Baking Brown Loaves

home made brown bread
Brown bread just got better.

I've been making three brown loaves today, so I thought I'd show you what I've been up to.

Since The Course (What course?! See The Formula For Great Dough), I've been doing things a bit differently.

I've changed my favourite everyday-sort-of-loaf recipe. It now goes something like this:

Ingredients for Three Loaves

1050g/2 lb 3 oz/7 cups strong white flour
450g/15 oz/3 cups wholemeal flour
15g/1 tbsp instant dried yeast
30g/2 tbsp salt
945ml/32 fl oz/4 cups water

You will note that the proportion of white to wholemeal flour is not 50:50, as I used to do. The Course leader said that 30% wholemeal gives a lovely, silky texture to the dough. So, that's what this is: 30% wholemeal.

You may also note that I have used 63% hydration, also as specified on The Course. The results are good...

All the ingredients go into one big bowl, all at once, provided you don't have to do some sort of shenanigans with your particular type of yeast.

So far so good, and unless you can hear the children fighting in another room, you can start mixing.

(Oh and yes! These are my swanky new scales. They're so shiny I could actually do my make-up whilst cooking, if guests were imminent.)

So, the mixing.

As you know, I like to get my hand in there and squeeze it all together. But can you see what I was saying about the dough looking as though it might be too dry? (As mentioned in The Formula For Great Dough). Alas, there was no-one on hand to make a video and I'm not the best at taking photos with my left hand, while my right hand is caked in dough and a small boy is trying to climb up my leg but do you see it?

Oh all right, I'll wash my hand and do it properly. Look. The dough is quite dry and very rough. The old me would have been sloshing in some water at this point but hold your horses, it'll all work out.

Once you've squeezed it all together and mopped up the last bits of flour, you can tip it out onto the surface and it'll look like this:

Now, here's another change to the old routine. Kneading.

I have said, and I maintain, that lengthy kneading is unnecessary*. I also still believe that kneading second (that is to say, after fermenting) saves you a bit of kneading time but on The Course the kneading came first, and so, today, I duly did it first.
*It's a matter of priorities. Lengthy kneading is unnecessary BUT if you've got time, a slightly longer knead will result in a better texture of bread.

I kneaded the dough first, for over five minutes (but not as long as the recommended 10) until the dough was smooth and elastic. I love how clean it is. There was no need to flour the surface and it barely stuck to my hands. Lovely.

At this point, I upturned the mixing bowl over it, set the timer for 45 minutes and went off to play The Gruffalo Game with my children.

45 minutes later...

Time to shape the loaves.

I divided the dough into three pieces and greased my 2lb loaf pans.

Then, I gave each piece a little knead, bringing the edges into the middle, as though shaping a huge bread roll. I then rolled it to make it more tin-shaped. Again, apologies for the left-handed camera-action, my chief photographer was at work. On the plus side, the boy had detached himself from my ankle.

Next, the dough goes into the tins for proving, which takes about 45 minutes, unless you're getting really hungry. I like to see the dough rise to the top of the tins but it's so bloomin' cold at the moment that these loaves hardly rose at all in an hour and I gave up waiting and baked them.

They need 5 minutes in a very hot oven - pre-heated to 230oC/450F, then a further 30 minutes at 180oC/360F.

And there we are:

They look delicious. But why on Earth have they done that?!

More research is needed to solve the lid-lifting effect*. It's something to do with the way I shaped the loaves, I think, because they don't always do this. I wish I had a picture of some more photogenic loaves to hand but then again, I did promise you the Real Deal.
*Ed: Lid-lifting mystery now solved here.

FP had no problems devouring it for her lunch. It was soft inside and tasty. You can see from the picture at the top that the texture was good.


  1. Can I just check are you putting these in 2lb tins? I have two 2lb tins - which for a long time I thought were 1lb tins - and wondered why my cakes were always so flat :/ So I need to check these things!

    1. Yup! I should have clarified that. Definitely 2lb tins.

  2. I suspect the lid lifting effect is due to the incomplete rising of the dough at the proving stage. Therefore, the hot oven forced the dough to expand but not evenly so, as it was crusting at one side.

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  4. I used a 1/3 of your above recipe which i then added a few hand fulls of green and black olives, of course the addition of a 'wet' component then needs a dry to balance the mix i added some more wholemeal flour. It was very well received by my good lady wife and I thought it was one of the best so far - it didn't last long and that clearly give the thumbs up all around.


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