Baking adventures with a tiny Asian wannabe pastry chef/physicist

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Using My Loaf!

Apologies for the pun. It is entirely appropriate here though, because not only have I made my first artisan bread loaf (for which the recipe will follow) but I also just commenced my Undergraduate study. :D Before this post's recipe, I have news! I went to the London Cake and Bake Show, and MET ERIC LANLARD! Such an amazing patissier, and he even signed my copy of one of his books:

I am a bread-making newbie and was just inspired by the Bread episode of this series of The Great British Bake Off (which my mother, among others, keeps insisting I apply for! Tell me if you think I should... I have inhibitions tbh) to get some bread flour and yeast and give it a go. After all, my dream Patisserie degree does have a module on Boulangerie. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I will not be overflowing with hints and tips on this post as my experience is minimal! However my few tips will be highlighted in red in the recipe, as usual. The recipe is from Angela Nilsen (original at and I followed it pretty much to-the-letter aside from adding half a tablet of crushed Vitamin C, and a bit of brown sugar. I read in an article in the Guardian that this tenderises the crumb more easily in recipes using wholemeal flour. Also, sugar acts as food for the yeast, encouraging it to work. (:

By now you must be wondering: what a risk taker this girl is! She attempts recipes and techniques she's never tried before so readily, when they could so easily end in disaster. She trusts in random recipes from random websites and sources and hopes they wont result in a waste of ingredients, time and money. To this remark, you n00bs, I say:

WHY do I disagree? There are a few simple precautions that you can take to avoid recipe disasters when trying new things. This minimises the chance of disaster. My culinary disaster count against time graph can be modelled with an  e^-x curve (#wannabephysicist #iactuallysuckatmaths) and has steadily declined over the years. In my younger years disasters included a cake-omelette that made the house smell of egg, stuck and burnt meringues, soufflĂ© soup etc etc etc... However I have learnt. I have grown (not literally. I'm still 5ft1). And I will share my wisdom with you, because I love you:

How to Try New Cooking Styles and Recipes:
  • Read recipe comments and reviews: often these contain essential alterations and variations and if a recipe has a low rating/many negative reviews maybe it won't work for you.
  • If you don't know about an area, research! Maybe the inner physicist in me has emerged, but I like to read articles in lifestyle magazines and read a few recipes to get the feel of what I'm doing, before I do it. Cooking shows and YouTube are also a great resource for techniques; for example I use YouTube for a lot of sugarpaste/chocolate/gumpaste/marzipan modelling and decorating tutorials.
  • If you're unsure whether a recipe is going to work or not, scale the ingredient quantities down and try it with a small amount in order to avoid too much waste if it all goes pear-shaped.
  • Try to use trusted sources like well-known chefs and publications to ensure the recipe isn't a load of bullplop.
  • Use common sense! I once read a recipe that involved putting blobs of jam into a cake mix. Logic dictates that would have sunk to the bottom and made a biiiiig mess, or leaked out of the tin!
So now, without further distraction, here is the recipe:

Wholemeal Loaf (Makes 1)


  • 400g wholemeal bread flour
  • 100g white flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ a vit c tablet, crushed
  • ½ tsp brown sugar 
  • 7g sachet easy-bake dried yeast (or 2 tsp quick dried yeast)
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp soft butter
  • Mixed seed topping

Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl with the softened butter, then rub in the butter with your fingertips (here is a good video of this technique until the mixture is a sandy texture with an even colour.

 Like this!

 Make a well in the centre of the mix using the tip of a round-bladed knife. Make sure you can see a patch of the bottom of the bowl in order to avoid dry bits of flour being left at the bottom when you add the liquid.

Mix in almost all of the water and gradually mix in using a figure-of-8 motion with the knife (also I forgot to add the sugar! Whoops.)

Finish bringing the dough together by hand. Messy messy messy!

Set a timer for 10 minutes and prepare to knead, knead, knead. Push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, then pull it back, rotate 90 degrees and repeat. 

Sprinkle the absolute minimum amount of flour to stop the dough sticking to the counter, in order to avoid a dry crumb. Once kneaded, dough should be smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball.

Lightly flour a clean bowl, place the dough in it and cover loosely with cling film. Leave to double in size in a warm place (I use my airing cupboard), about an hour.

Only use the proving time as a rough guide! The rate at which the dough will rise depends on the yeast, and the room temperature. Make sure to wait until it is actually doubled in size.

Meanwhile, grease a 450g loaf tin and line with baking paper in the base. I find that upwards strokes with a pastry brush encourages things to rise when greasing tins.

When doubled in size, lightly knead the dough 3-4 times and reform into a ball. Leave to prove again in the same way as before for 15 mins.

Using your knuckles (imagine boxing fists here!) press out the dough into a rough 25x19cm rectangle. Fold the shorter ends into the centre and rotate the dough by 90 degrees.

Then press out the dough to the same size...

... And roll it up tightly, starting from a short end.

Roll the dough in your seed mix, pressing firmly so they adhere. Avoid sun dried tomato! My mix had bits of it and it burnt in the oven so I had to pick it off after the bake :(

Place the dough in the prepared tin.

Cover the dough loosely with a clean tea towel and prove for around 45 mins, or until risen to about 5cm above the top of your tin. At this point, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and place a roasting tin on the oven's bottom shelf. Measure out 250ml cold water.

Pour the water into the pre-heated roasting tin to create a burst of steam, then immediately put the loaf in a shelf above it to bake. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Cover the loaf with foil whilst baking if the seeds are browning too fast.


Sandwiches and toast were delicious using this homemade bread, which turned out to be a lot more flavourful than shop-bought. When warm out of the oven, it made the cheese in my sandwich melt slightly... Mmmm.

That ends this post! I intend to bake a brioche loaf next (I've decided I like making bread. :D). Tomorrow I will bake a self-compiled recipe for a rather complicated cake to surprise my sister and future brother-in-law with this weekend. Next blog sorted!

Take care and happy baking!


Hadia x

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