White leaven bread

Tears of joy and oh so proud – it is ridiculous quite how happy a good loaf of bread can make me! I still find it somewhat unbelievable that three very simple ingredients: flour, water and salt can, with a little bit of care and work create something so marvellous as this loaf – here cut in half, look at that air!


This is my first loaf made solely with white sourdough starter and white bread flour. It took most of yesterday but I had a lot of study so didn’t mind spending the day at home.  I used Dan Lepard’s method from The Handmade Loaf and changed the quantities of ingredients in order to get one decent sized loaf instead of 2 smallish ones. Can honestly say, having sampled a whole load of sourdough bread over the years from places like St. John, Elliott’s, Balthazar (the London outpost, which I did not like other than the bread), local bakeries and all sorts of good restaurants – this loaf is up there. So proud. Even though I didn’t slash it enough (slashed around circumference but my knife was not sharp enough).



It rose in the oven beautifully and unlike River Cottage method, Dan recommends a lower oven temperature (200C fan instead of 250C or as high as it will go – River Cottage) and spraying the top of the loaf with water before it goes in. Next time I’ll just slash across the top. I’ll also have to figure out the timing a bit better so that it can have a longer and slower second prove overnight and I can have it ready for breakfast. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem in cold weather.

I’m still going to keep my rye ‘mother’ too, it’s been fascinating watching the white and the rye behave completely differently. The rye is just happy slowly bubbling, bubbles throughout the jar and quite a sour smell. The white, on the other hand, tends to have bubbles on the surface and I must be super careful when opening the jar to refresh – it’s almost exploded a couple of times. It also rises more over a 24 hour period. Totally fascinating.

Monastery bread and homemade jams



I haven’t been able to make bread for the past couple of weeks now so didn’t want to let today’s heat stop me. Thought I’d try Monastery bread from River Cottage Bread Handbook. Still a little obsessed with oat breads and this recipe called for 3 handfuls so it suited perfectly. Other than that, I used a mix of malted grain flour and wholemeal bread flour (recipe said ‘brown’), a bit of honey and melted butter, little bit of yeast and some sourdough starter. Fabulous crumb and that great oaty texture that I just love. Just had some, still warm with butter and new jams – strawberry and gooseberry, which I’ve only tasted as I made them a couple of weeks ago but haven’t tried properly. Am pretty impressed, especially as I worried that I may have burned the gooseberry one a little. It is totally fine. Strawberry jam is quite intense and the gooseberry one has just the right amount of tartness. I used River Cottage Preserves handbook for both recipes.



Photos are not very good, we get too much sun in the flat in the afternoons so it’s all a bit hazy and washed out.  Going to disappear now to the cinema to watch the last of Edgar Wright’s ‘cornetto trilogy’, can’t wait, flat might even cool down by the time we get back if we’re lucky.

Oatmeal and linseed loaf

Bit of an experiment yesterday, I wanted to see if I can use both yeast and sourdough starter in a yeast-only bread recipe. I ended up with a really good Oatmeal and linseed loaf, a mash up of Dan Lepard and River Cottage Bread Handbook.IMG_0600

The recipe I adapted was for Dan Lepard’s Soy and linseed loaf from Short and Sweet, I didn’t have soy milk so used semi skimmed milk and Greek yoghurt instead. Also added sourdough starter and then made the bread according to River Cottage. Very pleased with the result, although I wish I’d made a bigger loaf! Good crumb and a lovely texture inside.

Ingredients and method: in a mixer bowl (you need a dough hook attachment), soak 50g rolled oats with 100ml boiling water for 10 minutes. Add 325g strong white flour, 50g rye flour, 50g golden linseed, 100ml sourdough starter (or thereabouts, I actually never measure the sourdough starter, just tip out from the jar a quantity that feels right, have not been wrong so far), 1 and a half teaspoons quick acting yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 100ml milk and 175g Greek yoghurt. Knead at a slow speed first to combine then increase speed and knead for 6 minutes. Alternatively, mix to combine then knead by hand for 10-15 minutes until the dough is elastic. Oil your hands and a work surface a little then shape the dough (it’s a little wet) into a ball and place into a bowl, cover and leave for an hour. Deflate, shape into a ball and leave for another hour and repeat this one more time. Take the dough out, deflate one more time then roll it up tightly. Flatten and stretch, then blanket fold and shape into a loaf – use more rye flour to coat. Leave to prove until doubled in size (took an hour and a half yesterday), meanwhile heat the oven to its highest setting (250C is good) placing a baking sheet or a hot stone in the oven first. Slash the loaf, transfer into the oven and bake for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 180C and bake for a further 35. Leave to cool – this is the bit I can never do…

Flatbreads for a feast

I love broad beans and earmark good broad bean recipes to do when they’re in season. As it takes a while to pod, steam and skin them, they’re pretty much ‘weekend cooking’ only so yesterday afternoon I did a bit of a cookathon of lovely things to eat with Merguez lamb meatballs with broad beans from Hugh FW’s Three Good Things. I made Baba ganoush and Beetroot and walnut hummus from River Cottage Veg book and Flatbreads from River Cottage Bread Handbook. Here are the flatbreads with meatballs in the background:


I made the dough for flatbreads early in the afternoon and then let it rise several times, while lamb was marinating and I got on with the dips. They were delicious and I managed to get 8 out of 500g flour total (250g each plain white and strong white). They puffed up beautifully, was rather proud so posting another photo:


Interestingly, the River Cottage flatbreads are quite different from the Casa Moro ones I did a few months back with minced lamb and pomegranate molasses, which were smaller and a bit thicker – although I think I’m better now at rolling them out thinner. I prefer these but would also like to try Dan Lepard’s recipe from Short and Sweet for comparison. 

Honey, fruit and nut loaf



I’ve really gotten into the basic bread recipe from River Cottage Bread Handbook. It combines sourdough starter and yeast so it does not take as long to make as a pure sourdough and the method is very easy to follow + easy to experiment with adding extras like fruit and nuts. This weekend I did a take on the Festival bread, using a combination of different flours and yoghurt instead of cider and a combination of walnuts, raisins, dried apricots and rolled oats inside. It’s a meal in itself – crunchy crumb, earthy, nutty and sweet texture, delicious.

Here’s the method: Mix 200g strong white, 150g strong wholemeal and 150g spelt flour with 1 and a half teaspoon quick acting yeast, 100ml sourdough starter, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil, 150ml water and 150g Greek yoghurt in a bowl with your hand until it forms a dough. Knead in the mixer for 6 minutes or 10-15 minutes by hand. Flatten the dough then sprinkle some rolled oats, chopped dried apricots (about 3-4), a few chopped walnuts and some raisins (in total, just about a handful of fruits and nuts). Knead briefly to combine then shape into a ball and leave, covered, in an oiled bowl for an hour. Deflate, shape into a ball again and leave for another hour. Then deflate one more time, roll up tightly, then flatten again and blanket fold, shaping into a loaf. Roll the loaf in some rye flour then leave to prove, on a flour dusted board, covered with a plastic bag, for anything between an hour and two and a half hours, depending on room temperature. Yesterday was quite warm so I left mine for an hour and a half. In the meantime, place the baking sheet or a hot stone in the centre of the oven and an empty sandwich tin on the bottom (for a steamed oven, improves the crumb) then heat the oven to its highest setting – I usually heat the oven to 250C. Boil some water in the kettle if you are steaming the oven. Transfer the loaf to a floured peel, slash with a serrated knife and, if you are steaming the oven, spray the loaf with water then transfer onto the stone/ baking sheet and fill the sandwich tin with boiled water. Bake for 10 minutes at 250 then turn the heat down to 180C and bake for another 35 minutes.

Weekend loaf



This could easily become a staple, a white loaf, recipe from River Cottage Bread Handbook. I woke up not feeling that great this morning and didn’t want to mess about with lots of different ingredients or something complicated so this was perfect. It has yeast as well as sourdough starter so it needs a longer rise but not as long as a pure sourdough. Good crumb and a lovely texture and colour inside. Posting recipe as well:

500g strong white flour

100ml sourdough starter

1tsp salt

1 1/2tsp quick acting yeast

150g Greek yoghurt

150ml water

glugg of olive oil

Rye or spelt flour for coating

Mix all the ingredients with your hand until they form a dough, then knead in the mixer for 6 minutes or 10 minutes by hand (until the dough is elastic). Shape into a ball, then leave in an oiled bowl for an hour, covered. Deflate and shape into a ball again and leave for another hour. You can repeat this one more time if you like, it will develop the flavour. Deflate one final time then roll up tight, flatten and blanket fold, shaping into a loaf as you fold. Roll in rye flour then leave to prove for an hour and a half on a floured board or in a floured proving basket, covered with plastic bag.

While the dough is proving, heat the oven to 250C or as high as it will go, with a hot stone or a baking sheet inside. Transfer onto floured peel (or take the baking sheet out and transfer), slash with a serrated knife then bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 180C and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Leave to cool before cutting into it.


Spring blooms and Hazel Maizel bread

I think it rather marvellous how a prospect of good weather for May Bank holiday weekend means that anyone who can will try to avoid work as much as possible on the Friday afternoon. We certainly witnessed quite a few people out and about yesterday afternoon as we did a little loop walk. We headed towards London Fields (full of people, a group was even barbecuing), Broadway Market (all outside eating and drinking spaces full), along Regent’s Canal (very busy indeed), up to Duke’s Brew and Que for a couple of pints and ribs then home. Four and a half miles of sunshine, glorious weather and gorgeous spring blooms:


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Today, the weather is not quite sure of itself so I spent the morning baking bread. Thought I’d try another recipe from River Cottage Bread Handbook and decided on this Hazel Maizel Bread – a wholemeal and polenta loaf with hazelnuts and honey. It also required apple juice, which I didn’t have and it was way too early in the morning for any shops to be open so I replaced juice with yoghurt. It’s a lovely, nutty bread with hints of sweetness from the honey, great crumb (I steamed the oven) and a lovely soft texture inside:



Like the seeded loaf I did last weekend, this bread uses both yeast and sourdough starter and it benefits from a longer proving time but doesn’t take as long as sourdough bread. Since I adapted the recipe from the book somewhat, posting it here:

400g strong wholemeal flour, 100g polenta, 1tsp salt, 1.5tsp quick acting yeast, 1 ladleful sourdough starter, 20g melted butter, 1tsp honey, 150ml water, 200g greek yoghurt, handful of chopped hazelnuts

Mix all the ingredients except the hazelnuts in a bowl then knead by hand for 10 minutes or 6 minutes in the mixer with the dough hook attached. The dough should be pliable and elastic. Flatten the dough then sprinkle hazelnuts and knead briefly to incorporate. Shape the dough into a round then place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave for an hour. Take the dough out, deflate and shape into a round again and leave for another hour. Take the dough out, flattening and deflating it one more time, then roll it up tight, flatten again and blanket fold. Shape and leave to prove for an hour and a half in a floured basket or on a floured chopping board, covered. In the meantime, heat the oven to 250C or as high as it will go, placing an empty loaf tin on the bottom shelf and a baking stone or sheet in the centre of the oven. When the oven is hot enough, slash the dough with a serrated knife, spray with water and place on the baking stone/ sheet and pour boiled water into the loaf tin to create oven steam. Lower the temperature to 180C after ten minutes if the loaf is browning quite well or to 200C if the loaf is still looking pale and then bake for a further 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.