Posts Tagged ‘Bread’

Having mastered the art of the New York Times no kneed bread the next logical step was to try a sourdough.

This would of course involve some kneeding and a more measured approach to proofing and the likes but the thing that got me really excited was the idea of growing a sourdough starter without using any instant processed yeast.

The idea of a sourdough starter is to encourage the growth and development of natural yeast spores found in the flour you use and in the environment surrounding you. This really is getting back in touch with a purely natural way of cooking.  Making bread is one of the most exciting and rewarding acts of cooking – bread is ace – homemade bread made with natural yeast from the air we breathe is freekin’ awesome!

So I set to work following one of the many guides found online (thanks S John Ross!).  Take your flour (I used unbleached wholemeal), add water and make a thick battery gloop.  Let sit at room temp with tea towel over the top to deter critters…

The first couple of days nothing much happened. By about the 4th day I had magic bubbles – a sign that something is happening with the yeast and bacteria. But woow – it totally stank of baby sick – never smealt anything quite like it.  So I kept feeding it each day and eventually it settled down and took on that lovely faintly sour beery hue.

So that was my starter sorted all, I needed to do was add more flour and water to develop a sponge, about 3 hours later you add more flour to get a bread consistency and then kneed for about 10 minutes (strangely cathartic actually).

Sourdough - the first rise

Sourdough - the first rise

You then let it rise once more, knock it back and create a loaf.

Second rise as a loaf - nice slits...

Second rise as a loaf - nice slits...

Get it while it's hot!

Get it while it's hot

Oddly, the recipe I was following told you to cook the bread at 200 from cold (ie don’t preheat the oven).  This had the effect of rising the dough even further before the real heat kicked in and creating a lovely soft bread with an excellent crumb with little crust – perfect for sandwiches!

Charlotte made me get up early the next morning to construct a PBJ – a bit sacrilegious with such fine bread (aidsims) but she did say it was the best bread I’d made so far.

Next up – same recipe but using the dutch oven method so you get a more french style crust and some wholemeal individual rolls – yumosa!


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Simple English Food.  That’s our aim. But its nice to pretend that its actually a bit harder than that sometimes – we all like to be martyrs to the cause.  

Take brown bread ice cream – a recipe that I wanted on the menu from day one – hours slaving over hot custards and kneading wholemeal doughs until perfectly formed, sweet baby Jesus!

Problem is, its easier than stealing catch phrases from northern comics.

The power of the internet really comes into its own with old English recipes like this.  My final version is an amalgamation of various recipes I found on t’internet with the addition of homemade honey comb.


Brown Bread Ice Cream

Adding the condensed milk to the cream – easy as pie…


The basic ice cream

1 pint good quality double cream

1 400ml can of condensed milk

Half vanilla pod 

Splash of dark booze (single malt works as does good brandy)

Whisk the cream to peaks, stir in the other ingredients and churn.  You can probably just whack it in the freezer too – just stir vigorously after a few hours.


To get the brown bread in the mix I take stale wholemeal bread I’ve baked, blitz for a second or 2 (you want good sized crumbs – maybe 1/4 the size of a Malteser) spread in oven proof dish, add a few good knobs of butter and sprinkle liberally  with sugar and Maldon salt (much more sugar than salt of course). Bake this for about 15 mins at 180° until caramelized and crunchy, cool and stir into the ice cream before churning/freezing.

Add the honey comb to take it one step further – melt sugar and golden syrup until bubbling (don’t take it too far).  Take off the heat and add bicarb soda (about 1/2 teaspoon).  Pour into WELL greased or lined dish and allow to cool.  You should then be able to smash it up into little splinters and slithers and add at the same time as the bread crunch.  

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All in the name of research I paid a visit to the Spitalfield’s St John to try their legendary bacon sarnie this AM.

The day started with a 7am visit to New Spitalfields market to get a feeling for what’s on offer from a fruit and veg POV (not a lot apart from loads of imported exotics and the most MENTAL forklift drivers you have ever seen! 4°C looks interesting though).  

It seemed fitting to visit the old  Spitalfields in the same morning.  Parked up at the top of Bricklane and grabbed a coffee from Coffee@ – v nice crema and micro foam on the capp – and walked through the current redevelopment of the market – looking a bit too shiny for my liking…

On a restaurant tip all of the those that open for breakfast were empty at 9am (Canteen, S and M, Leon and as we found out later St John – like, no one at all in there) except Giraffe. How? Why??! Its got to be the weirdest, most uninspiring place going – but there go, must be something going for it.

St John Bacon Sarnie

Anyway, the sarnie… Char and I ordered one each and they are huge! The bacon is Gloucester old spot, many, many rashers of it (well, maybe 3 or 4) that had been pleasingly char-grilled.  

The bread looked like a bloomer  – I assume from their own bakery, it had also been on the char-grill – and the ketchup was home made.  Never really get this  – why not give us Heinz?  Same with baked beans – Heinz all the way I say (unless you’re a Mexican or Leon type or place).

Their sauce had good fresh flavour but as very runny, more like a soup than a ketchup.

Apart from that you couldn’t really fault it for the excellence of the bacon inside.

Char couldn’t eat all of hers so the bacon we bought home is going into tonight’s  salad – yumosa!

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Bacheldre bread flour

As a relative novice to bread baking most people I discuss such things with say ‘are you really going to bake your own bread for the restaurant’.  The easy gun-ho answer is, absolutely!

Whether I’ll be that sparky come week 3 opening who knows but the discovery of the New York Times method about 18 months ago led me to believe it is possible bake high quality loaves from crusty artisan whites to complex, seedy wholemeals with little more than quality ingredients, perseverance and a bit of time to let the flour, yeast, salt and water do its magic.

However, banging a bit of flour and yeast that’s been bubbling away for 18 hours in a scorching hot pot is all well and good but a bit hit and miss for regular bread production.  I’ve decided to be a bit more scientific in my approach.  Here are the results of my first 2 trials:


Bread 1 – 6th May 2008, 10am 

3 cups Bacheldre wholemeal

1 1/4 cups of water (vegas cup)

1 green spoon maldon

1 green spoon yeast

Kneaded for 30 secs to bring ingredients together, very stiff dough


Bread 2 – 6th May 2008 7pm

3 cups Dove wholemeal

400mls water

1 green spoon maldon

1/2 green spoon yeast

No knead

Both went in at 11.50 am next day.  20 mins 240 deg with lid on. 40 mins 180 deg lid off. 


Vegas mug

Cups? Green spoon??  Well I borrowed the cups route from our American cousins in the original recipe, but its not their kinda cups, its actually the Vegas mug (brought back from our recent trip) to be anally precise. I will get around to weighing a cups worth of flour and revert to weights from now on but it is v accurate. The green spoon is a large tea spoon that is perfect for measuring regular measures of dry material.

The first batch is a very dry, stiff dough.  The extra long proving time was to compensate this, however even after 26 hours, the bread hadn’t really developed.  When baked, it hardly rose and was very heavy with a nutty crust.  Interesting but not really a result.

Bread 2 was the more classically ‘shaggy’ dough which rose beautifully and given the shorter baking time at 240° had a nice thin crust, good for sandwiches and toasting for scrambled eggs etc. It was however, very spongy – almost like a pre-toasted scone – I’ve had this before with this technique and I think its basically under cooked but an hour should be plenty – too much water I think.

Will be trying another no kneed method with more yeast and a shorter prove time tomorrow and will post the results.

Bread 1


Bread 2

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