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Bread: Very Very Fast or Very Very Slow…

I hadn’t made bread for years, not since I played about with making sourdough bread back in 2008, (I talked about my experiments on Lynne’s Days at the time..). I love bread, but I eat too much of it, then put too much weight on.

Brown Bread


But I’ve been craving homemade bread, and talking to some excellent bakers on Twitter isn’t helping. If you love bread, but don’t like its effect on your hips, I suggest that you don’t talk to @CarlLegge @Zeb_Bakes @tomasi_carla @ailbhetweets @dan_lepard or @scandilicious. Or then again, maybe you should…:)

Anyway, first of all I started to make soda bread.

 Very Very Quick Bread



Soda Bread Farls



I started with Odlums White Soda Bread mix, which I like very much. It is reliable and uses soft Irish flour for the right flavour, but not easy to come by.   When I had finished my supply of that,  I asked on Twitter for a trusted recipe, and Ailbhe  gave me a straightforward recipe for her soda farls. I use roughly the same amount of mix or plain flour, but the difference is that the mix is mixed with plain milk (the mix already has raising agents in it) and the proper soda bread uses baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) with an acidulated liquid, either buttermilk or yoghurt slaked half and half with milk.   I have used baking powder just as a trial, and it is fine, although not as good as the soda/acid .  I add salt, but no sugar as I don’t like the sweetness that gives, but you may. And I like American cup measures for this as it makes it even quicker, you just scoop and go.

1 cup flour or Odlums mix
2 thirds cup milk or milk/yoghurt/buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Mix together to make a soft dough, depending on your flour you may need a little more or less milk.

Flour a board, knead lightly and quickly then pat the dough into a circle, and roll into a round about half an inch thick.
Cut into farls – i.e. cut through the middle in a cross shape to make four triangles with a round outer edge.
Sift a good handful of flour onto a dry frying pan and heat on a medium hob until hot but not browning.
Pop your farls on top of the flour, cover with a lid, ( a rounded one, like a wok lid is idea, you want to make a sort of oven effect) lower the heat and allow to cook for about 5-7 minutes or until they are nice and fluffy and the bottom is well browned.
Flip over and allow the other side to brown lightly.
Either remove to a rack to cool, or I often cool them with the lid on the frying pan, this seems to make sure the inside is fully cooked.

You can eat these either split and buttered, or (my preference) split and toasted, then buttered.
Basically, you can have them cooked and on the breakfast table in hardly more time than it takes to make the tea.

But sometimes, a less scone-like bread is what is needed.  I wanted to use a sponge to add a little more oomph to a standard lean dough, so decided to make a long rising wholemeal loaf.

But the timing didn’t really work out as I planned.


Very Very Slow Brown Bread


Brown Bread


I made the sponge – 100g strong white flour, 100g warm water, 1 tsp instant yeast. Mixed together covered loosely and left at room temperature for a couple of hours to froth up and mature.

Ah, something needed sorting out on the computer. Off I went to sort that.

6 hours later…and it is late afternoon.  The bread isn’t going to get made today then. So into the fridge with the starter. It will move from being a sponge to being a poolish then.   A poolish is used more for flavour and maturity than for its leavening power, but that’s ok. I’ve got plenty of yeast.

Day 2.   No time in the morning, so dough isn’t made until the mid afternoon.

250g wholemeal bread flour

100g white bread flour

300g warm water

1 tsp instant yeast

1 heaped tsp salt

The poolish from yesterday from the fridge

I mixed this together with my trusty dough whisk (if you haven’t got one of these GET ONE! They are totally irreplaceable once you have tried one. I had to import mine from the US, but now you can get one from Bakery Bits in the UK.)  I intended to leave it for about 20 minutes to rest before stretching and folding. But I forgot all about it.

When I remembered about 3 hours later, it was a fat puffy mass. Which hadn’t been kneaded at all. And it was 8 o’clock. If I punched it down and let rise again now, it would midnight before I got it out of the oven. Too late.  I punched it down, gave it a few folds, stuck it in a bowl  and popped it back in the fridge.

Day three and still no bread. I took the dough out of the fridge at breakfast time, reckoning that I had all day ahead of me. Cold dough shapes beautifully, but this was over risen again, so I punched it down first, and then shaped eight round rolls, and popped them into a 7inch sandwich tin, dusted them with wholemeal flour and let them rise again for an hour (over breakfast) and baked at Gas Mk 8 for 15 minutes with a further 20 at Gas Mk 7 .

I really didn’t think they would be any good, and nearly threw the dough away, but they are really very good. No sweetness there, that has gone with the long maturing, but they have a deeply wheaty flavour, and a nice crumb.

I am very pleased.


Brown Bread - the crumb