The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Best Bread Recipes

Continental breadI mentioned that I was making bread last night. I was going to make Atomic Shrimp’s recipe (I even have the Tesco Value flour!) But at the very last fence I shied away and tried this recipe for French bread. I cut my first slice at one this morning from the loaf in the photograph. Then another as the dogs sampled a bit, drawn down to the kitchen by the warm bread smells. Delicious waistline expanding stuff.

This morning as I toasted a slice for breakfast (excellent) I made a sandwich for lunch for my lunch box. Tomato, parma ham and mozzarella (my favourite). At lunch time the bread was so filling that I couldn’t finish the sandwich and I wasn’t dreaming about banana, chocolate and cheese all afternoon. The bread was good, just as described in the recipe. Crusty, with a satisfyingly chewy yet airy bite.

Veronica’s comment, and her experiments with the Five Minute Artisan bread intrigued me. The French recipe stated that if you used dried yeast it would need far less time for the proving. Even though I slashed it by half it was a bit of a palaver. I accelerated the last rise by positioning the tray beside the slow cooker as it simmered the ingredients of twelve portions of a tasty Cottage Pie.

Perhaps the five minute artisan bread would be the answer? So this evening Jalopy purred into the supermarket car park. I bought some more dried yeast and sped home.

I followed Veronica’s link to the recipe in the New York Times and decided to start with this before trying her own version. It’s really chilly tonight so I bought the heater in from the barn, mixed the ingredients and set the bowl beside my laptop and the wafts of warmth.

Slowly the unpromising splash of four, water and yeast at the bottom of the bowl transformed into a huge pockmarked face, bulging under the tea towel.

I didn’t care that this new friend is a silent companion that will live in the fridge. It entertained me all evening and I reckoned that if the bread tasted good it would be a godsend to the tribe without bread makers and not much time for kneading.

When it came to the stage of cutting off a grapefruit sized portion with a serrated knife, I twigged that something had gone wrong. I lifted the wet chewing gum mass onto a baking sheet covered with parchment. Over the next hour the bread expanded horizontally and I popped it the hot oven.

Even though the dough was clearly too wet, this method of bread making looks promising. My 12″ disk turned into a golden loaf with a thin crisp crust with a light honeycomb centre. With a bit of tweaking, this bread could be amazing.

Thanks Veronica, tonight I’m going to try your version and I’ve spotted that the book is on offer on Amazon!


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13 Comments

  1. Hi Fiona

    Well, your boule looks fab! Re the 5-minute method, you will need to experiment because the recipe assumes US plain flour, and wheats are different here (French flour is softer than US, don’t know about UK). I had similar problems initially, but it’s worth persevering! If you look at the comments on my post, you’ll see a link in one of them to a method of calculating quantites by % hydration. This is much more reliable and repeatable than messing about with cups. Have a look at the videos on the book website too ; they give you a good idea of how wet the dough is supposed to be.

    I spent quite a while tweaking percentages, and now I use organic white flour (not strong flour) and the quantites I give in my post, with great results. You may also get better results by letting the loaf rise in the fridge overnight (or during the day when you are out). In any event, you must refrigerate the dough after the initial rising, otherwise it’s too gooey to work with — a night in the fridge works wonders :-)

    And finally, the dough will get sloppier and spread rather than rise the longer you keep it. I generally keep it no longer than a week, baking every day or two. The loaves also freeze very successfully — underbake a bit, then give it 10 minutes in the oven to crisp the crust after taking out of the freezer.

    Better stop rabbiting on — can you tell I’m enthusiastic about this approach? There’s lots more explanation in the book.

  2. Ciao, nice to meet you! I’m so glad I’ve found your beautiful blog and will be back to read your older posts looking for recipies. Greetings from Scotland from and Italian lady.

  3. I was going to make Atomic Shrimp’s foccacia bread and bought flour from Aldi but then I was wooed by Orangette’s Apricot Tarts … and I don’t have enough left now for bread. But this time next week I will be on my way to France for a week and I will indulge in all my favourite boulangerie and patisserie items. My mouth is watering already in anticipation. And the weather is hot and sunny in Nice (I’ve been checking webcams and weather forecasts) so we are not going to care that we will look more like beached belugas than bathing belles but we are going swimming in the sea. And maybe I can persuade T that 50 km isn’t far to drive to Italy for gelato.
    But bread, homemade, fantastic. The whole process is like an assault on all your senses. It has to be the ultimate delayed gratification.

  4. Homemade bread takes practice- it’s a while before you get the feel of the right degree of wetness and even when you think you have it taped the temperature of the room and the humidity make the dough behave differently- but that is the fun of it and even off-beat ( as my great aunt used to say to describe anything slightly out of the ordinary) home-made bread is nicer than shop bread!

  5. Mary-Laure

    It must be wonderful to have the house smell of freshly made bread…

  6. I haven’t baked a loaf in ages, but there is nothing quite like pulling a fresh loaf from the oven! I could live on fresh bread for quite a while without getting bored, I think!

  7. samantha winter

    Tried a compromise.
    Rushed out and purchased a pizza stone.
    Made dough in the bread-maker.
    Did last rise and cooked in oven on pizza stone.
    Forgot to put water in bottom of oven.
    Bread stuck to pizza stone.
    Prized bread off
    Much more like the French stuff than the bread-maker.

    Will try again “ not sure what quantities to you for artisan bread??

  8. Hi Guys
    This is a fab site, well done. I stumbled apon it whilst looking for the answer to my very annoying problem.
    Why do my loaves (bread!) look perfect when i put them in the Aga (I feel cursed with it, but have inherited it from my hubbies family on the farm we’ve just moved onto) then sink before cooking? I have tried leaving the door open to cool the aga down, I’ve tried leaving it hotter. Oh does anyone out there know the answer to my problem?
    I’m loving the receipes and the cost saving ideas and will most definately be back.
    Cheers
    Megan

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Veronica

    Thanks so much for all your help – much appreciated. I’m determined to crack bread making and have fun with it.

    Hi Kia

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

    Hello Pamela

    I do hope that you had a great time in France.

    Magic Cochin’s version of the Atomic Shrimp recipe was excellent – made with Marriage’s flour.

    Hello Kate(uk)

    Absolutely spot on!

    We are having fun with bread. I am making soda bread a lot as it seems to be a staple in this house and seems to work well for me (ATM).

    Hi Maty-Laure

    Yes, the cottage smells lovely when we are baking.

    Hi Sylvie

    Have a go, again. It’s fun!

    Hi Sam

    It’s worth visiting Veronica’s blog – there is a link on my post for her tips on the Artisan bread. The French bread link worked well too and even better when I used 25% plain white flour to 75% strong flour.

    Hi Megan

    I don’t have an Aga but have found 2 useful links re baking bread in an Aga. Hope that they help solve the problem
    http://www.realcakes.co.uk/bread1.htm
    http://www.agalinks.com/food/cookery_doctor/1132_3337.htm

  10. Thanks I will try the tips and the receipe on the first link. Any idea where to get fresh yeast from?
    Cheers

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