Baking Tip: How To Get A Perfect Crust on Your Loaf of Bread!

THE BEST RECIPE FOR PERFECT BREAD: Blackbird Bread

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My Recent Bread-scapades!

If you don’t already know, twickenham’s Blackbird Bread have a bread making class happening, and since I am friends with this feathered family I got to go along and help out, do some dishes and also sharpen my bread skills, which were lacking after 8 months of travelling and not much experience before that. Anyway, since then I have been baking bread as often as I have a time to spare, and recommend you folk give it a bash too.
For a lovely crusty fluffy white loaf visit blackbird bread’s recipe.
Follow all the guides there, making sure you don’t rush the proving times and also making sure you don’t cut into your incredible loaf until it’s completely cool from the baking, if you want it warm, sack it in the toaster or oven again…but I doubt you will want to wait any longer to dig in!

Last night I tried making Dan Lepard’s Extra Moist Stollen it’s something I have always wanted to bake and now it is resting for a day or two to get a nice set on the icing and butter crust….I might have to just get the knife to it later though as I’m desperate to see if it surpasses the dry crappy ones they over charge you for in the shops. That’s a picture of it dusted with icing, there is rum and all sorts in the recipe, so I’m hoping it’s amaze balls.

The plaited loafs in the picture and so satisfying to make, after I was confident my timings were good and I knew how the dough needed to feel I went for a plait. I waited a bit longer for the last rise, as there is a lot going on, so wait an hour instead of 45 mins. The monotone loaf was great, I used a mixed seed and grain flour (check the supermarket shelves but I think it was Allinsons range) then before it went in the oven, after I sprayed with water, I patted on poppy seeds to one side and dusted flour to the other. It got eaten in one hit last Sunday with a broccoli soup. Also for this loaf I substituted milk for water, adds an extra yumminess.

In the first photo there is a soda bread, all farmhouse looking, they are super quick to make (45mins!) so if you need a fix after work, GET INVOLVED, you don’t need to knead it or prove it or even use bread flour, so you probably have all the ingredients in the cupboard, bonus.

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Next up, barm bread!

My Day Baking Bread in the ‘Blackbird Bread’ Nest!

Blackbird Bread
@blackbirdbread Hello, we bake bread and cake for Twickenham! Check out our blog http://blackbirdbread.blogspot.co.uk/

Lorna
@lornas_cakery
 ooh! Do you fancy letting me see your bread making skills? I’m desperate to get better! I could pay you in cake? X

Blackbird Bread

@blackbirdbread Sounds like a fair deal! Let’s get something sorted out!

And it was as simple as that. We met up the following friday at Mark’s house – Mr and Mrs Blackbird run a micro-bakery from home. This is where they bake bread for their local residents up and down the street (well, actually now its a fair few streets as the word has spread of the wonderfully light, fluffy, crusty warm homemade bread!)

Is it time for a bigger oven yet Mark?

When I arrived, at the leisurely 10am, Mark had already been baking for 5 hours. He bakes 3 times a week and gets orders via text message from his neighbours, it sounds so simple and it really works. So anyway, I walked in and was allowed to get stuck in straight away! I was so excited to have a day of messy hands and floury clothes whilst learning a real trade from a true home baker. It was the best day. We made so many loaves…

  • a White Loaf,
  • Focaccia
  • Hippy Loaf,
  • Spelt Loaf,
  • Hippy Loaf
  • and a Wholemeal Loaf

MEGA!

I was allowed to bake and take home two loaves, so I chose a white loaf…
white loaf
and the Hippy Loaf (lots of seeds and texture in this one, and some honey… mmmmmmm!) this was before it was in the firey hot oven…IT’S COVERED IN POPPY SEEDS! Just awesome.
hippy loaf unbaked

I was truley spoilt and all I paid Mr and Mrs Blackbird was a Fudge cake, I am in debt to them as I learnt tonnes and they were so generous with thier time and patience. They even put up with my stupid jokes and sense of humour – for instance, when I arrived the first thing I said to break the ice was; “Well this is weird isn’t it!” (I was referring to meeting on twitter and then turning up at thier home to bake bread a week later) anyway…

Throughout the day I kept telling Mark how he should run ‘bread days’ – classes from home. He was such a great teacher and zapped the fear out of baking bread. I went along with concerns that there was a ‘trick’ to kneading that I wasn’t getting right, or something really wrong with what I was doing. But in actual fact I think I was just giving up before mastering THE BREAD. I also realised I wasn’t ‘stretching the dough’ and making the dough work hard during the riseing process – a must if you want a light loaf! My loaves before were really dense.

I remember my first few sponges (OK I was only about 12 years old) but they were pants! They didn’t rise and they dipped in the middle but I just kept going and voila, now they are pretty tasty.  I think the key is understanding the ingredients. For instance – don’t put the salt and the yeast on top of each other when you put them in the bowl (the salt kills the yeast) and other tips like, have a really hot hot hot HOT HOT HOT oven ready for your loaf to go into. And, if possible get a heavy-duty pan in the bottom of the oven so you can put some water in it to create steam and get an awesome crust on your bread.

All this info and more tips can be found on BlackBird Bread’s blog – Please check it out and give it a go, it’s really fun! (or, if you are local to Twickenham, text the nest and get Mark to bake you some!)

This little bread adventure happened last November, just before the Cake International competition and the 2012 Hamper mayhem … and because I have been so crazy busy (Oh, and the fact I am rubbish!) I havent written this post until now. I also have to confess, my bread making hasn’t taken off quite how I had anticipated – but I am not giving up, I just need a few hours spare but with the kitchen now packed up and our around the world trip next week, I’m gonna have to wait until November to finish what I have started and really master The Bread.

In the meantime, if you want to get into bread, Mark recommends checking out (@danielscookhous) Daniel Stevens, a fine bread master as well as the amazing (@dan_lepard) Daniel Lepard, baking guide for the Guardian.co.uk and judge on the Aussie Bake Off.

So, signing out for now, THANK YOU MR AND MRS BLACKBIRD, TRUE BREAD MASTERS!! x