Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Is fresh yeast better than dried yeast?

Saturday, March 4th, 2017 | Food

Buying, storing and using fresh yeast can be rather time-consuming. But does it produce better bread?

Some cookbooks will insist that you simply cannot bake nice bread without making your own sourdough and using fresh yeast. Others, such as the River Cottage Handbook: Bread says that using fresh yeast is too much hassle most of the time. But what is the truth?

The biggest advantage of dried yeast is that it stays alive for a really long time. A packet may have a shelf live of 6 months or longer. In comparison, fresh yeast needs to be bought when you need it. It will stay alive a little while in the fridge, or you can freeze it, but then you need to remember to defrost it in advance of using it.

You also need to find it. None of the major supermarkets stocks it so you need to find a friendly baker or local health food shop and make an additional trip there to get it. The tried stuff just sits in your cupboard, ready to go.

How about the taste, though? Surely that makes it all worthwhile. Well, in reality, probably not. When I tried both, I could not tell the difference between the bread I had baked with fresh yeast and the bread I had baked with instant yeast.

This is surprising because you would think that I would get at least a placebo benefit from the fresh yeast. But there really is little to choose between the two, at least in bread, you make in your own kitchen.

Fresh yeast might be nice to try once in a while. However, it is unlikely you will notice any difference, and the additional complication makes it a lot of effort for little gain.


Monday, September 19th, 2016 | Food


The last time I tried to make brioche, it was a total disaster. The recipe book made it out to be this terribly complicated process. The River Cottage bread Handbook dismisses this as nonsense however. Following the much easier to understand instructions, I managed to successfully produce two lovely looking loaves.


Friday, August 5th, 2016 | Food


I have recently gone off bagels at work because they taste so bland. However, using some holiday time to try out making bagels for myself, I have realised it doesn’t have to be that way. Homemade bagels are far more delicious than I expected them to be.

There are reasonably easy to make too. It’s a basic bread dough with some sugar added. You then roll the dough out, curl it round, blanch them and then bake them. I coated mine in poppy seeds but plain or other seeds work well too.


Friday, August 5th, 2016 | Food


I recently picked up a copy of the River Cottage Bread Handbook which has lots of fun recipes in. I gave the breadsticks a go as they are pretty easy to make and complete a wide variety of meals. At first I tried rolling the dough out with a rolling pin and rolling them up, but that doesn’t work too well. Much better to get rolling with your palms and roll it into a long sausage shape.

Fresh yeast

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 | Food

After I moaned about the onerous requirements of the Larousse Book of Bread my friend Jane was kind enough to bring me some fresh yeast to work with.


The first loaf I made was a standard white bloomer. I wanted to see if it felt any different to making it with dried yeast. The bread came out very well, though I don’t think I could actually taste any difference.


The second loaf I made was maple bread. I replaced the oil with some genuine Canadian maple syrup that my auntie Diane had brought me on her recent trip to England. It produced a slightly sweet bread. This worked well, not to sweet, but with a little something.

The Larousse Book of Bread

Sunday, March 13th, 2016 | Books, Food

The agony of choice. When we visited Waterstone’s to find a new book on bread (as one does), I spent ages trying to decide. I eventually settled on The Larousse Book of Bread by √Čric Kayser.

This, I now know, was a mistake. All the recipes use a liquid sourdough starter. I did not have much luck last time I tried making a starter. However, this attempt was even more of a disaster. I found the instructions confusing and the results worthless. It wasn’t liquid enough.

Luckily, when I bought the book, I noticed that you could also use dry starter. However, despite the book’s promise that I could easily find this for sale, I actually couldn’t.

Not only do all the recipes use liquid starer, but they also use fresh baker’s yeast. Another product which is not easy to get hold off. Most supermarkets only sell fast-action yeast. Some might sell another dried yeast. None sell fresh.

My next option would be to replace all of this with fast-action dried yeast and try to adjust the recipe accordingly. This is a whole new challenge. Getting the end result to turn out like it is supposed to when you are doing it when you have to adjust the flour and liquid levels to compensate for the lack of starter is difficult. Not to mention that you are now making a different kind of bread: it isn’t a sourdough any more.

Once you have got past this stage you get on to the recipes. Using the term “recipes” is being quite generous because for most of the book there is only really one recipe. Each one is basically the same bread, moulded into a different and given a slightly different slashing pattern across the top. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, it is basically the same bread.

In Paul Hollywood’s Bread the book explores many different types of bread that are very different from each other. It feels like there is none of that here. You are exploring many different shapes of the same bread.


The closest the book gets is near the back when it talks about breads “with extras”. These were hit and miss for me. The seeded load (yes, that’s right, bread with seeds in it!) was good. However the dried tomato bread was ugly and unpleasant to taste.

There are some nice features about the book. The photos are great. They break the process down into easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions. You also get a photo of the finished product. It comes in hardback with a ribbon. Quality wise it is a very well put together book.

In summary though, I would not recommend this book.


Kenwood Chef KMC010

Friday, February 26th, 2016 | Food, Reviews


I had been mulling over the possibility of getting a stand mixer for months. At Christmas I finally decided to take the plunge and carefully picked over the options. The KitchenAid Artisan mixer looks beautiful. However, the Kenwood Chef gets a better write-up for performance and so I eventually convinced myself to go practical over pretty.

It put me in a bad mood immediately as it had a “5 year guarantee” sticker on the side that is incredibly difficult to get off. I had to peel it, then scratch it with my nail, then scrub it several times to get it off. Since then the whole experience has been far more positive however.

The box is massive. Probably because there is a stand mixer, a food processor and a blender in the box.


The main reason I wanted a stand mixer was to allow me to make continental bread and enriched doughs, which often require a long machine kneading. I got to work straight away.


Fifteen minutes of kneading feels like a really long time. However it actually does take that long to pick up all the dough onto the hook and give it a good spin.


Ciabatta requires fifteen minutes of kneading as well. Elina thinks it looks really ugly. However, it is pretty much supposed to look that way. It also tastes great. In general, it’s nice to be able to throw everything into the mixing bowl and have it mix them for me.

I have also tried beating cake ingredients using the k-beater and Elina has tried the whisk for making meringues, both with success. After you are done, it is super easy to clean. Everything is stainless steal, so I just throw everything in the bowl and fill it with hot soapy water.

The food processor sits on the top. This comes with the standard food processor blades, which I used to make the mayo that accompanied these squid rings. Even better, it comes with a set of six cutting disks that allow you to slice and grate.

So far, so good. I am using it more than I expected. Time will tell if it was worth the money, but it is proving a good purchase so far.

Paul Hollywood’s Bread

Sunday, January 17th, 2016 | Books, Food


I have tried a selection of the bread recipes in River Cottage Every Day, usually with success. This inspired me to take it to the next step with Paul Hollywood’s book on bread. I have had the book for ages but never got round to writing it up.

It covers a wide range: starting off with classic breads like bloomers, then moving through to soda breads, flatbreads, continental breads, sourdough and enriched breads.

For each type of bread, he first gives the recipe for the bread itself, then gives a recipe for using the bread in a meal. He claims he wants to put bread back in the centre of the table. A nice thought, though I must confess that it has had little effect on me. I just make the bread, and rarely use the bread-related recipe.

The bloomer has found the most regular rotation in our kitchen. I can probably do it without the recipe now, which is rare even for dishes I do regularly. The naans and maneesh have also become popular. I haven’t been sold on the soda breads or different kinds of grains though. I made them, but they are not to my taste.

Some of the continental breads I have had to skip. Hollywood says it is incredibly difficult to do by hand, so you really need a mixer. Hence why every combination I have had with my friends over the last month has invariably drifted to whether I should buy a stand mixer and which one to get.

I tried the sourdough starter too, but with little success. It did not produce tasty bread and ultimately went mouldy.

For individual posts about the breads I have baked from this book see rye and ale and the bottom half of this selection.

Self Sufficiency bread

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 | Food

John Seymour gives loads of examples of how to make fun bread in The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. However, unlike Paul Hollywood’s nice step by step instructions, John is more of a “why not try adding honey” method, and then just lets you get on with.

Results vary.


The barley bread turned out okay. This was just a standard bloomer recipe with half of the white flour substituted for bread flour. It came out well though I’m not a huge fan of the taste.


This was a mess. According to John’s recipe, you make it with boiling water. This makes it difficult to mix and never formed one cohesive ball. It is also made with baking powder rather than yeast. This made for a flat, flavourless bread.


Another recipe where I swapped out half of the flour, this time for buckwheat. I also added one and a half eggs to see what happened. What happened was that the dough collapsed while proving. I probably added too much liquid.

Surprisingly tasty though. Quite a nutty flavour.


Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | Food


From Paul Hollywood’s Bread. This is a really nice flatbread recipe because the breads come out incredibly 3D. I like this. Regular flatbreads are nice but as you know, they only exist in two dimensions. These things are fat.

Of course I could just bake a bloomer. However, these are designed to be big and round. It is the surprisingly bonus of a light airy well-risen bread that makes these so tasty.

I did not have most of the ingredients he recommended for the topping so I combined thyme and caraway with olive oil. They did not stick well at all; they just fall off as soon as you pick the bread up sideways. However, they are tasty.