Monthly Archives: September 2013

Solid beer!

Got interested in using spent grains, left over from beer making, to make bread: and, after the local brewery refused to supply said grains because of idiotic food safety rules, I bought a few packs of grains for the home brewer.  One was lightly roasted and the other a chocolate malt.  I boiled them up for a few hours and then added them to the bread mix.  The chocolate malt was dark, almost black, and tasted bitter so I only added a small amount of this to the dough made with the other grains.

Not entirely successful and the mix to which the dark grains were added was better than the other.  The grains contain a lot of water so easy to make too wet a dough and, probably need to reduce the proportion of grains since they don’t have any gluten so loaf was rather crumbly but taste was disappointing.  Anyone tried this?


Hints and tips; the most common problem

When asking people who attend our courses and demonstrations what challenges they have had with bread making, the most common response is the dough not rising or the loaf was too dense.  No-one leaves a class without having made a perfect loaf of bread so whats the problem?  We have even started offering dried yeast alongside our normal fresh yeast, which isn’t quite so easy to find, and still the results are good.

I suspect its largely down to temperature and time.  If using dried yeast, I prefer the very fine Dove Farm granules which can be added directly to the flour.  The Allinsons dried yeast is fine but it has to be reconstituted in water first.  Either way, the first trick is to use 2/3 cold water from the tap (make sure it really is cold) and 1/3 boiling water.  If reconstituting dried yeast, add a pinch of sugar to the water before you add the yeast and check that bubbles are produced before adding to the flour.

It is not strictly necessary to leave the dough somewhere warm to prove/rise.  Unless your house is freezing, anywhere will do; dough will even rise in the fridge if you leave it long enough.  So, don’t be impatient; in a warm room it should not take more than 60-90 minutes but maybe longer in a cold space or if the dough contains lots of sugar, alcohol or spice (see Hints and tips; teatotal yeast).

If after several hours it has not risen, don’t put it in the oven hoping that ‘oven spring’ will fix it.  You will end up with a partially risen loaf and a dense layer of undigestable dough at the bottom of the loaf.  Better to mix it again (possibly halving the dough and mixing in two batches), adding more yeast, flour and water and trying again.

Family fun!

Another successful course on Saturday and a first since we had a family with us.  Eric had bought a beginners course for both his sons’ and wifes’ birthdays.  Father and son had done a little bread making, generally with Wrights bread mixes, which had worked well but starting from scratch with dried yeast had produced mixed results.  I tailored the course to start with a straightforward granary but including a four strand plait, moving on to focaccia and our famous swirls.  We used fresh and dried yeast so they would gain confidence that they could bake successfully with dried yeast.  The results speak for themselves:

DSCF3355 - Copy   DSCF3356 - Copy   DSCF3354 - Copy

Stephen making his cheese, sun-dried tomato and basil swirl: delicious!   DSCF3353 - Copy

Stephen making his delicious cheese, sun-dried tomato and basil swirl and the family with their days output.

Feedback was excellent:

“Thoroughly enjoyed our day.  Really pleased with the results and amazed at what we were able to produce”.  “Fantastic day.  Really boosted my confidence.  Superb lunch and great company.  10/10”

Still some places left for courses second half October and early November:

Hints and tips

Sourdough.  Lots of interest in sourdough and the taste is certainly worth the effort of feeding your culture daily.  Personally I don’t go for the grapes and apples which Paul Hollywood uses to start the culture.  Normally there is more than enough yeast in the air. One of the challenges is getting those large bubbles in the finished loaf especially as the dough is very wet.  Placing the dough in a Banneton works but, once it has risen, it needs to be gently turned out onto your baking tray and placed in the oven immediately so that it doesn’t have time to spread.

Another alternative is to place the dough in a well oiled, vertical sided casserole.  I tried this Saturday and left the lid on to keep it moist but it rose rather quickly and got stuck to the lid! So, suggest you leave the lid off while it is proving, covering it with a dry towel and only put enough dough in the casserole so that it won’t reach the lid when proving or baking since leaving the lid on helps with the cooking.  After about 2/3 of the baking time, remove the lid to brown the top.  Since the dough is constrained, it won’t matter how wet the dough is.  In fact, the wetter it is, within reason, the more likely you are to create those attractive large holes.  Check out this excellent video re; high hydration doughs:


Good market at Bassingbourn this Saturday.  As usual took the camera and was so busy I forgot to take photos!  Better than piccies was a call from a customer later that day saying how much she had enjoyed our bacon slice (smoked bacon, béchamel sauce in a light dough, topped with grated cheese) and our bread.  So, thank you Tessa; that’s the sort of feedback which makes it worthwhile getting up at 3.30am!

Our new Tarte Flambée went down well and we sold out of our chocolate and orange buns. These were inspired by my making a huge batch of orange candied peel ready for Panettone and thinking what flavours I could pair with the orange and plain chocolate was the obvious answer.  Had one toasted for breakfast and the chocolate didn’t melt all over the toaster which was a bonus and it was delicious just with butter.

Courses until Christmas

Requests for more evening demonstrations and classes, particularly Christmas breads so we have added more dates for both (see Courses).  We will cover Panettone and Stollen as well as how to make candied peel for use in Christmas puddings and cake as well as breads.  The difference in flavour between home made and shop bought is immense and, apart form the sugar, it is very low cost since you use the peel from any citrus fruit having eaten the flesh!


There is lots of advice on the web about bread making now and these are some of the ones I turn to

There are lots of places to buy baking kit but Bakery Bits has one of the best selections: