack or something! However, I prefer instant yeast....not so temperamental and doesn't make my fridge smell thrush-y!

DameMargotFountain Fri 04-Jan-13 15:56:25

i never use fresh yeast, far too much of a faff IMO wink

how do you knead the dough (when using those recipes)? by hand or in mixer?

wholemeal flour is very hard to work with, it's very heavy and can take more liquid than white flour - it also needs extra kneading, and proving

have you tried the recipe on the side of the flour bag? they are very good

perhaps try half wholemeal and half white flour, or if you're determined with the wholemeal, use an extra 1/4 tspn of dried yeast?

TunipTheVegedude Fri 04-Jan-13 16:03:52

If your most successful is the no-knead, maybe you aren't kneading right - too long, or not long enough? Is your dough nice and elastic when you've finished?

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 16:33:21

Priscilla, I will ask in Sainsburys, thank you! I read somewhere that supermarkets had stopped giving fresh yeast out, something to do with health and safety. I will try again! My mum always had a tub of fresh yeast in the fridge and made bread with that. She uses the quick stuff now though and I haven't seen her make bread for ages. I wouldn't know how to alter a recipe to use fresh yeast though.

I have tried different tins, I have a ceramic one a friend bought me and that was the worst! Don't tell her! The bread stuck to the sides and bottom and was even soggier than usual. I do try the really hot then turn it down thing.

I will try a more structured approach, writing down what I do each time.

DameMargot, yes all the non-white flours are so heavy and my kneading must leave much to be desired. I do ten minutes and my arms are killing me, it still seems heavy and not very elastic. Once it's had its first prove it looks lovely and fine to me, but obviously not. I then just punch it down, put it in the tin and let it rise again. To be perfectly honest, even following the recipe on the side of the bag doesn't work. Am I doomed to failure!

Tunip, no the dough is not nice and elastic but I wondered if it's even possible to do that with heavy brown flours? Is it?

Thank you everyone for your advice. I will try the no knead again and maybe post a pic for scrutiny, if I dare!

TunipTheVegedude Fri 04-Jan-13 16:45:39

My dough is elastic but then I tend to use half white half wholemeal so perhaps it's not with 100% wholemeal or rye.

I usually knead by machine (breadmaker or mixer with doughhook) because it always takes me ages (more than 10 mins) if I do it by hand.

Andro Fri 04-Jan-13 17:05:50

One of the nicest bread flours I've ever used is the strong flour from Aldi (I've tried many different brands at various prices) - you can get white and wholemeal (I think! It's either wholemeal or brown). I use dried yeast for convenience and a little olive oil or vegetable oil gives a very nice texture.
I usually find that it only takes a few minutes of kneading for the dough to smooth out. Some wholemeal flours can be a nightmare...and don't get me started on granary angry

Try this recipe. Don't be put off by the picture which looks a bit like a placenta shock It's really, really good bread. I've been making bread for years and this is some of the best bread I've ever made. You can even put a couple of tablespoons of your sourdough starter in for extra flavour.

I've also been making bread from this book and had great results. I've even made baguettes which were incredibly easy and some of the best bread I've bought outside of France.

Both of these methods (which are very similar) use a very high moisture dough, and personally I find that I need to reduce the water content a bit to stop the dough spreading as it cooks, but other than that I would say they're pretty much foolproof.

My second paragraph was badly worded - i meant that they're better baguettes than any I've eaten outside France.

priscilla101 Fri 04-Jan-13 17:24:46

Hi thestyle I am a food inspector and know of no plausible or recently introduced health and safety reason why they won't sell it to you. That would just be an excuse! If you use fresh yeast it is supposed to be 20% more than the amount of inset yeast than the recipe calls for.

Good luck!

I should read more carefully - you've obviously tried the one I linked too first grin Try the other book though, lots more alternative on the same principle of NY N-K

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 19:19:55

Thank you everyone.

Tunip could you tell me if you use a Kitchen Aid for mixing? when I use the dough hook on the KA it shakes the whole machine around a bit worryingly and I've always stopped it. If using a dough hook, how long do you think I should knead it for?

Andro thank you, I have to find our nearest Aldi, I wonder if Lidl have bread flour, they are my nearest.

MrsMinivers thank you, I will check the book.

Priscilla that's good to know, thank you!

DameMargotFountain Fri 04-Jan-13 19:39:21

if your dough is moving your mixer about that much, i think it's probably a little too dry - try adding 20ml more water?

TunipTheVegedude Fri 04-Jan-13 19:44:58

My mixer is a Kenwood Prospero stand mixer and yes it does shake the machine about but it's not that heavy a machine and the instructions say not to worry (as long as it doesn't actually jump off the worktop.....)

I think I do it for about 6-7 minutes but tbh it's going to vary depending on how much power the machine has got and the style of kneading. The bread machine kneads more slowly.

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 22:17:34

I think that was something that concerned me was adding too much water and having a very sticky dough. But when I was watching Great Britjsh Bake Off this year, a lot of Paul Hollywood's doughs seemed to be very wet. They just look so hard to work with. Does anyone use one of those plastic scraper type things to work their dough?

I looked at the book on Amazon and read the reviews,that sounds right up my street, thanks MrsM.

MmeLindor Germany Fri 04-Jan-13 22:23:53

I use Kitchenaid mixer with dough hook for about 8 mins - but on low speed. Don't put above 2 or you will burn out the motor.

I don't use fresh yeast and have found that I need to add more water to Wholemeal doughs.

Have you tried a silicone mould?

XBenedict Fri 04-Jan-13 22:27:51

I buy fresh yeast when I remember from Sainsburys, they are always happy to get me some. Costs about 20p

MousyMouse Fri 04-Jan-13 22:27:51

I like to use dried active yeast (allinson yellow tin) comes very close to the taste of fresh yeast esp in sweet bakes.

my favourite recipe atm is:

mix 1cup of flour (we use brown bread flour of 50/50 white/wholemeal bread flour) with 2cups of water and half a teaspoon of dried active yeast.
leave for 6-8 hours at room temperature.

then add 500g flour, half a teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon oil. knead well, shape loaf (or put in loaf tin) prove for about an hour. then bake.

if you like a crust, preheat the oven to as hot as it can go and fill an oven tray in the bottom of the oven with boiling water. turn the oven to 200 (fan oven) and bake for about 50 min.

if you prefer a light crust don't preheat the oven and turn it on to 180 (fan oven) and bake for about an hour.

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 22:30:25

Thanks MmeLindor, I will try a recipe on the side of my rye flour packet using the KA to knead and see what happens.

I haven't got a silicone bread mould no. I have silicone muffin cases but nothing larger.

What does anyone think about timings for cooking the loaf? I have always put it in for say 5 mins short of what's suggested and done a check, then given longer in 5min increments til I think it might be done. But it's never cooked through. I have always thought that if it was in for long enough to have cooked through it would be badly burned on top.

The no knead recipe cooked in a hot pot has produced the best bake, with an almost ciabatta like internal crumb (ooh get me!) that appears to have cooked through properly but I would say that's because it's a wetter dough which has spread,therefore there's not so much depth of loaf to actually heat through. Does that sound reasonable?

thestylethatdecadesforgot Fri 04-Jan-13 22:36:15

Thanks Mousy, I think going from that recipe that I'm definitely not leaving them in the oven for long enough. 40/45 mins is the longest I've done but I think at a higher temp, 230 or more. Probably why the top would burn.

You know the water in the oven thing I was told not to do in an electric oven. Is that incorrect?

XBenedict - thank you, Sainsburys here I come!

MmeLindor Germany Fri 04-Jan-13 22:43:37

Hmm. I wonder if you are opening the door too often, and the oven is cooling.

I don't open till cooking time is done.

MousyMouse Fri 04-Jan-13 22:43:45

never heard about that. so dunno really. but I have always done that. will check when I get my new oven (hopefully in a couple of weeks).
my dc prefer less crust, so usually bake without preheating/steam.

VenusInfers Fri 04-Jan-13 22:44:11

Hey TheStyle

Lots of great ideas above - totally agree about sticking with flours and recipes you like.

I've been making the following 2 loaf recipe twice a week for almost a year and it never fails. It's by Dan Lepard, who is a baking GOD.

whisk 1 x sachet of fast action yeast with 600ml warm water (150ml boiling, 450ml cold) then stir into 300g strong white flour.

Leave for 30mins/1hr until clearly bubbly and active.

In a big bowl put 750g strong flour (I use 500g Sainsbury's taste the difference seeded bread flour and 250g wholemeal, but up to 500g wholemeal works), 20g fine salt and 100ml orange juice (or any citrus based fresh juice), then add the yeast mix. You can throw in a few more seeds in at this point, I usually throw in sunflower and linseeds.

Mix and knead for 10mins. Return to the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise to double it's height (aprox 1.5-2hrs). Then knead again for a minute or so, divide into two pieces, shape into sausages and put into buttered and floured 2lb tins. Cover with a tea towel and leave to double again (another 1.5/2hrs)

To bake preheat the oven to as high as it goes (240 or 250), pop in quickly and cook for 5mins, then lower the temp to 190 and cook for another 40mins.

So lots of letting it sit around and rise, but only 20mins of actual WORK. God I love this recipe....grin

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