Lockdown adventures…with bread

Slices of croissant

Before lockdown I enjoyed making bread, normally your standard white rolls or pizza dough, I’m no Paul Hollywood! I find it very satisfying that a few ingredients and a bit of time can produce something so tasty (although I’m definitely not adverse to a bit of thick white sliced).

So when lockdown started I had grand plans of making wonderful bread creations every day, that my family and I would eat together.

However, it seemed that every else had the same idea and for a while there was no flour or yeast to be found anywhere.

My thirst for bread had to be quenched in a different way, here’s what I tried:

Soda Bread

This is a quick, no yeast bread that uses bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent. It’s really easy to make and a great option for baking with kids. The finished result looks impressive; it’s a denser texture than yeasted bread and has a bit of a tang but it’s great toasted.

Baked soda bread

I used Emily Leary’s soda bread recipe, helpfully with a bakealong video!

Fresh Yeast

I have to confess that I thought all yeast was a dry powder in little packets and didn’t know there was another option! Lots of bakeries near to us were offering deliveries of flour and fresh yeast so I gave it a go! It comes in a lump and you chop off what you need – I used between 15-20grams for 300-500grams of flour, and it didn’t make a difference if it was more or less. The texture is strange, sort of like a light dried up putty?! I took the quantity of yeast, added a sprinkle of sugar and a tablespoon of water and mixed it to reactivate. Then straight away you’re good to go, just keep the yeast away from any direct salt.

Fresh yeast
Fresh yeast before reactivation

The resulting bread was very light and airy and it didn’t take long to rise. I found it too bouncy and stretchy for pizza bases but it was great for rolls and loaves. The brilliant thing about fresh yeast is that it keeps for two weeks in the fridge and you can also freeze it. I portioned mine up and wrapped up each bit before freezing so that it’s easier to use when I need it.

How to Make Bread

My easy bread recipe, to make 5 rolls is 300g flour, 15-20 grams fresh yeast, 5g salt and cold water to bring together into a dough. For a big loaf use 500g flour and for two adult sized pizzas use 250g. I tend to make quite a wet dough and certainly don’t knead for long! Just leave your dough in a bowl in a warm place to double in size. I find that if I make it in advance and allow about 90 minutes for proving then its fine. Keep an eye on it, once it’s risen up once then bash it down again and let it rise a second time. If you’re making rolls, shape the rolls after the first rise and let them rise again on the baking tray. If you’re making pizza dough, do the two rises (or even just one), bash it down and then shape it. You may need to flatten it again before adding the toppings.

Use the same quantities if you are using dried yeast, one teaspoon of fast action powder is fine for up to 500grams of flour.

These recipes work just as well with ordinary plain flour or ‘bread’ flour, or a combination of the two. Wholemeal bread flour is heavier so needs a bit more attention – more kneading to get it going.

Baked white rolls cut open
Inside the finished rolls

Top tip – if you haven’t got anywhere warm to put tour dough while it rises, a quick 30 second blast in the microwave (covered with cling film) will get it started.

Happy baking!

Featured photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

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