Archive | artisan bread RSS for this section

First Prize for my Sourdough at Snape


This summer I decided to get ready for two bread competitions coming up in England in September; The World Bread Awards (not quite sure how on earth anyone from outside the UK could have entered given you had to get your 2 loaves of bread to a church in central London by 11am) and Marriage’s Bread Competition, at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, a far more local affair. So I needed some inspiration – where better to get it than Northern California- home of San Francisco Sourdough, the fabulous Tartine bakery in San Francisco and the wonderful Gayle’s bakery in Capitola, and we happened to be going there on holiday!

We did a house-swap and stayed  near the Mission district of San Francisco- just 6 blocks away from the Tartine Bakery- heaven for just nipping out to get something fabulous for breakfast,lunch and dinner. Here is some sourdough bread I bought there : white-wheat blend and  baguette. All I can say is it’s hard to describe in words just how good they were. I know that getting a baguette to look that good is really hard- so I decided to try to perfect the white-wheat blend.


We picked our son up from the airport shortly after buying the bread, he was dreadfully jet lagged- but still able to appreciate dinner



We then spent some time with my husband’s family in Santa Cruz, down the coast.  Every time we visit them we always make time to go to Gayle’s Bakery- and this trip was no exception:


Their fabulous ‘Schneken’ – a type of ultra decadent cinnamon roll, inspired my earlier blog on this most delicious treat.

When I came back I practiced making Sourdough bread using the Tartine method, repeatedly. Sometimes it came out slightly too flat, (I think the problem here  might have been that I let the first stage called autolyse, where you mix the sourdough with the water and flour, go on too long and the yeast became inhibited by the amount of acid being built up, so it didn’t hold its shape) On another occasion it rose beautifully but was not sour enough, and I realised I really need it to be in the fridge overnight to develop the sour flavour. I also started experimenting with refreshing my sourdough starter much more  carefully for the final dough (which is called the leaven)  For the World Bread awards, I made a spelt rye and white sourdough, based roughly on Chad Robertson’s ‘Wheat-Rye 10%’ from his Tartine book no. 3. ( I didn’t make it to the final- but am waiting to hear if I got gold silver or bronze. However I did win best Sourdough at Aldeburgh, with my white-wheat blend. It turned out well, with a nice rise, a good chewy crumb full of holes, and very sour.




250g strong white bread flour

250g white flour

425g water

1 dessertspoon of leaven

12g salt


1. Refresh your starter at 12 hour intervals a couple of times, the day before you are going to mix your final dough. Then take a dessertspoon of the starter and mix it with 100g flour and 100g cold water and leave over night to make the leaven

2. Mix together a dessertspoon of the leaven with the water and then add the flours and stir well

3. Leave at room temperature for between 4- 8 hours, covered with a shower cap ( I left mine for 8, slightly more by necessity than choice)

4. Then add half the salt, scattering it fairly evenly over the surface, and stretch and fold twice, scooping it up from the bottom with a spoon, and folding it over, as I have explained in my blog on making sourdough bread using Tartine method. Add the rest of the salt and fold again a couple of times. Leave for half an hour

5. Stretch and fold every half an hour for the next 2 1/2 hours until it is billowy and well aerated. (This may take slightly longer)

6. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round by drawing your hand round the edge to make a kind of oversize walnut whip shape

7. Leave for 10 minutes or so

8. For the final shaping, lightly flour the top and flip it over. Pull the side closest to you towards you and fold it over the dough. Then pull to the left  and fold over and do the same to the right. Finally pull the side furthest from you and fold over so you have a dough envelope (see my blog on making sourdough using Tartine method for more detail). Then lightly flour on the top and flip it over and make it into a round shape creating a bit of surface tension over the top. Then flour the top so that it won’t stick to the basket.

9. Flour your banneton basket, or  put a towel in a medium sized bowl and flour it generously, and gently plop the dough in smooth side down.

10. Either let the dough rise for another two hours and then put it in the fridge, or put it in the fridge straight away for its overnight stay. ( I had no choice in the matter because at this point we were driving to Suffolk and I held my dear dough on my lap, worrying it would over rise)

11. In the morning, take it out of the fridge 2 – 2 1/2 hours before you want to bake it. (For both competitions, I am such a devotee that I got out of bed around 5.30 to get it out of the fridge and then went back to sleep)


12. Half an hour before baking the bread you need to pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees c with a Le Creuset or in my case a ‘La Cloche’ from Bakerybits, which is easier (

13. Flour the surface of the dough and put it in the La Cloche and slash quickly with a sharp knife or ‘lame’ with a square shape over the top and bake for half an hour

14. Turn the oven down to 225 and bake for another 10 mins with the lid off, and then bake for a further 10 mins at 200 degrees. That way you’ll get a really rich dark crust

15. Turn the oven off and let it sit there with the door ajar for a further 8 mins, so that the crust remains hard.  Then take out and put on a cooling wrack

Voila- you are done!

Your prize winning loaf awaits you- have a go and let me know how you get on.

Happy to answer any questions you may have

Here are my prizes, very generously given to me by Marriage’s flour ( :



posted on




How to make Ciabatta



Some  close friends are having a birthday party in a few weeks. They are great hosts, there will no doubt be good music and absolutely no doubt there will be good food. They have taken me up on my offer to make bread and they have requested Ciabatta- enough for 30!

So this weekend I thought I’d better practice.  I have tried a number of recipes over the years, and the one that I like the best is from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book called ‘Bread, a baker’s book of techniques and recipes’. Below is a my own adaptation of his recipe.

As I understand it Ciabatta is not a bread with an ancient history but was invented about 50 years ago in Italy and it’s name comes from the Italian word for slipper. What I want to see when I make Ciabatta is a soft and very holey inside and a beautiful golden crust – best eaten straight away, dipped in olive oil. To get really big holes the dough needs to have a higher percentage of water than usual and needs careful handling. Its a yeast dough and you make it in two stages- starting the night before with a Poolish. This is a mixture of roughly equal quantities of water and flour with a little bit of yeast, which ferments slowly for at least 12 hours. This mixture is then added to more flour water and yeast as well as salt to make up a loose mixture which will be your final dough.



1 cup white bread flour

1 cup water

1/8 tsp of instant dried yeast (from sachet)

Final Dough

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup water

1/2 tsp  instant dried yeast

1 1/4 tsp salt



1. Mix together the poolish ingredients in a bowl. Cover with shower cap or cling film and let it sit at room temperature for 12-16 hours. It will be dotted with bubbles by this stage


2.Mix all the other ingredients, except the salt, into the bowl, cover and let it sit for 1/2 hour.

3.  Add the salt, dispersing it evenly across the top of the dough and fold by scooping up dough from the bottom of the bowl with a large spoon and  folding it over the top. Do this 3 or 4 times and leave, covered for 1/2 hour

4. Fold again 3 or 4 times and let it sit for another hour then repeat the folding

5. Fold again in the same way and leave for another hour. It should then be very billowy and puffy- if not leave it for another hour


6.  Put the dough on to a floured surface and cut in half with a wet knife or dough scraper and then lightly flour each half.

7.  It will be quite sticky so you’ll need to keep your hands floured. Gently stretch the dough from the top and fold it back on itself. Then stretch and fold the dough from the bottom



8. Place each piece of folded dough onto a floured board and gently stretch it out a bit so it is roughly rectangle shaped


9. Cover each batch of dough with a cloth and leave to rise for about an hour.

10. After 1/2 hour pre-heat the oven to 245 degrees C

11. Now for the tricky part; you need to gently pick up each batch of dough and spread out your fingers underneath it as you do so and place on a floured baking tray.  You may find you need to unstick small sections from the floured board- this is fine. I find that if you dimple it a little by pressing down in a few places with your fingers you’ll get a better, flatter shape at the end, because you don’t want a domed shape loaf.

12. Place a small baking dish on the bottom of the oven with a cup of boiling water to create steam

12. Place the doughs into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until its golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it from the bottom



I have posted this on wild yeast

take a look at the blog

Best Bakery in New York City


Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery

Lafayette Grand Cafe and Bakery


Since my last blog I’ve been to New York for a long weekend. If you’ve never been and you love great food, fantastic art galleries, great bookshops and being in an exciting lively city then you must go. Just before I left, my cousin, knowing how obsessive I am about bread, sent me a link to a  recent New York Times article about Chad Robertson and his fabulous bakery Tartine. At the bottom of the article was a link to  5 great breads to eat  in New York. Did the New York Times actually know that I was about to go, I ask myself?  I can think of nothing more useful to help plan my trip.

I was going to accompany my dear Dad who was speaking at the UN at an event on teaching the Holocaust through the Arts and we were only going to be there for a long weekend. I knew I’d have to plan carefully all the things we wanted to do, so I wasn’t going to have a huge amount of time for bakeries. I  had considered going to Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery, which is of course one of the bread shrine’s of the world in my opinion- but I have been there before.

Here’s the link to the article about Chad Robertson’s wonderful bread

Tartine’s Country Bread: Be Patient, Perfection Is Near


Chad Robertson’s recipe has reached cult status among passionate home bakers.

and here’s the link to find out about 5 great bread’s in New York

As luck would have it, we needed to find a great place for Sunday Brunch in order to meet up with a cousin of my father’s. One of the recommended breads came from Layfayette, which is both a bakery and cafe, so that’s where we went.  The first thing I ordered was some slices of their magnificent looking baguettes

photo 3 Fanastic crust and what holes!

My Dad loved it- and then enjoyed a delicious eggs benedict with brioche toast- mmm…

photo 5photo (3)


I do recommend Lafayette-  a perfect brunch spot

photo 1

We both really enjoyed the Holocaust Education through the Arts event. He was talking about developing his website on music in the Camps and Ghettos. Here’s the link to the film of the event. His bit is at 1 hour 30mins.

Do take a look at the music in the holocaust website too

Pizza from Scratch, with delicious thin crispy dough

photo (31)


When it comes to pizza, I find that everyone has their own particular preference for what they like and what they definitely don’t like. My daughter is horrified by the idea of anyone having pineapple on pizza- and I must say I agree. I really don’t like thick doughy crusts and my husband doesn’t like capers. Some people have a preference for when and how they eat pizza- I think you have to eat it with your fingers- and my father in law thinks that pizza does not constitute  real dinner and should only be eaten as a snack.

Now I’ve gone through a litany of what people don’t like, I want to tell you what I think makes for a good pizza. You have to have a thin and crispy dough, with a generous amount of mozzarella, a great tomato sauce and grated parmesan and the moment it comes out of the oven you need to sprinkle it with rocket. There are other great pizza toppings like anchovies, olives, thinly sliced red onion, chorizo and when my husband’s not looking, capers. It needs to be baked in a blisteringly hot oven, with a little semolina to stop it from sticking and giving it an extra crunchy bottom.

The other important part of the pizza making experience is having a pizza stone that you pre-heat, a wooden pizza peel for transferring the pizza on to the piping hot pizza stone and a metal pizza peel for taking it out of the oven. You can get all these items from Bakery Bits on line, John Lewis or the beautiful kitchen shop Divertimenti.  However if you don’t have this equipment, don’t worry you can use a baking tray, on which you assemble the pizza and then put the whole thing into the pre-heated oven.

Ingredients for the dough

3 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
a little semolina

First thing this morning I made a no knead bread dough, by mixing the flour yeast and salt together and then stirring in the water and olive oil. I then covered it with a shower cap (see no knead bread recipe in previous blog if you want more detail). I left it on the counter all day and when I came back from work it had developed well.


I folded it several times to get most of the air out and then put it onto a floured counter and cut it in half with a dough scraper (mine comes from bakery bits)  and then I cut one of the halves into two pieces

photo (22)


I then rolled out these 2 quarters into circles, making sure I had plenty of flour on the work surface and it wasn’t sticking, and covered it with cling film.

(I put the rest of the dough in a bowl in the fridge and will make it into a small loaf of bread tomorrow)

photo (23)


I pre-heated the oven to 245 degrees F, with the pizza stone in the oven, for half an hour and then got the pizza toppings ready

Pizza topping ingredients

tomato sauce made with an onion, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some fresh basil
one 220g ball of mozzarella, per pizza, cut into small pieces
grated parmesan
half a red onion thinly sliced
sun dried tomatoes chopped
thinly sliced chorizo
and any thing else you like on pizza


Next I sprinkled a little semolina on to the wooden pizza peel

photo (25)

and I carefully placed the dough on the pizza peel, by rolling it round the rolling pin and unrolling it on to the peel

I then put the pizza ingredients on it – laying the mozzarella on to the tomato sauce, followed by the sundried tomatoes, parmesan and the red onion on the top

photo (26)



When the oven had pre-heated I transferred it to the pizza stone and baked it for 10 minutes

photo (27)

I took it out of the oven with my metal pizza peel and put it on to a big bread board

photo (28)

and covered it with rocket.

Within moments it all disappeared!

photo (29)



I then made a second pizza- two was just about enough for 3 people

Do try this recipe and let me know how you get on- it’s really is easy

I’m going to submit this blog to yeast spotting- take a look its a great website:

Great Bakery in Lo Que Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico


As you will have gathered by now, a holiday for me is not complete without investigating the best bakeries. We were staying in the beautiful seaside town of Rincon de Guayabitos over Christmas and had some very delicious sweet coconut pastries that they sold on the beach, but I found out that the best bakery was in a village about 15 minutes away,  called the Cenadaria y Panaderia in Lo Que Marcos. So we went on an expedition to investigate.

We got there mid morning and they were proving their pastries


and shaping and proving their bread roles, which were delicious


They baked them all in their magnificent wood fired oven


Even though the pastries weren’t ready- we didn’t leave empty handed.


And then we went to the beach at the end of the street!


The First Breadcompanion Bread Making Course


One of my favourite things to do is to share my enthusiasm for bread making- what better way to do this (other than writing this bread blog for you, dear followers) than spend a day with friends teaching them how to make Artisan Bread. I held it at my friend Rebecca Rauter’s house. She is a fabulous cook, and a brilliant food stylist, with a great eye. Her kitchen is very beautiful and has been featured in the Guardian ( and made a lovely setting for the course. Do have a look at this link for some of the stylish work she had done (

I started by giving everyone cinnamon rolls and coffee


and then we made rye crackers and rolled out no- knead bread dough, which I had prepared the evening before, for Pizza.

rolling out dough for rye crackers

rolling out dough for rye crackers

rolling out pizza dough

rolling out pizza dough

While we had been preparing the pizza and the rye crackers, I got everyone mixing up their no-knead bread dough and then we baked a no-knead bread, from dough I had prepared the night before.

No knead bread and crackers out of the oven and preparing pizza to go in

No knead bread and crackers out of the oven and preparing pizza to go in

In the afternoon we focussed on how to make Sourdough Bread and everyone mixed up all the ingredients to make their own sourdough dough and then we baked the dough I had prepared the night before


At the end of the course, everyone went away with no-knead bread dough and Sourdough dough which they baked this morning.


But the best part of the course for me has been all the photos that I have received today  of the bread that my friends  baked this morning- fabulous!

Here’s a selection


Borodinsky Rye Bread


I have long wanted to make Borodinsky Rye Bread, having read about it in Andrew Whitley’s excellent book ‘Bread Matters’. He, of all people is at the heart of the Real Bread Campaign, and if you’re not a member yet, do join. They are all about sharing the pleasures and benefits of locally-baked Real Bread.

I had a very enjoyable afternoon at the Real Bread Festival in Spitlafields a couple of weeks ago and bought a fair bit of bread (not something I usually do), but how could I resist when a number of my favourite bakeries had stalls. I came across a bakery I hadn’t heard of before called ‘Karaway Bakery’ and they had little samples of various loaves- all completely delicious. I decided that my favourite was Russian Borodinsky, so I bought a loaf and even though my family has said they don’t generally like rye bread everyone couldn’t get enough of this one.

So I thought it was time to have a go at making it myself. According to Andrew Whitley this bread gets its name from  the battle of Borodino when the Russian army  fought with Napoleon, just outside Moscow in 1812 and the wife of the Russian general decided to bake some bread with crushed coriander to encourage the troops.

I’ve basically used Andrew Whitley’s recipe, with a few minor changes. He makes it in two stages. The first is the development of the ‘production sourdough’ – which is a similar process to the first stage of making my prize winning sourdough (see my recent blog). It involves mixing your sourdough starter with equal quantities of rye flour and water.  The second stage involves  adding more rye flour, water, salt,  molasses and barley malt. The latter adds both a dark colour and a little sweetness.

I’d always thought this was a complicated loaf to make- but really it isn’t. You just have keep in mind that it takes a while. I started it by making the production sourdough on Friday night and then mixed the final dough on Saturday midmorning and put it in the oven by about 6 in the evening.

Making the Production Sourdough


1/4 cup of my white sourdough starter ( if you want to be purist then start refreshing your white sourdough start with rye flour until you have a rye starter)
1 1/4 cups dark rye flour
1 1/4 cups water at 40 degrees C


1.Mix everything together until you have a soupy dough
2.Cover and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours (I left mine in a warm kitchen)


Making the final dough


1 1/4 cups  Production sourdough
2 cups  Dark rye flour
1 tsp  salt
2 1/2 tsp  Coriander seeds
1 tblsp  Molasses
2 1/2 tsp  Barley malt extract (if you can’t get hold of this just omit)
1/3 cup +  1 tblsp water at 35 degrees c

One small bread pan greased with butter


1. Put 1 1/4 cups of the production sourdough into a medium sized mixing bowl and stir in the water
2. Add the molasses, barley malt extract and coriander seeds and stir in
3. Mix the salt with the rye flour and then stir that in too.

It will now be a lovely dark brown colour and very soft and wet


4. Sprinkle a few coriander seeds inside the buttered bread pan
5. Spoon the dough into the bread pan and gently smooth over the top with a wet dough scraper or knife. Mine comes about half way up the pan. Andrew Whitley says don’t be tempted to push it into the corners, it will find its own level
6. Leave it, covered,  for about 6 hours at room temperature, until it has risen nearly to the top of the pan and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C


7. Bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn oven down to 180 and bake for another 35 minutes
8. It can get quite dark, so keep an eye on it towards the end and cover with a large piece of baking parchment near the end
9. It should begin to shrink away from the sides at the end of baking
10. Take it out and put it on a wire wrack to cool
11. You are supposed to let it cool completely and then wrap in plastic or grease proof paper and not eat for 24 hours (I have only been able to make it to 12 hours, before we had to dive in)


I’ve just had it with strong French honey and lots of butter- yum!


I have just sent this recipe to Yeastspotting. It a great blog, do check it out

%d bloggers like this: