Saturday, 13 September 2014

the best of A Greedy Piglet: More White Bread tips

More of my stream of consciousness tips... you will find that they do vary a bit from post to post... they are all valid at different times :) take what you like and leave the rest...


Do you remember I started making white bread? that my husband approved of, and would actually eat in preference to the thick sliced white bread he used to insist I bought? (2014 edit:  he has gone back to preferring sliced bread... :(  )

I've been playing further and have a couple more ideas for you that have been very successful.

Make a flying sponge

A flying sponge is a fast method of making a pre-ferment or poolish. It takes part of the flour and liquid and pre-ferments that with the yeast. Some methods call for just a little bit of the yeast and a long (often overnight) rise, others take a faster route and mix with all the yeast from the recipe. This adds a lot of flavour to the bread without a lengthy rise, and suits my schedule much better.

Basically, you take 50% of the total flour called for in the recipe, and add an equal amount of liquid and all the yeast from the recipe. So for this milk bread, I use 250g bread flour plus 250g milk at blood heat and 1 tsp on instant yeast. NO SALT. Mix to a shaggy dough, no need to knead, and leave for 2 hours until puffy and risen.

Then add the rest of the flour (250g OO flour for this loaf), the rest of the liquid (another 150g warm milk) the salt (1.25 tsp) mix, knead and continue as your recipe. I find that the rising times are much reduced, without sacrificing any flavour.

Add DRY milk powder

I tried with fresh full cream milk, scalding this and allowing it to cool to blood heat, but to be honest, I kept forgetting to buy full cream milk (I don't use it normally) so went back to using skim milk. Either fresh skim milk, scalded and cooled, or more easily, the boiling water and milk powder I used in the original recipe. Then I discovered that I could make it even easier by mixing the fine powdered economy milk powder into the flour, and just using water. Which is easily got from the kettle and the tap. Simples!

Use yoghurt instead of milk if you have run out of milk or milk powder

I had not been shopping, I only had a little bit of milk powder, and very little liquid milk, but I did have some Greek yoghurt in the fridge. I used the milk powder for the sponge, and used 100g yoghurt with 100ml water to the main bulk mix. The dough is slightly stickier, and easier to knead in a machine than by hand, and the crust softens when it cools.But that isn't always a bad thing, and the flavour is lovely.

Knead by machine if you have one.

I admit I have resisted buying a stand mixer for a long time, due to the expense to be honest. But I succumbed and bought myself a Kenwood Titanium as my Christmas and Birthday present this year, and I am so very pleased with the results. I have been kneading on a low setting (1) for 10 minutes and the dough is excellent. I would always use Dan's quick knead method if I didn't have the machine around, but to be honest, I am getting such good lift and tension in the dough, I can only recommend you to use if you have one.

Allow it to rise properly

I have started allowing my bulk proof to really swell up, to nearly 3 times the original volume. It definitely helps having somewhere warm to put it, draughts are no friend to bread dough. I treat the dough quite gently when I turn it out of the bowl, but after deflating it gently, it needs to be

Shaped tightly

Make sure that you maintain a distinction between the sides of your dough. One side will form a good skin with tight shaping, and you need to keep this on the same side, folding and shaping the dough to tighten this skin to make the bread rise properly. Have a look in Jeffrey Hamelman for really good shaping instructions.

Don't use a silicone sheet to put your bread on

When I baked the bloomer, I thought putting the bread on a silicone sheet would help it not stick, but I didn't realise that it would stop it from browning and cooking properly underneath. The heat of the metal seems necessary, and the finish on the bottom of the tin loaf was much better. I took the loaf off the silicon, turned it upside down and finished it off that way to give it a crust underneath. Sadly, this made the top flat!

I hope these tips help, do let me know, and let me know any tips you have too please. I'm still learning, I need all the help I can get!

The best of A Greedy Piglet: Even Lighter White Bread!

This is certainly one to try again soon, easy to forget that mashed potato is used to improve white bread in many cultures, this one uses potato flour but I might try with mashed potato flakes and see what that does.


Trying new flours and slightly different methods to see how they will affect the softness of the milky white bread, this is the softest yet, and possibly as soft as I want to get. The crust is very thin light and soft, so would make excellent rolls.

Basic recipe is the same as the Milky Loaf here.. but I used 250g Strong flour, 200g 00 flour, and 50g potato flour (farine or fecule). Liquid was 350ml of finger hot water with 4 HEAPED tbs of milk powder and 60g butter.

Mixing was slightly different in that I folded rather than kneaded. So autolysed for 50 mins (cos I forgot it again..) then 2 lots of folding at 20 min intervals. Tightly shaped into ovals, and put side by side on a baking tray for 40 mins. Baked for 20 mins at Mk 7, reducing to 20 mins at Mk4.

The extra milk powder and butter together with the small amount of potato flour make a tight soft crumb ideal for sandwiches. It has a high level of natural sugars, so toasts quickly. A bread that is easy to eat for small children I would think.

The best of A Greedy Piglet: my top tips with a Milky White and a Milky Brown

 First of the tip sheets I wrote a couple of years ago,  still valid. Lovely loaves I made back then! Nicer than the ones I am making now I think.... I need to read my own tips again!


I am loving making bread again. I had forgotten how satisfying it is to have a freshly baked loaf sitting on top of its tin cooling down.

I have also been searching for several years for a loaf that Bob would enjoy, and I have found it. Hurray!!

It makes brilliant Poppy Seed rolls as well:

The White Milk Loaf, almost as per Dan Lepard's Milk Bread recipe in The Handmade Loaf. I use skimmed milk powder, as I don't always have fresh milk enough in the fridge, more butter than he does, and the liquid is hotter. But I do use his brilliant method. And I have tried this out as well with a mix of flours to get a light soft brown loaf.

I really recommend getting Dan's book, there are some amazing recipes.
And whilst you are waiting for your copy to arrive from Amazon, here are my top tips for making brilliant bread.

Tip one, make sure the flour and yeast is thoroughly soaked in the liquid before you start to knead. You will do this by roughly mixing it together into a shaggy mass. The easiest thing by far for this is a Danish dough whisk, which you can get at Bakery Bits . Get the smaller one for household quantities, it is easier to use.

Tip two, if you don't already use it discover Quick yeast -- Dove Farm is my favourite, easily available in the supermarket and in a little tetrapack box not a sachet, so easier to use how much you need. I keep my opened pack in an airtight plastic box. You add it to the flour, not the liquid and it is foolproof. (Well, I add rapidly, I have never had a failure with it, in years of breadmaking.) If you have time, use less yeast and more rising time, if you are short of time, add more yeast but expect the bread to stale a bit quicker.

Tip three, don't be scared of salt. Sea salt is the optimum you will read, but I find the crystals hard to dissolve, and I don't want shards of salt in my bread. So I just use ordinary table salt (the cheapest kind, which has no additives). Make sure you use enough. Bread with no salt is disgusting. ( Don't ask the Italians about this though, as they love their saltless bread, but then they eat it with salty salami and proscuitto)

Tip four, forget about heavy kneading. Kneading is designed to strengthen the gluten and it does, but time is what really helps the gluten. So you are only kneading for 10 seconds (or to a fastish count of 20, which is what I do.) Then you will rest for about 20 minutes, and 10 second knead again. Do this another time, and then let the bread rest and prove for about half an hour. Then shape it and let it rise again for about an hour (if it is warm) or an hour and a half (if the weather is a bit chillier).

Tip five, shape properly. For a tin loaf, you want a good tight skin on the outside of the bread, and the inside to be full of evenly distributed small bubbles. For a looser bread like focaccia or ciabatta you are aiming at lots of large light bubbles. You will find lots of good information on shaping bread on the internet, I love The Fresh Loaf forum, and Dan's own forum for really good links to resources and amazingly knowledgeable people happy to share their knowledge with us.

Tip six, wash all your stuff in cold water. Honestly, you will thank me for this tip more than any other. Hot water cooks the flour. And use your dough scraper in the cold water to clean your bowl. The curve of your dough scraper ( you do have a dough scraper, yes? I cut mine out of icecream cartons btw..) fits the curve of the bowl to quickly remove all the doughy bits. You can then tip the water away with all the sticky bits in it and either wash the bowl in hot water as usual or stick it in the dishwasher.

I'd be delighted to hear your tips to add to mine, please comment and let me know what you think makes the best bread?
Milky Bread

Recipe Type: Bread
Author: based on a Dan Lepard recipe
Excellent crusty Farmhouse type white loaf
  • 350g Strong Bread Flour
  • 150g tipo 00 Italian Flour , or any soft plain wheat flour.
  • 100 ml boiling water
  • 200 ml room temperature water
  • 200g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 150g Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 100g tipo 00 Italian Flour, or any soft plain wheat flour
  • 50g Potato flour (not essential but makes a lovely soft loaf, if you don't have it add another 50g Wholemeal flour)
  • 120 ml boiling water
  • 230 ml room temperature water
  • 1tsp fine salt
  • 1.25 tsp instant yeast
  • 4 tablespoons milk powder (I use skimmed milk powder, but any will do)
  • 50g unsalted butter, chopped
  1. Put the flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl. In a jug mix the two waters, and check the temperature. You want it warm blood temperature, or roughly 35 degrees Centigrade.
  2. Add the milk powder and the butter to the water and whisk in. Add the liquid to the flours and mix until a shaggy dough is formed.
  3. Rest for 10-20 mins.
  4. Knead lightly 10 secs/20 times. Return to a clean, lightly oiled bowl , turn over so the top is oily, and cover with a plastic bag. Repeat short kneads 3 times.
  5. Rest for 30 mins.
  6. Shape firmly as required and put into a greased 2lb loaftin, or make rolls (I made 12 from this mix)and put onto a baking tray about an inch apart so that they will kiss when baked.
  7. Rise covered in oiled plastic (the one from the rises will be oily enough) for an hour to an hour and a half depending on the temperature in the room, until the bread is nearly as high as you want it to be but not soft and floppy.
  8. Glaze with milk or egg, scatter with flour or poppy seeds, and bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 7 for 15 mins, then reduce the heat to Gas Mark 4 and continue to bake for 25 mins for bread or 10 mins for rolls.
  9. Check that the bread comes away from the tin easily, and is good and brown and crusty on the underside, and cool thoroughly on a rack before cutting and eating.

The Best of A Greedy Piglet: Giardinera - the Very Best Pickles!

It is that time of year again, and I need to make more pickles for the autumn and maybe for Christmas... although these are so good that I will make a lot more than last year. 

One thing I did find last year was that for two of us the 1 litre Kilner jars I used were too big, and the pickles got soft in the fridge before they were eaten up.  This year I will be making in much smaller jars. I still haven't found any commercially made pickles here in the UK as good as these. If you give them a go, do please let me know. I love feedback on my favourite recipes.


I have a husband who is half Italian, and whenever we went to Italy, we would always pick up jars of pickled vegetables, slightly sweet, in an oily vinegar. He loves them, but similar types bought over here have always been too sharp and vinegary for his taste. For years I have promised to try making them, and never got around to it.. but this year, for Christmas I made some. Oh they are good!

I used a mix of vegetables that included cauliflower, turnip, celery, red and yellow peppers, courgette and carrot. Here they are cut up nicely in their little bowls waiting to go in order into their vinegar bath:

I find it easier to keep them all separate so that I can add them to the vinegar bath in the right order - the carrot, turnip and celery first, cook for a couple of minutes, then the cauliflower, one minute more and lastly, I added the red and yellow peppers and the courgettes off the heat. I like the vegetables rather on the crunchy side, if you prefer them a little softer then cook a little longer. The vinegar bath should be kept on a simmer rather than a full rolling boil as you don't want to reduce it too much.

Importantly, don't cool the vegetables in the hot vinegar, as they will continue to cook. Take them out with a slotted spoon and fill into sterilised Kilner jars, adding a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary to each jar. When the vinegar is cooled right down to no more than lukewarm, then give it a stir and fill the jars covering the vegetables completely then seal. If you don't have enough seasoned vinegar, top up each jar with plain wine or spirit vinegar. I keep them just on the shelf until they are opened, when I prefer to keep the jar in the fridge.

To fill 3 medium Kilner jars

250g each of carrots, turnips, red/yellow peppers, courgettes, celery, cauliflower cut into bite sized slices/pieces
500 ml white wine or cider vinegar
500 ml spirit vinegar (white or distilled vinegar in the US I believe)
100 ml olive oil
80g sugar
40g salt (I just use the cheapest salt as it is dissolved, try for one with no additives)
One bay leaf and one sprig of rosemary per jar
Three medium or four smaller Kilner jars, sterilised.
  • Combine the vinegars, oil, salt and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • Add the vegetables starting with the carrots, celery and turnips. Cook 2 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook one minute more.
  • Remove from heat and add peppers and courgettes off the heat. Allow to sit off the heat for two minutes. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and fill into kilner jars, making sure there is a good mix of different vegetables in each jar.
  • Allow the vinegar to cool to room temperature and then fill into the jars, completely covering the vegetables (if there is not quite enough vinegar to cover top up with more plain vinegar, either wine or spirit, whichever is to hand). Seal and keep for up to three months. Keep in the fridge once opened.
Eat with cold meats and cheese... or just nick bits straight out of the jar!

Back to basics... A nice white English style bread, Simple.

I have been making sourdough bread all the time recently, but I suddenly have a yearning for a simple milky white bread again.

It doesn't keep as well as sourdough, so needs to be made more often, but that isn't really a bad thing. The hydration (proportion of liquid to the flour) is less with these very English breads, and that makes for a tighter crumb. A crumb that is suited more to English sandwiches and toast than open, airy sourdough, which is much better for scooping and dipping olive-oily mixes.

The basic bread is pretty much the same, the only difference between these two is in the liquids.

First off, I made some poppy seed rolls. Perfect for cheese and tomato rolls, and for bacon with tomato ketchup for breakfast.

These lasted around two days in the bread bin, but they aren't long keepers, so I wouldn't want to keep them any longer, although they freeze well.

So next up, proper English loaves made in small loaf tins (these are mini loaves, I used a quarter of the dough for each of these, and the other half in a 1lb tin for a little bit bigger slice),

And here is a close up of the crumb of the loaves

There is room in our baking lexicon for all kinds of bread. Don't let us forget this kind of bread by only making "artisan" style bread.  Raise the flag (the old style Union Flag, even if Scotland leave the Union) for English bread!

Buttermilk / Whey Bread


150g bread flour
150g water
1 tsp instant yeast

Mix this together roughly and leave to get bubbly and well risen for 2-4 hours depending on your schedule

Main dough:

350g Bread flour (I use an equal mix of Canadian extra strong and bread flour or 00 pasta flour)
160g liquid : 
for rolls I used water with 1 tbs buttermilk powder (or use half fresh buttermilk, half water)
for loaves I used whey from straining home made full cream milk yoghurt, or you could use half fresh yoghurt and half water
All of the yeast sponge above
Additional quarter tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
half tsp malt powder (optional)
1 tablesp milk powder (optional, but makes for a lovely flavour)
rolls:  1 tablespoon oil (I used cold pressed rapeseed oil, but any oil is fine)

Mix the sponge and liquids first of all and then add the flour, salt, yeast, malt and milk powder (if using) and mix roughly to a soft dough, either by machine or by hand.  Let it rest for half an hour and then knead in your favourite way (lots of tips on kneading in my earlier post on the old Greedy Piglet site on white bread and more tips here , both of which I will move here shortly).  Allow to rise for approximately 2 hours until at least doubled in size.  Deflate gently by patting flat on the worktop, and then divide either into 12 rolls or shape to fit one 2lb loaf tin, 2 x 1 lb loaf tins or 4 mini loaf tins, or a mixture of these shapes.   Start the oven heating now to Gas Mark 7 425/220 degrees.

Shaping rolls:
Cut the dough into chunks (I work to about 12 for this amount of dough, cutting in half then half again then half again) and roll into rough rounds. Leave for about 10 mins and then shape by patting flat, turning the corners to the middle a couple of times, turn so the seams are underneath and then rolling with a cupped hand on the (unfloured) worktop.  Pop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash (1 egg in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a splash of water). Cover very lightly with cling film and allow to proof for half an hour then egg wash again and sprinkle with poppy seeds - sesame seeds are also nice, maybe with a couple of nigella seeds too for a Turkish flavour.  Bake for around 15 mins until golden brown.

Shaping bread. 

Divide the dough into the sizes your tins dictate. Flatten gently and then shape by folding corners to middle then turning top third down and then bottom third up to make an oblong. Flatten gently again and fold top down to bottom, sealing the bottom edge firmly with the base of your hand. Drop into the greased loaf tin and cover with cling film or a clean shower cap and allow to proof for around an hour or until the bread is just peeking over the top of the tin. Slash down the middle if you like, or not if you don't like, dust with flour, and bake for around 45 mins.

Cool both shapes on a rack out of the tins until thoroughly cool.

Or until just about warm enough for the butter not to melt too much. Yummy.