Ken Fallon was asking for bread-making advice on a recent Community News recording. I've been making my own bread since the 1970's and I thought I'd share my methods in response. Frank Bell also did an excellent bread-making episode in 2013.
I remember my mother having a go at making bread when I was a kid. The result smelled lovely but the bread hadn't risen much; it had an unfortunate resemblance to a brick in shape, if I remember right, but it was delicious nevertheless. After that I always wanted to try making my own.
I bought a Kenwood Chef mixer when I lived in Lancaster in the 1970's and it came with some bread recipes, which I tried. I found I had a fair degree of success in the first instance, though there were a number of failures. I kept experimenting and got better at it, and graduated to making loaves of various types, rolls, bagels, pitta bread, pizza bases, and so on.
I have been making my own bread ever since. I continued with the method of using the Kenwood Chef and I'm currently on my third one. Eventually the gear box breaks I have found. Making bread, especially large loaves, works the device very hard.
As life got busier I bought a bread-maker to simplify the process, and am currently on my third one of these a Panasonic SD255 (now discontinued). I mainly use this device because it is so simple to prepare the ingredients and then leave the bread to mix, rise and bake.
For this episode I baked two 1lb loaves according to an old recipe I have been using for many years. It is based on one which came with the Kenwood Chef and uses wholemeal flour. I have included a PDF copy of this recipe, see the links below.
For these loaves I used a mixture of strong plain wholemeal flour and strong plain white. Probably used about 80% wholemeal, 20% white.
Names of flours vary between countries; strong plain, the term used in the UK, means a high-gluten flour, often from a winter wheat variety, without raising agent. High-gluten wheats are sometimes referred to as hard. The gluten makes a more elastic dough which rises better and makes a more chewy bread.
The picture shows my mixer, which I have had for around 20 years. This model is not made any more. I have a number of attachments for it including the ones pictured, as well as a coffee grinder and a wheat mill.
I normally used this dried yeast when making bread this way. It needs to be mixed into warm water with some sugar to feed it. This combination makes it begin to froth quite quickly, especially on a warm day.
I have used fresh yeast when I can get it, but it's not sold anywhere nearby any more. Fresh yeast also needs to be activated before mixing.
Mixing and kneading
I find the ingredients (water+sugar, yeast, flour, salt and oil) mix together without problems in the food mixer and soon start to form a dough. I let the mixer work the dough for the recommended 3 minutes and get an end product that you can see in picture 6. I like to finish off the kneading by hand to make sure the dough is as elastic as it can be.
You can cover the bowl with film but unless the film has been greased the dough can stick to it. I forgot that at the start, and transferred to a damp teatowel once I had remembered.
I use the food mixer at this stage, though kneading by hand would work just as well.
I divide the dough with the tool in picture 13 which is a dough scraper for use with the wet doughs produced by some recipes. I'm using some rather old bread tins described as 1lb loaf tins. Make sure to grease them well before placing the dough inside or it will be hard work to extract the loaves.
I pressed the dough into the tins this time, but it shouldn't really be necessary and the end result will be better if you don't. Leave covered to rise as before.
Baking the bread
I like to slice up my bread after it's cooled, then I freeze it. That way I can take out individual slices and toast them from frozen or allow them to thaw and use them.
My favourite recipe at the moment uses a Wholemeal, Rye and Spelt flour mixture with sunflower seeds. This makes quite a heavy bread which is absolutely wonderful toasted. I do cheat a little though, and make this in my bread-maker!
Flours like Rye are low in gluten, so breads made with them do not rise as well. I have also been experimenting with Buckwheat flour, which I don't think has very much gluten either, and I mix this (and rye flour) with other flours to get a reasonable dough.
My son, who used to help with the bread-making as a little boy, makes a very good sourdough loaf and often asks me to look after his sourdough starter when he's away on holiday. I haven't had great success with sourdough and need to get some lessons from him.
- Frank Bell's HPR episode on bread making: http://hackerpublicradio.org/eps.php?id=1327
- Kenwood Chef: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenwood_Chef
- Panasonic SD255: http://www.chrisrand.com/panasonic-SD255-breadmaker-bread-maker/
- Wholemeal bread recipe: http://hackerpublicradio.org/eps/hpr1827/Wholemeal_Bread_Recipe.pdf