Everyday bread recipe

[edited 20.4.15 to add a few extra photos; 27.4.15 to signpost to comments and replies]

I come from a family of good cooks and food lovers, so food is dear to my heart and central to my life and culture.  As it happens, my maternal grandfather was a baker, his oldest son was (amongst many other things) a very accomplished pastry cook, and my mum spent some of the earliest years of her childhood growing up above the family’s bakery and shop in Cable Street (London’s East End).

Mum, aged about 5, in fancy dress.  See those bread buttons!

Mum, aged about 5, in fancy dress. See those bread buttons!

Her father died before I was born, so I never knew him, and the baker shop was long gone by the time I came along.

Anyway, I promised to write it up, and here at last it is.  My everyday bread recipe.  Or to be more exact, the recipe I used for the twenty or so years before I began using my sourdough starter.  But really, the only difference is that now I use that instead of the dried yeast.

This is a recipe to play around with once you get the basics right.   I take after my mum when it comes to recipes – whenever I asked her how to cook something, at some point along the way I would always ask how much of something, and she would reply “well, you put in till it looks right”.  Right mum, and how do you know what it’s meant to look like?

Well of course the answer is trial and error – you give it a go and next time adjust things if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you wanted.  But I hope that here I’ve given you enough hard detail to help you get it right first time, and then you’re free to play and make it your own.

Although it takes a long time to make this, it takes very little work.  You spend about 5 minutes on the first mixing bit (Stage 1), another few minutes on the next mixing bit (Stage 2), then a few minutes kneading and putting into tins (Stage 3), and that’s all the work there is apart from baking it (Stage 4).  But it takes a long long time, because you want the yeast to really do its work, so you leave it to sit for hours.  While you go out to work, sleep, do whatever you do in your life, or (like the yeast and bread mix) just sit and be.  Your choice.

I finally wrote it down....

I finally wrote it down….

I’ve given the quantities for two loaves, because really, you will want at least two.  And it makes better use of the oven than just doing one.  I’ve always done four loaves together, because that’s what fits in my oven and my freezer – double what I’ve given if that’s what you’d like to do too.

If you do the quantity for two loaves but really only want one loaf, then use half of it as pizza base, or to make some rolls (8 large, or 12 small). You choose.

I’m sorry, but these measurements are in pints.  I’m sure you can easily convert if you need to use a different measurement.  Spoons vary in size, but luckily this is a very forgiving recipe (barely a recipe at all), so don’t fret about how big yours are compared to mine, it won’t matter (I promise!).

[before you start, you might want to have a look at the comments on this post for my replies to readers’ questions].

Ingredients and method

Get a large bowl (I use the mixing bowl from my mum’s big old Kenwood chef).  If you don’t have a really large bowl, use a big saucepan, or a pressure cooker, or whatever you do have.

NB in the the pictures below I was making my usual 4 loaves, so everything here is twice the size of the recipe amounts!

Stage 1:  Put in: 

Oil: 2 tablespoons (I use locally produced rape seed; you can use whatever you have or like, or leave it out altogether.  I think having it in just helps it keep better)

Sugar : 2 tablespoons (I use soft brown sugar if I have it; you could use any sugar you like, or honey, or less if you prefer your bread more sour)

Salt: 2 teaspoons (you can reduce the amount if you like; this works for our taste)

Dried yeast granules: 1 level teaspoon – essential!  Do not leave this out or fiddle with the amount.

Water: lukewarm, 1.25 pints – essential – getting this quantity right will enable you to get the amount of flour right.  Better too cool than too hot – you don’t want to kill the yeast.

What it looks like before you add the flour

What it looks like before you add the flour

Flour: mix it in until you have the consistency of thick porridge – I use a mix of wholemeal strong flour and white strong flour, about half and half.  You definitely want strong (bread) flour, as it has the right gluten content for bread.  Sometimes I add in a bit of rye flour.  Often I throw in some porridge oats as well, they give a softer bread.

Add flour till thick porridge consistency

Add flour till thick porridge consistency


2015-04-08 07.32.11

Once it’s all mixed together, cover and leave for several hours.  Sometimes I do this bit (Stage 1) just before I go to bed and leave it till breakfast time; sometimes I do it at breakfast time and leave it till lunchtime; sometimes I do it at about 5pm and leave it till say 9 pm.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter toooooo much how long, so long as when you go back to it you’ve got a nice bubbly appearance on the surface – that’s telling you that the yeast has been doing its stuff.

The yeast is doing its thing

The yeast is doing its thing

So long as you see that, you’re ready for

Stage 2:  Add:

More flour, stirring it in and then mixing it in with your hands.  I use my right hand to mix it, leaving my left hand free (and clean) to add flour.  You want it to put enough in for it to be a dough, and all stay together in one piece.  This bit may take a while for you to figure out how much is ‘enough’.  I like it to not be sticky, but not be too stiff either.

you put in till it feels right....

you put in till it feels right….

When you think it feels right, cover it and leave it in the bowl for more time.   This time the point is to let your dough rise nicely.  Which gives you time to put your feet up and have a cup of tea, or go to work, or go to bed, or whatever else you have to do.

The spring is sprung, the dough is riz....*

The spring is sprung, the dough is riz….*

Until the dough is ready for

Stage 3:

Shape and make ready to bake.  So now you need a floured surface to work your dough on, shape it, and get it ready to bake.  Take it our of your bowl, put it on the floured surface, cut it into two equal sized pieces and work with one piece at a time.

2015-04-18 16.18.01

To make a tin loaf, a 2 pound tin is the size you want for this.  I lightly oil my (supposedly) non-stick tins, just to be sure the bread won’t stick.  Knead the piece of dough well (not too hard, you don’t want to knock all the air out of it), stretching and folding and turning it a bit as you do so, until it feels even and nice to work.    Then make the dough the right shape, lightly flour it, and put it in the tin.  Repeat for the other piece of dough.

If you don’t have a tin, you can do a freestyle loaf (round, long, plaited, whatever you fancy) on a (lightly oiled) baking sheet or even on the bottom of a casserole dish.  You can make it into rolls, or use some of it as a pizza base.  It’s your dough!

2015-04-18 16.23.53

Now cover again, and leave to rise.  I find that this takes around about an hour or so.  Don’t leave it to rise too long, or it will over-rise and start to fall a bit.  Not a disaster, but not the best.

Once it’s risen you’re ready for

Stage 4 – baking

Slash the tops of the loaves.  There’s a reason for this, it stops it splitting apart as it rises further in the oven.  You’ll need to use a really sharp knife or blade for this, otherwise I find it sticks to the dough a bit.

2015-04-08 18.08.33

For loaves, bake for about 55 minutes in a hot oven (mine is a fan oven at about 175 degrees C).  Sometimes I pre-heat the oven, sometimes I forget.  It doesn’t seem to make much difference either way.  You’ll want to bake rolls for much less time.  They’re done if you tap one on the bottom and it feels hollow.

After 55 minutes take the bread out of the oven and out of the tins, leave to cool on a rack.

No caption needed!

No caption needed!

Stage 5 – oh didn’t I mention this other stage?  But it’s the best bit.

Eat and enjoy.

2015-02-10 12.47.04

(Hint: don’t let your partner, children or friends eat it warm –  it will all disappear in no time at a all!)


* apologies to Ogden Nash

About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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7 Responses to Everyday bread recipe

  1. Jo says:

    Thank you I look forward to trying this!


  2. Yes thank you. It felt as if you were in the kitchen advising me directly and in a lovely calm manner. I too shall try the recipe and your method very soon.


  3. Jo says:

    Oh, one question….which type of yeast? I have both Allinson’s yeasts the green tin for the breadmaker and the yellow tin. I assume the yellow!? Thanks Jo.


    • Hi Jo, I use something similar made by Dove Farm, I’m pretty sure it’s the same kind of thing as what you have. I had a look at Allison’s yeast online, and the yellow one sounds right.
      I keep my tin in the fridge, and I noticed when I looked this afternoon that it says on the bottom ‘use by December 2012’. Well I last used it a couple of months ago, and it worked just fine – we’re all still alive and well, and the dough rose perfectly.


  4. Jo says:

    Thank you – the bread is delicious, but a little on the dense side. It doesn’t look as tall as yours so I think some more practice is needed before I retire my bread maker!


    • Hi Jo, well done! I’m so relieved it turned out ok-ish but at least delicious.

      I’ve got a few suggestions for next time that might make it lighter. The thing is, you only get to ‘learn by experience’ by having a go and getting the experience – as Samuel Beckett said, “try, fail. Try again, fail better”.

      First of all, I have no idea why, but I’ve always found that the greater the proportion of white flour, the more the lighter the texture. I generally do abut 1/3 white, 2/3 wholemeal, with some oats thrown in as well. This suits our tastes, but it certainly gives a denser loaf than most bought bread.
      Secondly, you could try using slightly more yeast.
      Thirdly, try leaving it to rise in the tins for longer than last time.
      Lastly, if after you added the second lot of flour the dough felt heavy and dense, try using less flour next time. It’s hard to describe, but I can tell (by experience) if my dough is ‘heavy’ or ‘light and responsive’, and what makes the difference sometimes is the amount of flour I’ve used – though unfortunately I only know after I’ve put the flour in and I can’t take it out again. I know, this probably sounds like twaddle, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it 🙂
      Good luck next time – I hope there will be a ‘next time’!


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