Paul Hollywood is becoming an increasingly well-known name within baking households, whether he be standing alongside Mary Berry in The Great British Bake Off or going it alone in his own shows. Today I decided to pick up one of his books and put his bread recipes to the test. I slaved away in the kitchen all day producing three bakes: a basic bloomer, pizza bases and some cheese and bacon rolls.
Bread is cheap and easy to make; making a basic loaf yourself can cost around 30p which for a student like myself is a bargain not to be missed! baking it yourself can have a rather rewarding feeling and with it comes the great freshly baked smell.
Paul’s book is great for beginners as the first chapter outlines how to handle dough and throws out some useful pointers… after all his years of experience it would be stupid not to follow what he has to say.
The Bloomer was the most basic of the breads I attempted. All that is needed is some strong white bread flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, water and you’re ready to go!
Paul’s instructions are really easy to follow (unless you’re like me and don’t know when to stop adding water to the mixture, but this can easily be remedied with some extra flour). Paul will suggest mixing the ingredients with your hands, which by all means go for if you want to feel like Spiderman with his web fingers…
but I found after making this loaf that using a spoon works just as well. I also had the privilege of using a mixer with dough hooks for my kneading; this makes the process a lot faster and requires less physical effort. I left the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl with cling film over the top, so it could prove. After one and a half hours I was rather impressed by the size as what had started as my little lump of dough had almost filled the bowl! After knocking it back (taking the air out of the dough), shaping it and marking it, my dough was ready to become bread. For a first time baking bread I was really impressed with the results, I now have a nice crusty loaf, which will go nicely with some soup on a chilly day.
Pizza always makes a good student dinner, many times I have ordered in take out with hefty price tags… but now I feel those days are behind me as I have discovered how to do it for myself for a minimal amount. The recipe is rather similar to the bloomer, using the same ingredients in similar doses (but I would say if you have about four people to cook for maybe double what the book says). I made four bases to feed my flat, I made one of them into a side dish of garlic bread as well, and so it can be rather versatile. The main difference with this from the bloomer is of course the shape, to achieve the round shape push your palm into the ball of dough to form a roundish shape and roll it out evenly at all angles if you want the normal circular look. Mine appear to be slightly oblong to suit the shape of my trays.
I topped my pizza bases with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and mixed herbs along with some grated mature cheddar, then I grabbed whatever I could find in my fridge for the toppings. For the garlic bread I made a mixture of chopped garlic, butter and mixed herbs and spread generously. The results made a great Sunday night feast, I can’t say the flat mates complained; clean plates all round!
Cheese and bacon rolls
In the book Paul makes stilton and bacon rolls, but I used up the rest of my strong cheddar, which I found worked nicely also. The cheese and bacon rolls again use the same basis just with the addition of these two ingredients and some unsalted butter. It is made in a similar way also. This time I kneaded the dough by hand just for the experience, and I found it to be hard work on my little arms, it probably took me 15-20 minutes before I had a decently stretched dough.
It’s more rewarding doing it by hand, so I would definitely do it again, and after all that hard work you get to leave it to prove for one and a half to two hours before being faced with it again for knocking back. I shaped this one into six balls and baked. They came out nice and crusty with a soft middle and I found they make a nice breakfasty treat.
I would definitely recommend picking up this book as I was pleasantly surprised with the results of my first time bakes. There are lots of more breads to choose from, including sourdoughs and sweet breads. Paul also offers great meal suggestions as to what you can serve your breads in/alongside.
By Karen Coe