“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Julia Child

The former 3* Michelin star chef Pierre Koffmann allegedly once said

Serve good bread and all will be well,

such is the importance he places on it. The bread at La Tante Claire had near legendary status, rivalling only Mr Koffamann’s ‘trotters’ for attention. Nowadays with all the focus being placed on the whizz bang fireworks of food porn, crafts like bread making are being left out of the spotlight. Whilst there are some artisan bakers which have risen out of the modernity of the convenience required in life today, people like Dan Lepard & the Bertinet Bakery spring to mind, the public seem content with the non descript sliced white from a supermarket. Why? Is it something that has become indicative of modern life? Taste & texture over ruled by convenience.

Over the past weeks I’ve been tweeting pictures of bread related activity, from my bread ferments to the final product, fresh from the oven. Chef Russell Brown from the Michelin starred Siena in Dorchester also joined in, along with Adrian Oliver from Margots in Padstow. One chef was actually so taken by my tweeting pictures of the bread ferments (called Bob & Jim) that he asked if I could actually send him some. Originally I thought that ‘Bob’ was about 3years old, but it has transpired that he was part of a bread ferment from the kitchens of The Vineyard during the reign of John Campbell. ‘Jim’ on the other hand was a relative baby, I made ‘Jim’ because my client was asking about making a rye sourdough. ‘Jim’ was born.

By all means this post isn’t the be all & end all on this expansive topic, but merely an illustration that we need to look further than the boring uniformly square sliced white from Tesco.

Although I can’t supply the recipe for the white ferment that I’ve used in these recipes, I can supply you with a recipe for a white bread ferment along with the recipe for the sourdough ferment that is ‘Jim’

Rye Sourdough Ferment ‘Jim’

  • 50g Rye Flour
  • 150g White bread flour (strong or T55)
  • 20g Honey
  • 150g Warm water

Combine ingredients & leave in a warm place for 36-48 hours. Re-feed the mixture with

  • 30g Rye flour
  • 280g White flour
  • 150g warm water

Leave for a further 24 hours, then repeat the next day.

White Bread Ferment ‘Bob’

  • 500g Strong organic white flour
  • 1L Warm water

Combine & leave in a warm place for 48 hours. Bubbles will start to form.

Add.

  • 500g Strong organic white flour
  • 500ml Warm water

Combine & leave in a warm place for 24 hours. Repeat the process on the 4th day with:

  • 250g Strong organic white flour
  • 250ml Warm water

To feed the ferment replace what you use. For example if a recipe calls for 600g of ferment, create a paste of 300g flour & 300ml water & add to the ferment. This is called ‘feeding‘ the ferment.

Focaccia

Whilst ordinary Focaccia recipes will just call for such ingredients as yeast, flour, olive oil, water & maybe some sea salt & rosemary if you’re lucky, it will only give you a mildly ordinary loaf. Focaccia is stereotypical of the Italian nature, bubbling with enthusiasm with lashings of bold flavours, the finest extra virgin olive oil, the ferment to give it character & possibly oregano, rosemary and other Mediterranean herbs.

  •  480ml Warm water
  • 1kg Strong white flour
  • 50g Fresh yeast
  • 700g Ferment ‘Bob’
  • 400g Extra virgin olive oil

Combine using a paddle or ‘K’ beater, leave in the mixing bowl, clingfilm & prove in the fridge overnight. The next day add the following using a dough hook:

  • 1.2kg Strong white flour
  • 500g Warm Water
  • 60g Sea salt

Divide the dough between two greased 1/1 gastronome containers , brush with olive oil & leave to prove until at least double in size if not tripled. Stab with fingers & sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Bake at 160°C for 35minutes. Half way through the cooking give the bread another brush with the olive oil. When cooked remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Rye Sourdough

  • 1kg Strong white flour
  • 1kg Rye flour
  • 40g Fresh yeast
  • 700ml Warm water
  • 750g Rye sourdough ferment ‘Jim
  • 30g Sea salt
  • 400g White bread dough from the previous day.

Put the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl & combine. Then add the ferment & the dough (the dough will aid flavour & rising properties), gradually add the warm water. Roll into required shape & prove

Spray with water & bake at 210°C for 6 minutes, then reduce heat to 165°C for a further 35minutes. Cool on rack.

White Loaf

  • 1.4kg Strong flour
  • 75g Fresh yeast
  • 40g Salt
  • 5 Whole eggs
  • 40g Sugar
  • 60ml Olive oil
  • 100ml Warm water (approx)
  • 200g White bread ferment ‘Bob

Combine all the dry ingredients, then gradually add the eggs, ferment, oil & the water. Prove until double in size then knock back. Mould into required shapes & prove again.

For 1lb (450g) loaf tins, spray with water & bake at 210°C for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 160°C for a further 35minutes. Cool on rack.

For 60g soup rolls, spray with water & bake at 210°C for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to 165°C for a further 10minutes. Cool on rack.

I tend to save about one third of the dough I make for the bread for the following day. This will aid rising & flavour.

Brioche

Brioche is a totally different kind of bread, with an almost cake like texture it is butter rich and yellow for the eggs. Often served toasted with foie gras, parfaits & pates and terrines.

  • 1kg Strong flour
  • 75g Fresh yeast
  • 15 Eggs
  • 100g Sugar
  • 25g Sea salt
  • 500g Soft unsalted butter

Cream the salt, sugar & soft butter together and leave to one side.

In another bowl, mix the yeast with the flour and add the eggs one at a time. Switching to the paddle or ‘K’ Beater on a medium speed add lumps of the butter mix, not adding the next lump until the previous one has been absorbed. Transfer to the fridge for the dough to firm up (preferably overnight).

When firm, shape to the required tin, prove somewhere not too warm as the butter will start to leak out.

After the dough has doubled in size, spray with water & bake at 170°C for 35 minutes. Cool on rack.

Brown Soda Bread

Often a staple in Ireland, there is nothing like the heady smell of freshly baked soda bread.

Relying on the chemical reaction rather than the biological fermentation in yeast for its rising, soda bread has a more closed texture.

  • 675g Strong white flour
  • 675g Strong granary flour
  • 30g Sea salt
  • 100g Sugar
  • 60g Bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 75g Unsalted butter
  • 900ml Buttermilk

Put the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine, then rub in the diced butter and incorporate the buttermilk slowly to form a soft but not wet dough. Form into required shapes and bake at 210°C for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 160°C for a further 35minutes.

Cool on rack.

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Comments
One Response to ““How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Julia Child”
  1. As the self-styled ‘littleloaf’, you can probably guess that good bread is a subject very close to my heart. I can’t bear the pappy, palid, rubbery stuff you get in supermarkets – even the supposedly upmarket ranges are squidgy, rammed with sugar and nothing compared to an artisan loaf. Making your own bread is a complete joy, and not that difficult once you get the hang of it. Thanks for a great post, and for hopefully inspiring a few more people to bake in their homes!

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