General ramblings

Bread Battles…

Despite my fantabulous breadmaking day at River Cottage and excellent tuition from the lovely Aidan of The Phoenix Bakery, bread is still proving to be my nemesis.

And if I’m honest, it’s starting to really annoy me…

After the breadmaking day, I was full of enthusiasm, and crazy ideas for starting breadmaking lessons in schools, or starting a little artisan bakery, and pedalling my wares around the town. But unless there is a huge demand for flat or strangely shaped loaves, that are sometimes still a bit ‘cakey’, this is not going to be the best business plan ever…

I started a starter, and named him Kenneth, and nearly killed him, but pulled him back from the brink to produce Little Ken-my first ever sourdough loaf

He rose quite well. Not sure why it cracked though...

He rose quite well. Not sure why it cracked though…

And there were holes!

And there were holes!

Little Ken was actually ok. His only fault was a very tough crust, and I’m still not sure why that was (any suggestions?) And I kind of assumed that I would steadily improve from this point. But instead, I have gone backwards….

My latest attempt at a sourdough loaf rose ok in the bowl, but then failed to ‘pouff’ up at all in the oven 🙁

More like a doorstop than a sourdough loaf...

More like a doorstop than a sourdough loaf…

And I may have left my latest attempt at Aidan’s “soulful white” to prove for a little too long…



Despite it’s slightly unconventional appearance, this was actually my best attempt yet at a regular loaf. It was much less cakey and dense than previous efforts, and even the Smalls ate it..!!

I am feeling a little despondant. I was so enthused and excited after my brilliant day at River Cottage, but now I feel like giving up. But I know I mustn’t. Real bread is soooooo much better than shop bought processed rubbish.

So…Onwards and upwards as they say.

Anyone got any advice to help me out?

Or tales of bread making woe to make me feel better..!!

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  • Reply Try Something New Tuesday | My Make Do and Mend Year September 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

    […] for a Bread Making Day, and then made my own Sourdough Starter, and have been making bread with varying degrees of success ever since. And recently, I made gnocchi (great one for using up leftover mashed potato) and also […]

  • Reply Veronica January 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    A banneton is a proving basket. Would you like a sourdough starter, instructions and a recipe from Bread Matters? Did you learn ‘the wetter the better’ dough lesson from any of your teachers?

    • Reply Jen January 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Thanks Veronica, that’s really kind. I made my own starter, but sourdough and I are taking break for a bit 🙂

  • Reply Disobedient Child January 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I personally don’t like breadmakers, though I know plenty who swear by them! It’s just more stuff to clutter up my (tiny) kitchen, and anyway, kneading dough is very therapeutic. I’ve only attempted sourdough once, and it made your attempts look like artisan bakery. Does that help? 🙂 Anyway, the best tips I heard were Keep it simple (no need for extra sugar/milk powder/whatever), and treat your dough with love. Knead it until it’s smooth, then keep on until you’re bored. Then leave to rise. Then *don’t* beat seven colours out of it like the books say, jus fold it gently a few times. My bread failures come almost entirely from temperature – too cold or too hot. Keep at it 🙂

    • Reply Jen January 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      “treat your dough with love”… I like that 🙂

  • Reply chris January 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Don’t give up, It took me years to get it right, even the birds would not eat my first loaf. I found that if I use dry yeast [not easy blend] in warm water with a teaspoon of honey as a starter and only use sea salt,not iodised salt, I get a good loaf and have been doing this for about 30 years now, but I still get the odd failier. Keep trying.

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      I think my problem is I am too impatient, and want it to be perfect straight away!

      • Reply Chris February 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

        Ihave a book that you may wish to borrow from the library by Laural Robinson called Laurals Kitchen Bread Book. The introduction is on Amazon. I also have her original book called Laurals Kitchen and if you can read the begining of this it is well worth a read

        • Reply Jen February 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

          Great, thankyou! Will see if I can track it down 🙂

  • Reply Jen Walshaw (@Mum_TheMadHouse) January 25, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I can not manage sourdough bread, But I do love my 14 year old breadmaker and you will find lots of people pop them on free cycle

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 11:40 am

      The most annoying thing was making the sourdough, and then I was the only one who would eat it. It really wasn’t that bad, but hubby has just confessed to not really liking sourdough(!) and BigSmall, in the way of Small children, won’t eat the crusts. GRRRRRR!!

  • Reply Jo aka Kiwijo January 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Never having made bread in my life, I cant really go by experience. However, I do know that room temperature can be critical for your yeast, so I would tend to agree with Vivienne. The only other thing I can think of is that maybe youve hit a bump in the bread making road and you need to work though it and once youve cracked it, you will be unstoppable. Stick with it honey. You’ll get there. Look where your perseverance has got you so far – you can do it. xx

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Thanks Jo! Hoping it is just a bump.. 🙂

  • Reply sarah@everydaylifeonashoestring January 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Love homemade bread too, but I rely on the old breadmaker. Even then I produce a few bricks, especially recently. I’ve been blaming the cold weather…Seem to have resolved the problem with Allinson’s Very Strong Bread Flour.

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Great, thanks Sarah!

  • Reply Vivienne Downes (@VivienneDownes) January 25, 2013 at 7:27 am

    I’ve only attempted to make bread twice in my life, both with sad results! Since I was given a Panasonic breadmaker its never let me down … apart from when someone left the backdoor wide open during baking on a cold day & we ended up with a “brick” ! Ambient Room Temperature is very important maybe that’s why your bread is so erratic during this winter weather & check your oven temperature too just in case ? Hope this helps !

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Good idea to check the oven temp-hadn’t occurred to me! Thankyou 🙂

  • Reply notimeforironing January 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I’ve not had much luck with sourdough, but using just 1/4 tsp of dried yeast and mixing it into a sponge starter and leaving it for a day, then adding the rest of the flour for another day works brilliantly. The slow rise creates a lovely chewy texture with lots of holes. My banetton basket was well worth buying too.

    • Reply Jen January 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

      Fab-great tips! What is a banetton basket?!

  • Reply Robyn January 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Tempted to say “buy a breadmaker” or rather “Get a breadmaker from Freecycle” , but that’s not quite what you’re aiming for, is it! We mainly use ours to do the kneading for us, because frankly, neither of us are that good at it. I tend to get bored after about 30 seconds, and MrEH will stand there for hours pummelling the life out of the poor dough, so feeding all the ingredients into the machine, letting it do the mix and knead, then turning the resultant dough into bread rolls, or a loaf for the oven, suits us very well.
    As for breadmaking disasters, I can confidently state from experience that forgetting the yeast means you end up with a decent doorstop, but not anything edible!

    • Reply Jen January 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      The method that Aidan gave us involves a lot less kneading. I think I just need to work on my timings for proving!

  • Reply Sam January 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Hello! Now as you know I am not remotely domesticated and generally the opposite of make do and mend, rather if it doesn’t work buy a new one. But my bread is ok!
    This is controversial. I do lazy bread. I don’t knead it at all. I bung ingredients in kenwood to knead it for me. Put in airing cupboard for an hour or so, whizz again in kenwood, put in tin, leave on oven top that is heating up and voila! Controversially I read all your posts about kneading bowls and this and that and wonder if it is sort of too much for poor old dough? But ignore me if this is rubbish as I say I am not known for my housewifelyness!

    • Reply Jen January 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks Sam. Might have to give that approach a go! Hope all good with you 🙂

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