Nothing beats the smell of a freshly baked bread. It’s nice to walk into a shop or bakery full of delicious crusty loaves smelling so amazingly. Now imagine the same scent in your own kitchen. Are you tempted enough to consider making your own bread?
Read this week’s interview with Patrick, who has been preparing his delicious bread for quite a few years now. I tasted it many times and loved every single bite.
Hi Patrick, why did you decide to make your own bread?
I started baking my own bread after my first child was born. My life got very busy but I was spending more time at home. As I wasn’t going out, I decided to use my evenings to learn a new skill.
What is most appealing about baking bread?
I guess eating the end result. I like the process of making it, seeing the dough rising and knowing that my bread contains flour, water, salt, yeast and nothing else. The process of turning these simple ingredients into something tasty is very appealing.
What kind of baker are you?
I make only sourdough loaves from my own starter culture. I use the stretch and fold method, which involves very little work (as in kneading). Making bread doesn’t need a machine. It literally takes me about four times 5 minutes during the course of the evening to make a dough that can be baked.
For baking, I use a cast iron pot that I put in the oven to bake my bread. By putting the dough inside a pot in the oven, you create a little steam oven that does wonders for your bread. Oven spring and crunchy crust guaranteed.
What types of bread do you make?
I usually start with my basic sourdough recipe mix of whole grain flour (20%) and white bread flour. I vary between using healthy or not so good for you but tasty options such as wholegrain, spelt or rye. I sometimes mix in pumpkin, sunflower, poppy seeds or walnuts.
My cast iron pot is not very big so shape wise I make a basic boule. I also use my starter for baguettes, sourdough pizza and I usually add a spoon to pancake batter as well.
What are your 5 top tips for someone new to bread making?
That’s a tough one and I think it’s different for every person. But here is what has worked for me.
1. One perfect recipe first
Stick and master one recipe first. Don’t be overambitious at first. Those super fancy high hydration breads can wait.
2. Careful when adding water
More water means better tasting bread. But it also increases complexity in handling the dough. If you start and it is not working, use the same recipe but reduce the water a bit.
3. No rushing
You can’t rush it. Make a schedule that works for you. Mine is:
- Feed starter in the morning.
- Mix flour, water, starter at the start of the evening.
- Stretch and fold 3 to 4 times every 30 mins.
- Put it in the fridge before going to bed.
- Next morning bake.
Bread cannot be rushed. It needs about 24 hours total waiting time. I’m not doing much with it in those 24 hours but I can’t make a sourdough bread in 2 hours.
4. Feed your starter
Don’t throw away your starter even if you forget about it in the fridge for two weeks. Even if it has a layer of blackish water on top. Feed it for a day or two in room temperature and it should bounce right back.
5. Bubbles are good
For me this was the most important one. Make sure your starter, when you use it, is very very active. This means lots of bubbles. It took me a while to realise this. My first bakes tasted good but I never got that nice looking soft, airy crumb and crusty outside. When I learnt to understand my starter, the result became much better.
Is baking your own bread ecological?
It’s hard to say, as there are so many angles to look at being eco. Probably putting an oven on in your house for an hour is not very eco friendly. Surely a baker who bakes many loaves in one go using a large oven is more energy efficient.
But it probably is healthier than your cheap supermarket loaf. I know exactly what’s in my dough. There is no sugar and no shortcuts in fermentation. I also try to buy good quality organic flour. But that shouldn’t be a thing to stop you from starting to bake.
I find it very rewarding to bake bread. The smell in the house, the taste of freshly baked loaves beat any shop-bought bread any time. It makes great gifts to your friends and family as well ;).
What equipment do you use?
Here is what I have in my kitchen:
- Cast iron pot
- Bowl for mixing
- Proofing basket
- Jar to store my starter
- For pizzas, a good pizza stone really makes a difference.
It doesn’t have to cost the world and your first bake can definitely be done without a cast iron pot. You can even turn your bowl into a proofing basket. You can start cheap, see if you like it and expand the hobby. The biggest investment is time.
If you are searching for other homemade food ideas, why don’t you try natural yoghurts?
Photos used in this article thanks to my guest Patrick.