Your first recipe

This recipe is reproduced with the kind permission of Dan Lepard
and produces the “Mill loaf”. It can be found in his excellent book “The Handmade Loaf”.

I’m going to assume that you’re going to bake on a Sunday, and lets say that your leaven arrived on Thursday. You’ve completed the steps when your leaven arrived, and it’s sitting quite happily in the fridge, fermenting away. If it wasn’t a Thursday, then just do what I suggested when it arrives, then do it again 2 days before you bake – you want it in really good condition.

On Saturday morning, take it out of the fridge, and scrape all your leaven into a big bowl, yes all of it. Add 200 grams of room temp water, and mix in well. Then add 200 grams of strong white bread flour, and mix again until incorporated. Cover it with cling film and put it somewhere cool (not the fridge), then wash your kilner jar. It wont want to mix at first, but just cut across the leaven with a spoon and be a bit vigourous

wet mixing

On Sunday morning when you get up, do the following (you choose the time of course, I’m not the boss of you)

9am – take your leaven  and weigh out 500 grams into a clean large bowl. You’ll have a small amount left, put that back in the kilner jar, and back into the fridge to forget about it for a few days.

add 550 grams of water (room temp) to your ready weighed 500 grams of leaven and mix well.

weigh out 600 grams of flour (strong white) and 400 grams of a mixed grain malted type flour and 2 1/2 tsp of salt (don’t use table salt, it’s rank, and has anti-caking agent in it. Use a decent one like Maldon and grind it up in a pestle and mortar, it needs to be really fine) give the dry ingredients a mix with a fork, then chuck them into your water/leaven mix.

mix all this together, turning the bowl all the time until such point that you need to get your hands in it and really squish it together. Don’t be shy. You want all the water to be incorporated and all the flour evenly distributed. It’ll be sticky and a bit alien-like, but fear not.

Once its all incorporated, cover the bowl with a tea towel and wash your hands of the sticky dough that’s attached itself. Set your timer for 10 minutes and make a cup of tea, or do whatever it is you do to kill ten minutes (no smutty jokes).

when you hear the beep, put 2 drops of oil (olive or groundnut) on your work surface, and rub it round til you have a 12 inch-ish circle. Don’t use more than 2 drops, it’s all you need. take your dough and turn it out onto the surface. For ten seconds ONLY use the heel of your hand to push the bit nearest to you away from you, and over the main lump of dough. then turn it a quarter turn and do it again, then again, until you get back to the beginning. Wash our your bowl, dry it, put a touch of oil in it and rub it round then chuck your dough back in, and cover with a cloth for another ten minutes.

how to knead

do the kneading again – remember, only for ten seconds. cloth goes back on. timer also goes back on for another ten minutes.

knead again, same thing – 10 seconds. then set your timer for 30 minutes.

when the times up, knead it again, cover the bowl and set your timer for an hour.

when you hear the beep, weigh your dough, then divide it into two – you can do this with a really sharp knife, its a piece of piss. Cut it though, don’t tear it.

shape each piece into a ball. you do this by taking the dough, patting it out a bit (don’t go mad) then pulling the sides into the middle and pressing down so you’re effectively stretching it a little. place your dough balls seam side down on your floured surface. The next bit is the folding, so watch this really professionally made, no-expense-spared video and you will be a master in no time.


So, your dough is now happily in your tins, cover with ripped plastic bag but don’t let the plastic touch the dough. Leave it for about 3 hours. You want it to double in size. Don’t get wound up about this because at first you won’t know exactly when it’s “ready”. You’re not dealing with commercial yeast so it isn’t critical. It also depends on the temperature of your kitchen, the weather and overall atmospheric conditions. In my kitchen it takes between 2 and a half to 3 hours on a fine day. After the second hour turn on your oven to full whack so the oven is up to temperature when the dough has proved. It’s actually better to put in the oven when it’s under proved than over proved – if you leave it too long it may collapse in the oven.

Just before you put the tins in the pre-heated oven you must do two things, both are critical so pay attention at the back. Your dough needs steam. Comercial bakeries have special ovens which have steam jets on timers, but you don’t, so you have to compromise. You need steam in the oven to stop the crust from forming too soon, which would prevent a decent rise. You also want it because it helps to develop the crust texture and flavour.

Take off the plastic bags from the dough, and with a spray mister set on fine spray, give both lots of dough a good spray with water – you want them to glisten but not be drowned, so about 3-4 sprays each. Then open the oven door and spray water inside the oven – about 8 fast pumps of the trigger (no sniggering) then quickly but smoothly place your tins on the oven shelf (no baking sheet, just on the bars) and gently but quickly close the door and turn the temp down to 220. Time it for 15 minutes. When it beeps, turn down the oven to 180 and cook for about an hour. Because you’re a nosy git you’ll want to look through the oven window. Yes! it’s risen. As you dance up and down on the spot feeling super clever and smug about what you’ve done you’ll then start to worry that the tops of the loaves are going really brown. Don’t worry, you want this for a proper crust as opposed to a hideous, inspid, soft, miserable, dysfunctional “crust” found on supermarket loaves.

After an hour take our your tins. With an oven glove or whatever turn out your loaves – you might have to give them a strong tap on the bottom (oh yes). If you then hold the loaf, topside town and tap the base of the loaf, you’ll hear that it sounds hollow, and this is your indication that it’s cooked, and you are now a bread god. Your breadmaker can be relegated to the cupboard under the stairs, or (better) the tip. As they cool you will hear them – it’s the crust cracking, it’s quite pleasant actually.

Wait for them to get fully cold, and slice them. Don’t eat it hot, you’ll get worse indigestion than Mr Creosote.

I normally slice them up and put the whole sliced loaf in a freezer bag, seal the end and bung in the freezer. But you’ll no doubt want to taste it before you do that, so go on, you know you want to you little minx. If you don’t want to slice it all just put it in an airtight bag but keep it mind that it’ll only last about 3 days max because there’s no fat or preservative in it. if you don’t want to freeze it, and want a loaf that lasts for a week, when you start your recipe substitute 20 grams of good olive oil for 20 grams of water.

This is how it should look – note the air captured in the grain, and the fab chewy crust (don’t even think about cutting off the crust when you eat it, it’s got bags of flavour, and chewing it helps digestion) Note too that it’s pretty rustic.

slice img_03651

Keep in mind that due to the manual folding process of the dough that when it goes into the super hot temperature of the oven, that the CO2 produced can do funny things to the bread – it can tear it in odd places (usually the side with loaves) but don’t worry, it just adds to its character and chewy crust.

it’s excellent toasted, but as there is no sugar added to it it can take a while to brown, far slower than sugar laden loaves of awfulness.

So there you have it. No commercial yeast, no preservatives, no nonsense. Just flour, water, salt and natural leaven.



32 responses to “Your first recipe

  1. Another stupider than stupid question!

    Recipe calls for adding all your leaven to the water and flour on the Saturday. I’ve just used a load for the G&P rolls and refreshed.

    How do I know i’ve got enough to make bread again? Is there a weight I should be about? (please don’t laugh at me!)

    • ok, you start with your leaven in a jar. you then add your big refresh. You need 500 or so grams of leaven for your main recipe, so you weigh out that in your big bowl, and put the remainder back into your jar after you ve washed it. if youre not sure, before you do your big refresh, weigh out whats in the jar before adding the water and flour. if you have 150 grams of it, you know you need say, 250 and 250, to give your 500, then you are certain you ll be left with 150.

  2. My loaves taste fabulous but a bit chewy, didn’t rise as much as the pictures and the crust didn’t crack.

    What should I do next time to make it better? nb: my oven isn’t a fan one.

    • what temp was your oven? how long did you leave it to prove and did you follow all the steps? did you refresh your leaven as per the recipe etc?

      • Oven was as the recipe. Highest temp it goes up to is 500F.

        I followed all the steps but think i may have lost it a bit on the shaping.
        Differences were: I didn’t have cling film so it was uncovered for a couple of hours until i got some, It was in the cupboard as that was the only coolish place i could find but it was a pretty warm day. It was hugely bubbly the morning I baked. I proved for about 2 1/2 hours and the dough came up to the top of the tins.

        I did leave it for more than 2 days before baking would that have made the difference? I wasn’t sure whether to refresh again and then wait or just go ahead. I asked Flowery so blame her!

        Appreciate any help you can give.

        • dont use cling film, you need a split bag or similar so it isnt touching the dough. what could have hapened is in the time it was covered, it developed a skin which prevented a full prove. also the time spent proving needs to be longer, they need to double in size

          • Sorry the cling film was for the overnight starter bit. I did use the plastic bags and the didnt touch.

            I’ll try again leaving them to prove longer. Thanks.

  3. I made this a couple of days ago using the leaven I was going to throw away after adding wholemeal flour to it! I used strong white flour and granary and they turned out fairly well :o) Will hopefully be better next time though!

  4. Arses. I’ve realised I’m out of mixed grain flour. I’ve got rye – can I use that? Is there an all-white recipe?

    Also, being superbly organised, I realise I only have one loaf tin. Will it work without a tin?

    • is this for the basic loaf? if so, use 900 white and 100 rye. or all white. yes, you can do it without a tin but the problem is supporting it during the proving. You need a banneton really, but in the absence of one, fold it as tightly as you can without tearing it, set it on a semolina covered tray, flour the top really well and cover with a tea towel. when its proved whoosh it in to the oven. if you dont have semolina, just put the tray straight in with the dough on it. it wont get a mega rise, but it ll be fine.

  5. In answer to a far earlier discussion about the temp of my oven, yes it really is freakishly hot! I made a loaf today and followed the temps on the blog and it’s more than ‘dark brown’ – I only cooked it for 15 and 50 minutes instead of 15 and an hour too, so it would have been charcoal by that time! I can’t say how it tastes yet as it’s still really hot.

    Good news though, I think I got the folding and shaping better – the dough looked quite respectable sitting in the tin instead of slouching around like a great couch potato!

    Guinness and Parmesan rolls for me, either Tuesday or friday I think.

  6. Made the basic recipe but replaced the multigrain flour with spelt flour. Tastes absolutely brilliant – nice light texture too.

  7. I am baking bread this morning and currently on the kned and leave for 30 minutes stage. My dough is still really sticky – is that right or should it be smoother now? I’m still having to wash my hands after each kneading session.

    • yes it will still be fairly sticky. it depends on what flour you ve used in terms of absorption etc but see how it is during th next knead. if it s still really sticky (it shouldnt be by then) then add a sprinkling of flour to your surface and knead again before resting

      • Thanks. I needed to add some flour and they are now prooving. Can’t wait for yummy bread.

        • How is it Westy?

          • Very good. I think I over kneaded because of the stickyness so they were quite dense (they ddn’t rise us much as some of the others I’ve seen) but very yummy. I took some pictures so will send them over. We have already scoffed one of the loaves!

  8. Hey Doughmaster, me again (are you surprised?). Yet another question for you. My latest batch of loaves are utterly delicious as usual but I find myself wanted a lighter, airy texture as a change. Currently the loaves are a little denser and heavier. Could I leave it longer to prove or is there something that I could do to mix things up a little?

    • For a more airy texture, use slightly more water. For the basic recipe, instead of 550g water, use 600, or 550g water + 50g good olive oil. The dough will be a little harder to handle in that it’ll be more sticky, but it will lead to more air. Don’t allow them to over-prove though. Try the ciabbata recipe as well, now that’s air city, airville.

  9. Question for you, o mighty doughmaster. With the basic recipe, is it as simple as substituting more mixed grain flour for white flour if you want a ‘seedier’ loaf? Or could I substitute the white flour for wholemeal?

    • yes and no. helpful eh?! with the proportions of the recipe, mess about with changing the flour in the 400grams, not the 600 white. you need to leave that as it is so that the gluten/leaven mix can work together. if you sub all the white for all wholemeal, you ll get a really really dense loaf. but with the 400g, change that to pretty much whatever you want – just dont use a flour with a really low gluten content. I’m not massively keen on all wholemeal, its very dense when you make it at home. i m just doing some smaller loaves which i ll post up in due course which are more rye based but still a heavy proportion of white.

  10. Question – when preparing the leaven the day before baking, it says to ‘put it in a cool place (not the fridge)’. The next day it says ‘take your leaven from the fridge’. I’m confused.

    • ah sorry, thats my fault. have amended. So, do your big refresh prior to baking the following day, then leave the bowl somewhere cool but not the fridge. After you’ve weighed out your big lot of leaven for the recipe, take the remainder and place it back in your jar, and back in the fridge.

  11. Quick update – the loaf freezes beautifully. Defrosted a couple of slices in the microwave for lunch and the crust stayed crusty.

  12. When I’ve done the Saturday morning routine, do I put my leaven back in the clean Kilner jar and then into the fridge?

    • Do the big feed on sat am, leave the wge thing somewhere cool for the rest if the day and overnight, then on sun a , weigh out your 500g leaven for the recipe and put the remainder back in the jar, and into the fridge

  13. well then..
    I’ve followed this technique with Jobe and I have to say I’ve had some really nice compliments on my latest loaves.
    Friends over for dinner tonight, and they both said how much better the crust and crumb was.

  14. Jim Jim the dog faced boy

    Very good – taking a couple of pictures along the way that I’ll email over so you can upload. One thing I’ve noticed so far – having a bigger mixing bowl would make life easier! First knead done with and the dough was easy to work.

  15. Jim Jim the dog faced boy

    Are the cooking temps for fan assisted ovens or do I need to adjust downwards?

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