A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Here's two I made earlier: rather (ahem) rustic-looking soda breads. They are ok, but I prefer them sliced and toasted and spread with butter and jam the next morning.

I've tried making my own bread for years, but it's been very much a hit-and-miss affair. Some loaves have turned out fine; others not so well. Like all cookery, it's an art and a skill, and you've got to get it right. It seems to me there are so many stages where you can go wrong: flour not fresh enough, yeast too old, not enough yeast, too much yeast, water too hot, water too cold, under-kneading, over-kneading, too quick a rise and so on. A common problem I have is for the finished loaf to be too dense and moist in the middle, and for it to have too 'yeasty' an odour. If you search the internet for solutions, it's a minefield, and would probably put you off breadmaking for life! I'm thinking of drastically slowing down the proving time, as I'm assured this will produce a better, healthier, tastier loaf. I wonder if anyone out there has a bread recipe they've been using for years and is absolutely foolproof?


The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting Robert. I could have written this as I have had the same problems over the years. Friends gave me a bread maker they no longer used (the story of most bread makers I find) and I found that a nuisance and not always successful. When I think of my mother who had, of necessity, to make all her own bread and plum loaves - she never seemed to have a failure, and that was in the side oven of an open fire.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm - not sure I can be overly helpful. I'd bake much more if work was less consuming. We have a bread maker which does the business - as long as yeast etc are fresh. I use it most often for pizza bases.

Last time I tried to make bread from scratch was for bread for a friend's First Mass. What came out of the oven was a large untasty biscuit. Oh well!

But what I really ought to master is my grandmother's bacon and onion pudding recipe


Nick said...

500gm flour (whichever you like),up to 10gm salt, 1 sachet dried yeast (or stock-cube-sized piece of fresh yeast started off in your water first), 300ml tepid-to warm water; throw it all in the mixer for 3 minutes or so, then leave to rise for around 45 min to an hour. Knead until it collapses, then give it another hour to rise again. @0 to 30 minutes (depending on the type of flour) in the oven at 200C. Job done. Primitive, but it works every time for me.

am said...

I sure do enjoy your food posts. Food, books, music, walking. That's the life.

The Tassajara Bread Book taught me to make bread. I've had good luck with this recipe:


Tassajara is in Big Sur and is part of the San Francisco Zen Center:


Jo's World said...

Hello: People are saying today the unkneaded, rustic type bread is the way to go, but I love to knead the bread, so I make it and it always turns out good. I would be glad to send you a recipe if you would tell me the type of bread you like, whole grain? rye? simple white?


Arija said...

Sorry I can't help you there, i do it all by feel and look and there are so many different types of bread one can bake.Come and visit and we'll make a few together. It really is a matter of getting the right 'feel' of the dough.

Hildred said...

I think it's a matter of practice and 'feel'.

It's making bread every few days for years, then every week as the need diminishes. It's part of the routine, - you do it without thinking,- just relax and enjoy it and as a bonus the smell is both comforting and exhilarating!

Ruth said...

Robert, Don made this recipe on weekends religiously for a couple of years, and it made two perfect loaves every time. Delicious, airy and with a crunchy crust. Just fabulous. I want some!


Wendy said...

I sometimes make the unkneaded variety (it's very good) - but for years I made a basic white/whole bread weekly.

no-knead is easy but may require some tweaking - be willing to play: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html?_r=0

sorry, recipes are "american" in that they don't provide weights for ingredients...


grace said...

My bread is always a disappointment, so I don't have any tips for you. But, my biscuits? those are awesome!

Sabine said...

Like Am I learned to bake bread with the Tassajara Bread Book. I find that yeast dough works best in old buildings, but maybe it's just me. We used to make all our own bread but since we moved to Germany and its heavenly bakeries it seems a waste of time.
Try sourdough, it always works, guaranteed! There are many recipes for starters online, again I find the Tassajara starter method the easiest. Once you get the hang of it, you can make any variation. Really good with Graham flour.

The Bertinet method usually works but takes some getting used to as you start out kneading really wet dough since he is totally against adding extra flour. It works very well with white flour but not always so well with whole grain:


And a real simple but very tasty and impressive soda bread is this one:


Have fun!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for all these recipes and suggestions. I knew I could rely on you all. I'll try some of them out over the next few weeks, and report back.