My love of baking my own bread started with one book: The Fabulous Baker Brothers. Whenever I have a bread baking question it is always the first place I turn to for answers, like last weekend when I proudly returned from the Spence Bakery with a brown paper bag of fresh yeast and then realised I had no clue what to do with it; how to store it, how to use it, how long it would last.
I picked the book up after a seeing a live cooking demonstration. Their cheeky-chappy nature and unfussy approach to ‘good old fashioned English grub’ appealed to me. Being written by a butcher and a baker it is full of classic dishes often overlooked, like homemade scotch eggs and my personal favourite: bread and butter pudding. The photography throughout is absolutely stunning, which I find all the more impressive as raw meat and bread are two of the things that I find most difficult to style. What comes through most of all is not the unpatronising manner to which they impart generations of knowledge, but their real passion for the subject of food.
Without this book I would not know that making my own bread at home every week is achievable, easy, delicious and cost effective. The recipe for burger buns is splattered and stained from preparation for summers of barbecues. I’ve made their simple loaf recipe so many times I know the quantities by rote. Their recipes have never failed me, and the results are always fantastic, I would unapologetically call it the most influential book in my collection, which is why, pungent paper bag in hand, I reached for the grey covered well worn copy to instruct me.
And so to fresh yeast. How do you use it? Basically exactly the same, but you use double the weight of fresh yeast as you would dried. Theoretically, fresh yeast gives a better flavour, but I can’t say I noticed. This is probably due to the fact that wholemeal bread has a stronger, nuttier taste than white. This weekend I will be experimenting with white flour instead, and I will let you know the results via instagram. The recipe for wholemeal bread is almost identical to white, but the dough absorbs water more easily which can make it slightly dry. The recipe recommends adding at least 10% more water (which I did) and feeling it from there. It will also need a few minutes longer kneading as it doesn’t contain the same gluten forming potential. The resulting loaf is thicker and less fluffy that a white loaf, but with far more flavour, and is particularly delicious toasted as it takes on a crunchy crust with a firm satisfying centre.
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makes a 2lb loaf from The Fabulous Baker Brothers
560g wholemeal flour
10g fresh yeast
330ml tepid water
1 tsp salt
20ml rapeseed oil
extra oil for greasing
- In a jug mix together the 300ml of the water, yeast and oil. It will take a bit of stirring with a fork to dissolve all the yeast.
- In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer sift in the dry ingredients.
- Pour over the liquid, then use the last 30ml of tepid water to rinse any yeast stuck to the side of the jug and add that to the bowl too.
- Knead at a medium speed (about 4 on a KitchenAid) for 14 minutes until springy, this means that if you press into the dough to create a little dent it will slowly spring back.
- Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. You do this by first pinching a small section of the side of the dough, stretching it out slightly then pressing it firmly into the middle of the dough, repeat the step to the immediate side of your first, then again until you’ve worked your way all the way round. Then flip the ball over, and using gently cupped hands quickly and lightly pull your hands over the side of the dough and underneath repeatedly, rotating as you go to create a smooth ball. Oil the mixing bowl liberally and place the dough back in it. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour.
- When the dough has risen stretch the dough out until you have formed a thin sheet about 1cm thick. Fold into thirds – imagine you’re folding an A4 letter to go into a standard envelope. Starting at one of the thinner ends, roll the dough towards you, using your thumbs to tightly tuck the roll so it stays taut, you don’t want any gaps in the roll.
- Place the loaf in a very well floured proving basket (I have this one), sprinkle with flour, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise a second time, for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size again.
- About 30-40 minutes in, turn your oven on as high as it will go (or about 240C) - you want it screaming hot. If you have a baking stone – I used my pizza stone – put this in the oven now too. If you’re using a regular baking tray this can be left out until you need it.
- 10 minutes before your dough is ready put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.
- Remove the clingfilm, gently turn the loaf out onto the tray that you are using, with a sharp knife score along the top to prevent the crust for cracking, place in the oven and for and set a timer for 10 minutes.
- When your alarm goes off, remove the water tray from the oven and let some of the steam out, and turn the oven down to 210C, and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and it sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.
- Allow to cool, and keep in an airtight container to stop from going stale.