Paul Hollywood’s Bloomer Recipe

Bloomer Last night I watched the first episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread and today I baked some bread.  Me?  Influenced by television?  Never!  Unless it is a cookery programme that is.

Paul baked a beautiful bloomer and so did I.  Try it, it couldn’t be simpler but you do need some time – it is left to prove twice for around two hours each time.

The hardest thing about this loaf is leaving it to cool before you eat it!


500g / 1lb 2oz Strong White Flour, plus extra for kneading

10g / ¼oz Salt

1 x 7g sachet of Instant Yeast

320ml / 11½ fl oz Cold Water

40ml / 2¾ fl oz Olive Oil, plus extra for kneading

extra Oil and Flour, for kneading


Place the flour in a bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side of the bowl taking care not to have them touching. Add the oil and 240ml / 9fl oz of water.

Mix the ingredients together with your hands. Gradually add the remaining water (you may not need it all), until all the flour is incorporated and you have a soft, rough dough.

Pour a little oil onto a clean work surface. Sit the dough on the oil and begin to knead. Do this for 5-10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth. Place the dough into a clean, oiled bowl, cover tightly with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours or until more than doubled in size.

Once risen, place the dough onto a floured surface. Knock the dough back by folding it in on itself repeatedly and pressing with your knuckles. Do this until all the air is knocked out and the dough is smooth.

To shape into the bloomer, flatten the dough into a rectangle. With the long side facing you fold each end into the middle then roll like a Swiss roll so that you have a smooth top with a seam along the base. Very gently roll with the heal of your hands.

Place on a tray lined with baking paper, cover and leave to prove for a further 2 hours at room temperature. It should be doubled in size.

Lightly spray the loaf with water and dust with a little flour. Make four diagonal slashes using a sharp knife across the top.

Preheat the oven to 220 °C / 425°F / Gas Mark7

Place a baking tray filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven – this will create steam when the loaf is baking. Place the loaf on the middle shelf and bake for 25 minutes. After this time lower the heat to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

You can find the original recipe here along with some technique videos.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

There’s nothing particularly clever about these cookies – you’ve probably got all the ingredients in the cupboard and they’re so easy to make you can let the kids loose in the kitchen.  They may even save one for you!


2 oz / 50 g smooth or crunchy Peanut Butter

2 oz / 50 g Butter (softened)

4 oz / 100 g Golden Caster Sugar

1 Egg (beaten)

4 oz / 100 g Plain Flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

2 oz / 50g Chocolate Chips (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Cream together the sugar, butter and peanut butter.

Add the egg and mix well.

Fold in the flour and baking powder and stir in the chocolate chips if you are using them. Shape into walnut sized balls and place, well spaced apart, onto a baking sheet (lined with grease proof paper). Flatten each ball out a little with the back of a fork.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight box.


Malt Loaf Recipe

Malt loaf was always a lunch box favourite for my daughters and they loved its sticky, slightly chewy texture and malty flavour.  I loved it because it was cheap, filling, always got eaten and there was invariably a slice left for me!

It follows a great tradition of British fruit cakes in that the dried fruit is first soaked in tea for moisture and flavour, as in a Welsh Bara Brith or Irish Barm Brack but there the similarity ends; this is much more dense and sticky and is given a distinctive flavour by the addition of malt extract..

I don’t really know how to describe the flavour of malt extract – it is very sweet and has a kind of treacly bitterness but with a background hint of almost Marmitey savouriness.  I’m not really selling it am I?

It is considered a health food and, if you know your Winnie the Pooh you may remember that Kanga fed it to Roo each day as “strengthening medicine”.  It is often added to cod liver oil to make it more palatable and it is also used in beer making so it can’t be all bad!

You might find it in your local supermarket (I didn’t) but if not you should be able to get it in any health food shop.

Malt extract is a bit tricky to handle in the same way that treacle is – if you try to spoon it, it sticks to the spoon creating long threads which develop a mind of their own.  It becomes much more obedient if you warm it slightly before using it.  Stand the jar in a bowl of hot (not boiling) water for a minute or two and you should be able to spoon the extract out or even pour it straight from the jar into the mixing bowl.  Oiling the spoon may help a little too.

This malt loaf is absolutely delicious served cold with a scraping of butter.  It really doesn’t need the butter but then again – what has need got to do with it?  Enjoy.


300g / 11 oz Mixed Dried Fruits

175g / 6 oz Malt Extract

85g / 3 ½ oz Dark Muscovado Sugar

150ml / 5 fl oz Hot Black Tea

2 Large Eggs, beaten

250g / 9 oz Plain Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda


Makes 2 x 1lb loaves or 1 x 2lb loaf.

Grease the loaf tin(s).  Cut a strip of greaseproof paper the same width as the tin and use it to line the base and ends.

Weigh the dried fruit, sugar and malt extract into a mixing bowl and pour over the hot tea.  Stir well, cover and set aside to rest in a cool place for at least two hours or overnight.  If you are in a hurry you can skip the resting phase and continue with the recipe but you may find that the fruit has a tendency to sink to the bottom of your loaf.

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2

Add the beaten eggs to the fruit mixture and mix well.  Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together.  Add to the fruit mix, stir well and pour the mixture into the prepared tin(s).

Bake the 1 lb loaves for 50 minutes (1 hour and 20 minutes for a 2lb loaf) until firm and well risen.  A knife inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.

If you wish you can warm a tablespoon of malt extract in a bowl over hot water and use it to glaze the top of the still warm loaf.  This will give it a glossy shine and a sticky texture.

Remove the malt loaf from the tin(s) and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Once it is completely cool it is best to wrap it and store it in an airtight container for a day or two as it gets even more sticky and delicious with keeping.  Alternatively you can wrap it first in greaseproof paper and then in foil and freeze it at this stage.  It will keep in the freezer for 3 – 4 months – leave it to defrost at room temperature overnight before eating.

Serve it sliced and buttered.

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Baking Baguettes at Home


A friend of ours – hello Nigel – recently returned from a holiday in France where he and his family had enjoyed long lazy lunches in the sunshine.  On returning to a slightly damper and greyer Cornwall they decided to recreate a favourite French lunch in order to prolong that holiday feeling.

It is really easy to find great French cheeses or even to source their British counterparts (I love Cornish brie and camembert) and every deli worth its salt will stock at least one wonderful pate but Nigel really struggled to find an authentic baguette.  I can sympathise – over the years I’ve had soggy, underbaked pain de campagne and baguettes so crisp they are all crust and no bread.

Our own love affair with baguettes began on a family camping trip to Brittany back in 1989.  Each morning we would walk down to the shop to buy freshly baked bread and Madame would squeal with delight as our daughters, then aged 3 and 18 months, would each greet her with  a very proud and serious “Bonjour Madame, comment ca va?” We would then wend our way back to the tent with each girl clutching a baguette in the vertical position.  We had to throw away each end of the loaves as one end would always have been nibbled and the other grazed along the ground.

So when Nigel challenged me to find the perfect baguette recipe I had to accept.  Thus started the research and the more I read the more daunted I began to feel.  The general consensus of French artisanal bakers is that baguettes cannot be baked at home – domestic ovens are not big enough and something gets lost in the process of making a smaller baguette.  With a slightly ironic gallic shrug I resigned myself to baking a less than perfect loaf.  Bread also tastes different when baked in traditional stone ovens – I’m afraid I don’t have one but for once my trusty Rayburn might actually be an advantage.

Every recipe I found used exactly the same ingredients – flour, salt, yeast and water – but in such varying quantities and combinations that I didn’t really know where to start.  The simplest recipes I found had all been written by English, Australian or American bakers – the more complicated ones were French.  I decided that authenticity is probably a complicated business so opted to focus only on the French.

A couple of recipes called for a starter to be made the night before.  I know that long slow proving can really improve the flavour of a loaf so figured this was an essential step.  Apart from that my recipe is a bit of a mixture of 3 or 4 others that I read.  Most recipes call for French bread flour but I confess that I used ordinary strong white bread flour – I don’t know what difference the “real thing” would make but I couldn’t find any locally.  I could have, but didn’t, order it on line.

I bought a baguette tin especially for this recipe (actually it is sillicone not tin) and that did the job really well.  You can sprinkle a tea towel with flour and fold it to create a cradle for your bread to rise in but I tried this and it sounds easier than it is!

Overall, this recipe is lengthy and time consuming with multiple risings – you need to make the starter the evening before you want to bake the bread and even if you start early next day it will be mid-afternoon before you can eat your bread.  As I’m used to making soda bread (40 mins from weighing to eating) this seems excessive for a regular bake.

So was it worth it?  I loved the research and enjoyed the baking and the eating!  My bread was not as good as an authentic French baguette (but they come accompanied by a large serving of sunshine and lazy afternoons) but it was much better than anything I have bought here in the UK.  As always – the only way to judge for yourself is to give it a go.

Over to you Nigel…


Makes three 15” baguettes


4 fluid ounces / 120 ml cool water

1/16 tsp Fast Action Bread Yeast (yes just one sixteenth of a teaspoon)

4 ¼ oz / 120g Strong White Bread Flour


1 tsp Fast Action Bread Yeast

8 fluid ounces / 240 ml Lukewarm Water

15 oz / 420g Strong White Bread Flour

1 ½ tsp salt


Day 1   Make the starter

Mix the yeast with the water in a medium sized bowl and stir a few times.

Mix in the flour to give a soft dough.  Cover and set aside to rest for 14 hours at room temperature.  The best time time to do this is the evening before you want to make the bread.

The starter should be well risen and bubbly.  If by any chance it is not then your yeast is probably no longer active and it’s time to buy some more!.

Day 2

Mix the yeast with the water in a large bowl and stir a few times.

Add the flour, salt and all of the starter and mix well until a dough is formed.  This amount of water should be enough so be patient but you may need a little more.  (Apparently you need more water in winter or in a very dry climate!)

Tip the dough onto a work surface and knead well for about 5 minutes until smooth and pliant.

You can of course do all of this in a food mixer using a dough hook.

Place the dough in a very lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 3 hours.  After the first hour has passed gently deflate and turn the dough, re-cover and leave once again to rise.  Repeat after the second hour has passed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and cut into three, equally sized pieces. Shape each piece into a rough oval and flatten it out with your palm.  Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Fold each piece of dough in half lengthways and seal with the heel of your hand.  Flatten out a little and repeat.

With the seam side down, cup your fingers and gently roll each piece of dough into a sausage shape approximately 15” long.

Place each dough “sausage” into the wells of a baguette tin.*

Cover with lighly oiled cling film and leave to rise for around 1 ½ hours until risen and puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time pre-heat the oven to 230 C /450 F /Gas Mark 8

Use a sharp knife to make three long, diagonal slashes in each baguette.

Spritz well with warm water which will help your baguettes to develop a really crispy crust.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until your baguettes are a deep golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Baguettes are best eaten on the day they are made but you can re-crisp them in a hot oven if necessary.

*If you don’t have a baguette tin you can do the final rising in the folds of a floured tea towel – when the dough is fully risen gently roll it from the cloth to a flat baking sheet.

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