Bread Battles…

Despite my fantabulous breadmaking day at River Cottage and excellent tuition from the lovely Aidan of The Phoenix Bakery, bread is still proving to be my nemesis.

And if I’m honest, it’s starting to really annoy me…

After the breadmaking day, I was full of enthusiasm, and crazy ideas for starting breadmaking lessons in schools, or starting a little artisan bakery, and pedalling my wares around the town. But unless there is a huge demand for flat or strangely shaped loaves, that are sometimes still a bit ‘cakey’, this is not going to be the best business plan ever…

I started a starter, and named him Kenneth, and nearly killed him, but pulled him back from the brink to produce Little Ken-my first ever sourdough loaf

He rose quite well. Not sure why it cracked though...

He rose quite well. Not sure why it cracked though…

And there were holes!

And there were holes!

Little Ken was actually ok. His only fault was a very tough crust, and I’m still not sure why that was (any suggestions?) And I kind of assumed that I would steadily improve from this point. But instead, I have gone backwards….

My latest attempt at a sourdough loaf rose ok in the bowl, but then failed to ‘pouff’ up at all in the oven 😦

More like a doorstop than a sourdough loaf...

More like a doorstop than a sourdough loaf…

And I may have left my latest attempt at Aidan’s “soulful white” to prove for a little too long…



Despite it’s slightly unconventional appearance, this was actually my best attempt yet at a regular loaf. It was much less cakey and dense than previous efforts, and even the Smalls ate it..!!

I am feeling a little despondant. I was so enthused and excited after my brilliant day at River Cottage, but now I feel like giving up. But I know I mustn’t. Real bread is soooooo much better than shop bought processed rubbish.

So…Onwards and upwards as they say.

Anyone got any advice to help me out?

Or tales of bread making woe to make me feel better..!!

23 thoughts on “Bread Battles…

  1. Hello! Now as you know I am not remotely domesticated and generally the opposite of make do and mend, rather if it doesn’t work buy a new one. But my bread is ok!
    This is controversial. I do lazy bread. I don’t knead it at all. I bung ingredients in kenwood to knead it for me. Put in airing cupboard for an hour or so, whizz again in kenwood, put in tin, leave on oven top that is heating up and voila! Controversially I read all your posts about kneading bowls and this and that and wonder if it is sort of too much for poor old dough? But ignore me if this is rubbish as I say I am not known for my housewifelyness!

  2. Tempted to say “buy a breadmaker” or rather “Get a breadmaker from Freecycle” , but that’s not quite what you’re aiming for, is it! We mainly use ours to do the kneading for us, because frankly, neither of us are that good at it. I tend to get bored after about 30 seconds, and MrEH will stand there for hours pummelling the life out of the poor dough, so feeding all the ingredients into the machine, letting it do the mix and knead, then turning the resultant dough into bread rolls, or a loaf for the oven, suits us very well.
    As for breadmaking disasters, I can confidently state from experience that forgetting the yeast means you end up with a decent doorstop, but not anything edible!

  3. I’ve not had much luck with sourdough, but using just 1/4 tsp of dried yeast and mixing it into a sponge starter and leaving it for a day, then adding the rest of the flour for another day works brilliantly. The slow rise creates a lovely chewy texture with lots of holes. My banetton basket was well worth buying too.

  4. I’ve only attempted to make bread twice in my life, both with sad results! Since I was given a Panasonic breadmaker its never let me down … apart from when someone left the backdoor wide open during baking on a cold day & we ended up with a “brick” ! Ambient Room Temperature is very important maybe that’s why your bread is so erratic during this winter weather & check your oven temperature too just in case ? Hope this helps !

  5. Never having made bread in my life, I cant really go by experience. However, I do know that room temperature can be critical for your yeast, so I would tend to agree with Vivienne. The only other thing I can think of is that maybe youve hit a bump in the bread making road and you need to work though it and once youve cracked it, you will be unstoppable. Stick with it honey. You’ll get there. Look where your perseverance has got you so far – you can do it. xx

    • The most annoying thing was making the sourdough, and then I was the only one who would eat it. It really wasn’t that bad, but hubby has just confessed to not really liking sourdough(!) and BigSmall, in the way of Small children, won’t eat the crusts. GRRRRRR!!

  6. Don’t give up, It took me years to get it right, even the birds would not eat my first loaf. I found that if I use dry yeast [not easy blend] in warm water with a teaspoon of honey as a starter and only use sea salt,not iodised salt, I get a good loaf and have been doing this for about 30 years now, but I still get the odd failier. Keep trying.

      • Ihave a book that you may wish to borrow from the library by Laural Robinson called Laurals Kitchen Bread Book. The introduction is on Amazon. I also have her original book called Laurals Kitchen and if you can read the begining of this it is well worth a read

  7. I personally don’t like breadmakers, though I know plenty who swear by them! It’s just more stuff to clutter up my (tiny) kitchen, and anyway, kneading dough is very therapeutic. I’ve only attempted sourdough once, and it made your attempts look like artisan bakery. Does that help? 🙂 Anyway, the best tips I heard were Keep it simple (no need for extra sugar/milk powder/whatever), and treat your dough with love. Knead it until it’s smooth, then keep on until you’re bored. Then leave to rise. Then *don’t* beat seven colours out of it like the books say, jus fold it gently a few times. My bread failures come almost entirely from temperature – too cold or too hot. Keep at it 🙂

  8. A banneton is a proving basket. Would you like a sourdough starter, instructions and a recipe from Bread Matters? Did you learn ‘the wetter the better’ dough lesson from any of your teachers?

  9. Pingback: Try Something New Tuesday | My Make Do and Mend Year

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