Home-made bread – first attempts (1)

I started at the very beginning, which is generally a good place to start. I followed Andrew Whitley’s recipe for wholemeal bread (for a 2 lb loaf, or two 1lb loaves). I could only find yeast sold in 7g sachets, whereas the recipe called for only 3g, so I made two batches. The first was two 1lb loaves, the second was a single large loaf. I used Allinson’s wholemeal flour and Allinson’s quick action yeast.

The first thing I noticed was that the Allinson recipe on the bag of flour used the whole 7g sachet of yeast for the same quantity of flour, i.e. twice as much, and only allowing about an hour’s rising time. In principle, the smaller quantity of yeast and the longer rising time in Whitley’s recipe should make better bread (in terms of flavour and digestibility) but perhaps is riskier in terms of rising (or rather, not rising). And it takes longer – but that’s hardly the point. I’m of the Slow Food school.

First attempt – 2 small wholemeal loaves

I followed Whitley’s suggestion for fitting bread-making around modern living, when one often doesn’t have 4 hours at home at one stretch. I mixed the dough the night before, covered it in a bowl, and left it in the fridge overnight. The dough should still rise but because the temperature is lower, the rise is much slower.

The next morning I found the dough had risen a fair amount – not quite doubled in volume – but it had developed quite a tough skin, which had probably stopped it rising further. It must have dried out in the fridge (despite my careful covering of the bowl with a cling-film lid, not in contact with the dough).

I knocked it back in the morning, handling it until it stopped feeling cold (did I handle it for too long and knock too much air out of it?). I shaped it and put it in the loaf tins, put them in tied-up plastic bags (as the recipe suggested) to stop them drying out, and left them in the kitchen to rise for a couple of hours.

Whitley says the ideal temperature for proving bread is 27’C. Now, the usual daytime temperature in my house is nearer 17’C. That may be one of the reasons why the bread didn’t rise very much during those two hours. Since I wasn’t quite sure how much the dough was meant to rise, and it had seemed to risen ‘appreciably’ (I didn’t find that instruction very helpful!), so I baked them for 40 minutes as per the recipe.


As you can see, the loaves didn’t rise much in the oven. One crust tore a little along one shoulder. Once they’d cooled, I cut a slice from one: the crust was dark, and rather thick and chewy, but not inedibly tough; the crumb was dense but even. Judging from the ‘what can go wrong’ checklist in my new breadmaking bible, this seems to have all been due to the dough not rising enough, for whatever reason. The flavour was disappointing – yes, obviously, it tasted of bread, but it was a rather dull taste, and it didn’t even improve particularly with toasting. What was really odd, and definitely wrong, rather than just not-quite-right, was the texture of the crumb. To say it was moist would be an understatement: it actually felt slightly tacky to the touch, almost rubbery, a bit like a raw crumpet.

After referring back to the recipe book, and deciding that the overnight fridge proving method had not been a success, I decided to approach the second batch in a more straightforward way.


~ by jobes on February 14, 2008.

2 Responses to “Home-made bread – first attempts (1)”

  1. Hi!

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I’ve been reading your review on “Bread Matters” and your first attempts at bread baking. I just took that very same book from the library a couple of days ago, and even though I have just read through a few chapters, I agree with you on how good and well researched it is.

    I started making my own bread three months ago (I have have all together stopped buying it now!) and have already tried different kinds of flours, rising times, etc. One little piece of advice I can give you is that the way you knead does matter quite a lot once you’ve mastered the most basic bread making. I recently bought Richard Bertinet book “Dough”, and seriously, the quality of my bread has improved so much since I use his kneading technique! So I’d suggest you check it out if you have the chance.

    Good luck on your bread making adventure!

  2. Thanks Marta! I have had a quick google and will definitely investigate further. I’ve been ‘air-kneading’, which is something Andrew Whitley’s book suggested. Mainly I’ve been doing this because I get so irritated when the dough is very sticky and keeps getting stuck to the surface – so I dispense with the surface… However, I can see that maybe the air-kneading method doesn’t get air into the dough as efficiently! I will keep experimenting – thanks for the encouragement!

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