Friday 18 March 2016

Basic Bloomer

One thing I need to get really nailed down is the basics, done really well. To help with this, occasionally I like to go and work on something fairly simple and basic, and try and get a really good understanding of the process, and where I can get better. Where better to start than a loaf of bread?

This was a very basic loaf, but I went through the process very meticulously, using the guide in Paul Hollywoods "Bread" book. Making the dough itself was fine (I used a stand mixer, and then finished it by hand, so I got a goof feel for how the dough felt). Proving took a long time, mainly as our house is fairly cool. I put it in the airing cupboard while I did my training to help it along, but I also noted that the recipe used cold water, while most use warm.

The shaping part was interesting...I'd never really paid that much attention to this (I have a habit of throwing it in a loaf tin), and the concept of "surface tension" actually makes a lot of sense. I then ballsed this up by doing the second prove in a warm, moist environment, causing the loaf to soften too much, and go wide, rather than proving upwards.

Key lesson - take your time!

The final touches were good as well...the process was to lightly damped the skin, and hand-brush flour onto it, giving a lovely smooth, dusty finish once baked. The end result is not too bad, however next time I'll give myself more time, and do the shaping prove in a more suitable environment, and also pay closer attention to maintaining surface tension during the shaping/proving process.

Basic Bloomer - Recipe


  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 320ml water
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 10g salt
  • 7g fast action yeast

1) place the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl (or stand mixer) and add the oil and 2/3rds of the water.

2) Mix until all the flour is pulled in.

3) Add the rest of the water while mixing. In theory you may not need all the water, but I've always thought a wetter dough it better (and if you're using a stand mixer then there is no problem with mess)

4) Knead for 7-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

5) Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm, and prove in a warm room until tripled in size (1½-3 hours typically)

6) Knock the dough back, and fold over a few times to form a taut outer shell (this is where the concept of surface tension comes in).

7) Shape the loaf by forming a rectangle, then folding the bottom third over the middle, and the top third over this...then turn it over, tuck the ends under, and "rock" to round it off a bit

8) Place on a baking parchment lined baking tray, cover with a large bag (or plastic container), and prove until doubled in size

9) Heat oven to 220'C

10) Lightly dampen the skin of the loaf (use a spray bottle, or sprinkle water and really gently spread it out)

11) Sprinkle flour over the surface, and brush it on with your hands (again, very gently, as the dough will be very soft).

12) Slash the loaf 4 times diagonally

13) Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When you put in the loaf, pour a jug of water into a baking tin at the bottom of the oven.

14) Reduce the temperature to 200'C, and bake for another 10 minutes. If your oven has a "hot side", then turn the loaf at this point.

15) Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.