Sunday, February 14, 2016

Simple bread

I'm an avid fan of making sourdough bread. It's the best stuff you can make for your family. So why have I stopped making it? In a nutshell, we've stopped eating a lot of bread. Being gluten free, I gave it up completely, David would rather reduce his carbs by eating a wrap, and our kids will eat bread, but not a lot.

What this meant was, my sourdough starter had to be revived on numerous occasions. This was after keeping it in the fridge too. Instead of giving our kids the yucky store bought bread though, I decided to start baking with bought yeast instead.

Light and fluffy bread - made today

I've never been a fan of the yeasty smell, and taste of bread, made with yeast. But I stumbled on a way of making it less so. Like the sourdough bread I used to make, a "sponge" is made an hour before I want to make-up the bread.

Which is basically adding 1 cup of baker's flour, to one cup of slightly warm water (plus a smidge extra) to which 1 teaspoon of yeast and 1 tablespoon of honey is mixed all together, in a bowl. Then its covered with a plate, and set aside for an hour (during average temps) and it bubbles up.

Sponge is ready

The benefit of this process is twofold. Not only does it make the bread lighter and fluffier, but it also puts half the yeast to work an hour earlier. Which takes that powerful yeast smell out, which I so dislike when making bread with yeast.

I have to knead the stuff so I've got to like the smell!

Add ingredients to sponge

Then to the bowl of sponge, I add another teaspoon of yeast, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 tablespoon of powered milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of baker's flour.

Mix together with a spatula, to form a thick cake batter. Then turn onto the bench, which has been floured with another cup of baker's flour.

Turn on to the bench

Start to incorporate the extra flour, as you start kneading. Now it depends how moist the dough is, in your location, but you may not need any more flour. Or you could need another cup. Use your own judgement for how much flour, but you basically have to be able to knead the dough, without it getting stuck to the bench and your hands. Add little bits at a time, if you do need more.

Once you've incorporated all the necessary flour to stop it sticking to the bench, knead for 10 minutes, until a tight ball is formed.

After kneading

As you can see, the ball is about as wide as my hand. It's also round and smooth. Now place the dough into a bowl, which has been oiled and cover. Set aside for roughly an hour, or for the dough to double in size.

I find because I kick-start the first teaspoon of yeast in the sponge, this doubling process is much quicker than if I don't kick-start the yeast. So check on it before the hour is up (45 minutes) to make sure it isn't over active. You don't want to use up its gumption, before you reach the second prove.

Once its doubled, punch the dough down in the bowl. Turn it onto a clean bench and knead for about a minute. Roll into a fat cigar shape, and turn into an oiled bread tin, seam side, facing down. Then let rise in a slightly warm oven (not over 50 degree Celcius) with a bowl of warm water at the bottom of it. I like to set my oven to just under 50 degree C, run for 4 to 5 minutes, then switch it off before putting in the bread, for the second prove.

Cooling off

When its reached the top of the tin (about 45 minutes) remove it from the oven, then preheat to 200 degrees Celcius. Bake for 25 minutes. Even though I have a fan forced oven, I still like to turn my bread around, half way into baking. Once cooked, turn immediately from the tin, onto a rack, so its laying on its SIDE.

This is what professional bakeries do. They never leave it in the tin to cool, and they never place it on its base to cool on the rack either. Bread is always left to cool on its side. This is to avoid a soft bottom, which leads to slices slumping sideways, losing their form after slicing.

Slicing ~ note how they keep their form,
instead of being misshapen

Wait for the bread to completely cool before slicing, or you'll end up with misshapen bread too. If you simply must have warm bread though (my daughter does love this) wait at least 15 minutes after its come out of the oven before slicing.

I actually slice my bread by hand and have gotten pretty good at it, over the years. I read about people using bread slicers and bread machines to make their bread with, and I simply cannot justify the cost at our house. We're not huge bread eaters any more, and I actually enjoy the hand-eye coordination of slicing.

If you happen to use any mechanical devices making your bread at home, don't feel bad about it. I'm not judging what's appropriate for your home. If it means the difference between making bread and buying it, get the machines that will help you do that.

I've weighed-up whether these machines are suitable for our house though, and while they will save me some time making bread and slicing it, there's no other reason for purchasing them. Thankfully, I don't have injuries to my hands (yet) and I only have one toddler to wrangle at home. So everything is manageable without having to buy machines. Though I would change my mind, if circumstances required it.


This is how I store our bread afterwards. Half goes into a container, and stays on the bench - the other goes into a freezer bag, and goes into the freezer. It comes out after a few days. In our hot weather, it doesn't last on the bench, longer than a few days and we don't go through a whole loaf, in that time any more.

So as a family, we've gone from lovely fresh sourdough bread, that wouldn't see the inside of a freezer, to this new arrangement. It's definitely a step down from where we were, but its also better than store bought bread too.

Have you had to change how you make bread over the years? Perhaps this involved purchasing machines too. Do you feel it was worth the investment for your circumstances?


  1. ...gonna give this a shot as I do not like the yeasty smell either

  2. We had to change how we made bread too. We went from normal yeast bread to sourdough and then discovered we were still having a hard time with it and went gluten free and so bought our bread. At $6-8 per loaf and finding we can eat a loaf a day... I also dislike many of the ingredients in commercial GF loaves. A friend put me on to a Quirky Cooking recipe . It's been great. I have substituted the chia for linseed and I use guar gum instead of xanthan and it makes a lovely deep rye-like loaf which thankfully, my kids will all eat. I bake it in a cast iron dutch oven and once it's cooled I store it in the same container on the bench.

    1. I'll definitely check out that link! Being gluten free myself, I've had to resort to buying store bought GF bread too. So I've cut back eating it. I only have it, every now and then.

      I've tried other GF bread recipes, and found a lot of them tasted like glue. So I will be keen to try out the ones on your link. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. That looks marvelous and I can't believe how perfect the slices are! I often use a sponge and some recipes call for it to sit for 12 hours which makes for a more sour flavor as well. I haven't baked in awhile however though my husband eats bread like its air-I just can't keep up.

    1. It's taken a lot of practice to avoid cutting wonky, lol. Our family used to eat bread like air too, so I know what you mean about keeping up with it. I used to bake it daily.

  4. Well, that's a new one on me....laying the bread on its side to cool. I don't seem to have any problems with cooling it on its bottom, but I'll give sideways a try. I always take it out of the tin straight away, though.

    My electric knife died a few weeks ago and I'm not going to replace it, so it's back to the old-fashioned way. My slices are no way as good as yours :-(

    I was given a bread oven some years ago. I liked it at first, mainly because I could set it going and go out into the garden and forget it. But the shape of the loaf wasn't regular (problems in the toaster), so it ended up in the cupboard and I went back to the tin. Having the Thermomix helped because it mixes and kneads beautifully (I give it a few turns on the bench afterwards, just to get the feel of the dough) and the Excalibur dehydrator is great for proving the dough at a constant temperature. I gave the breadmaker to a neighbour to try out before she decided to buy one and eventually said she could keep it.

    I've never made sourdough; I like it but don't want anything that requires constant care like a starter. Yours looks quick and simple though, but I wouldn't have a clue how much to use in my recipe. Besides I put so much in the way of seeds and other stuff in my bread, I don't know if it would work.

  5. Your experience with the bread-maker is really interesting, because I thought if I was going to get one, it would only be for the mixing part - so I'd get a machine that didn't just specialise in making bread. Like your Thermomix, for example. It does loads of things, than just make bread.

    What you said, kind of confirmed it for me. Because if we ever stopped eating bread altogether, I could still used the multi-tool for other things. Thanks for sharing your experience with bread makers.

    Perhaps I wasn't too clear in my explanation, but this bread recipe, isn't the sourdough one. It's made using purchased yeast, like you would use. Activating the purchased yeast in a "sponge", however, is a technique I borrowed from my sourdough bread making days. You can add seeds to it as you are kneading.

    If you're happy presently, with how you make bread, then don't change it. I only change things when I find I need to, or I feel like experimenting with something different. The machines you are using, are great because they get used for other things, as well as making bread. So you're getting value for money. I know you use the Excalibur and Thermomix a lot.

  6. Your bread looks absolutely fabulous. I use a bread machine, which is "cheating" somewhat, but it's a happy indulgence for me. I do let my yeast proof first, and don't add flour, oil, and salt until after it's gotten nice and foamy. I usually use whole grain too, so it's pretty dense. I add an egg to help the whole grain texture.

    1. Thanks. :) As long as you love the type of bread you make, and can continue to make it, that's the main thing. We have to love what we do in our own kitchens, or we won't do it. ;)

      If I had as many critters to take care of, as you do, I might also need to have a bread maker. :)


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