Welcome to the first day of the 7 days 7 breads challenge. How exciting that you will learn how to make bread at home with some super simple techniques. I will be there every day to guide you through the recipes, share my tips and hints and at the end you can share your results on social media using #7days7breads to win amazing prizes. I am also on Facebook every day live to show you how to master each recipe and technique at home with hardly any effort. All recipes are designed to be easy to follow and at the end you can enjoy a freshly baked loaf at home.
Today we are going to start with some basics. If you already know a bit about bread making that’s fine but it is great to refresh your memory and also to learn how to tackle even the most basic techniques in bread baking. I’ll explain how to make a beautiful bloomer loaf or bloomer rolls at home.
In this first recipe I am going to teach you how to make a bloomer loaf. Although this is a very popular recipe in my best selling book Practice Mix Perfect, it is actually a great opportunity to learn some basic skills to start with. Bloomer is a large loaf that is usually proved after kneading in the mixing bowl and afterwards shaped into a large oval loaf or two small oval loaves but we are also going to attempt some rolls with this dough and therefore learn how to split the mixture in half. You could add any seeds on top such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds or chia seeds and you could also just leave it plain instead. Let’s learn how to do it.
What you will learn:
- How to make bread dough in your Thermomix
- How to knead with your Thermomix
- How to prove a bread using a bread proving basket
- How to shape a loaf
- Scoring techniques
Day 1: The basics of bread making
At the most basic level bread is made with flour, water and salt. Of course in order to rise a standard bread you will also need yeast or sourdough starter so that it grows to the right size and becomes light and fluffy when it bakes.
There are several stages of bread making:
- The initial dough
- First proving
- Pre-shaping, final shaping
- Final proving
- Scoring and baking
Each stage is important and you will learn about all of them during this 7 day challenge but I like to tackle my breads systematically so I think it is great to know which stages are involved and whenever I talk about these fancy words such as proving, shaping etc. you will get a really good idea what I am talking about. Here is a little more about each stage:
The initial dough is made by activating the yeast first by dissolving it in water and bringing it to a good temperature for proving of 37C. Yeast is activated because the gentle heat will create a very good environment for it to eat through the sugars and the dough to expand and increase in volume. This is what will make your bread so fluffy and airy at the end. Then you will add the flour followed by salt and either sugar, molasses or any other extra ingredients. After that the dough is kneaded and the kneading time very much depends on the type of flour you use. A darker flour will require more kneading time than a lighter flour and sourdough needs more initial kneading time than standard dough with commercial yeast.
The next stage is the first proving stage. For standard loaves made with yeast I usually leave them to rise in the mixing bowl directly and not bother even removing them because the bowl insulates well for the time being. However, if you live in a hot climate or it’s a very hot day, it might be a good idea to use an insulated bowl that you have put in the fridge for a couple of minutes before to keep the temperature steady. It will now need some time to expand and double in size. Sometimes this can take up to two hours, keep an eye on it. It depends on the type of yeast you use.
After that, you can remove the dough from the mixing bowl and begin with the pre-shaping. Pre-shaping is required to gently knock the dough down, getting rid of any unwanted air bubbles and generate some initial surface tension which will help in achieving a really good structure for our bread. I know, it is a lot of big words but essentially what it means it when you take a piece of play dough and you want to make a car with it you will start by shaping it into a long sausage rather than a round ball so that you have an initial shape. After the pre-shaping the dough rests for a few minutes and then we can commence with the final shaping. This one is really key to getting the right shape. You will need a lot of repetitive movement and depending on what kind of shape we are making, you will need to create a lot of tension at the top.
Once you have the final shape, the dough goes into a proving basket for final proving to develop the shape and work on the structure nicely by itself. It is important to tip the bread seam side up so that you can later tip it seam side down onto the tray for baking.
At this time you can preheat the oven and prepare your baking station. Fill a spray bottle with water and make sure your oven gloves are ready. The baking tray should be lined with some greaseproof paper. Once it has proved again in the basket you can tip it onto the tray and immediately score it with a knife in a fast movement. Then it goes off into the oven and for the initial 15 minutes or so it will need some steam to develop a great crust. Spray the oven chamber with water and close the door to retain the steam. It makes the bread so much better. You can then finish off the baking process at a slightly lower temperature and off you go with your lovely bread.
Every day during this challenge I will talk about these stages again so that you can really familiarise yourself with them.
Top Tips for better results
- Never mix yeast and salt directly. Salt and yeast are natural enemies and if your salt ever comes in direct contact with yeast, the yeast will die and you will end up with a flat loaf. To rectify that I usually add salt after the flour so that it sits on top and cannot touch my activated yeast straight away.
- Prove your dough in an insulated, chilled bowl for the first prove in a hot climate to maintain an even rise. When you live in a hot climate it can be a little tricky to prove bread at home because it might be very humid or even a super hot day, both which is tricky for yeast. To combat that I would tip the dough that is freshly kneaded straight into an insulated bowl that you have chilled for a few minutes in the fridge before using. the insulated bowl maintains the same temperature for hours and could create a more stable environment for your bread to rise initially.
- Create steam in your oven with a water spray bottle to get a more amazing crust. When you bake your bread it is important to create some steam at the beginning. This will lock in the flavours, help with the rising of the dough in the oven and create a much better and more robust crust. I do that by simply spraying water with a spray bottle inside the oven chamber on either side and at the bottom and immediately closing the oven door for baking. I don’t open the door again for at least the first half of the baking time so that the steam can work its magic.
An extra task
Apart from learning how to make yeasted bread, we will also start a fresh sourdough starter at home and learn all about sourdough bread baking in the last few days of the challenge. For now I will explain to you how to make your own starter and everyday at the same time we will feed it. In my Facebook live tutorial I will explain exactly what it is all about so that you get the most out of it.
Sourdough starter Day 1:
Take a large clean glass jar or plastic container (it does not need to be sterile) with a lid that has a capacity of at least 600g and place it on top of the mixing bowl. Measure 50g light rye flour and 50g tap water. If your tap water is not suitable then use bottled water instead. Mix it with your finger until the mixture resembles a thick paste. It is important to mix with your fingers because you want to attract as much wild yeast and natural bacteria as possible for your starter to ferment nicely. Place the lid ajar and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Tomorrow we will revisit it again.
Bloomer Loaf or Bloomer Rolls
- 450g water
- 2 Tbsp dry active yeast (or 50g fresh yeast)
- 750g strong white bread flour (you could go for 600g strong white and 150g wholemeal bread flour if you want a little more texture)
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 10g olive oil
- 20g poppy seeds
- 20g sesame seeds
- 1 heaped tsp fine sea salt
- Place the water and yeast in the mixing bowl and warm 2 Min. / 37°C / Speed 2.
- Add in the strong white bread flour, salt and olive oil and knead 2 Min. / Kneading function.
- Leave to rise in the mixing bowl for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
- To remove the dough from the bowl, tip the bowl upside down onto a lightly floured surface. Remove the base, then press the blade down so that it drops down inside. Lift up the bowl and remove the blade from the dough. Divide the dough in half.
To make a loaf:
- Dust an oval bread proving basket with flour heavily and set aside.
- Take one half of the dough and gently knock it down into a rough rectangle. Fold it over four times into the centre from either side to create a rough square. Tip upside down and leave to relax covered with a tea towel for 5 minutes. This is called pre-shaping.
- For final shaping, you are going to start rolling the dough up into almost a Swiss roll. To do so, flatten the dough down slightly into a rough rectangle shape. Fold the first few centimetres of edge of the dough towards you starting from the long end furthest away from you. After each fold, press it down across the centre of the dough to start creating tension. Repeat this folding motion until you’ve reached the edge closest to you. You want to end up with an even roll that will fit your oval bread proving basket.
- Place the dough seam side up into the prepared proving basket and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 250°C / 230°C Fan / Gas Mark 9.
- Carefully tip the proving basket upside down onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and brush the top of the bread with some lukewarm water. Sprinkle with the seeds and, with a sharp serrated knife or bread scoring knife, score the bread 4 times in a very quick movement.
- Cover for another 10 minutes, then place in the oven. Immediately spray the oven chamber with water and leave to bake for 25 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 200°C and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.
To make rolls:
- Take one half of the dough and divide the mixture into 60-75g pieces. You can weigh each piece on top of the Thermomix mixing bowl to ensure you have even rolls. Shape each roll into a ball by rolling it between the palm of your hand and the kitchen surface in a circular movement using very slight pressure. You should start to feel tension build up on the surface of the dough. If you prefer a slightly oval shape, simply roll it a couple of times back and forth across one side and pinch the edges. Place each roll seam side down onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. You can either leave several centimetres in-between each roll to have individual rolls or stack them more closely together to create pull-apart dinner rolls.
- Preheat the oven to 250°C / 230°C Fan / Gas Mark 9.
- Uncover the rolls and brush each top with some lukewarm water. Sprinkle with the seeds and, with a sharp serrated knife or bread scoring knife, score each roll trough the centre in a very quick movement. Cover with a tea towel and leave for another 10 minutes.
- Uncover the rolls and place in the oven. Immediately spray the oven chamber with water and leave to bake for 10 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 200°C and bake for another 5 minutes until the rolls sound hollow when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.