A cunning plan

After a few years of baking, I am confident enough now to experiment with writing my own recipes. Most are essentially the same, involving different blends of flour or additional ingredients like seeds and fruit. Others are based on old tried and tested recipes, which I have then tweaked to make them more healthy, change the flavour, or simply because the recipe did not work out for me the first time around.

Often, when I try a new recipe for the first time, it doesn’t work out exactly how I’d hoped. That’s fine, it just means that one of the key factors – ingredients, time, temperature, shaping – probably needs adjusting next time. Case in point, my last bake: the spelt and black rice loaf. I was aiming for a sandwich loaf, but ultimately did not get the rise I was looking for. Going back over the recipe and what happened, the dough was a little slack throughout and could have probably done with less water. I may have also put it into the oven a little early because I was double-handling and trying to line up some pita breads at the same time.

A double batch of pita breads and a spelt loaf, at the same time, having already run out of cling film... it was never going to end well
A double batch of pita breads and a spelt loaf, at the same time, having already run out of cling film… it was never going to end well

Despite the disappointing shape of the loaf, it still tasted very good, so this is definitely a recipe I will try again, until it works.  Some recipes, such as the spelt ciabatta that I made for Christmas, come out right the first time around. Such is bread. This is the process that I go through when coming up with a recipe:

  1. What do I want out of the bread? Shape, texture, and above all flavour.
  2. Based on that, what ingredients will I use? If I’m going for all out flavour then rye, spelt, and whole grains take the lead, if I want a lighter textured loaf, then white flour will make its way in somewhere.
  3. How long do I have? Do I have the luxury of feeding a sourdough starter over a couple of days and overnighting the dough in the fridge, or will I need to make the dough in one day?
  4. Is it similar to any other recipes that I can borrow from?
  5. Once I have decided on all of the above, it just remains to juggle the ingredients. Water percentage (hydration) is crucial to the texture of the finished loaf, and will also have an impact on the shape. I often change my mind as to whether I will spike the dough with yeast, based on how active my starter is.
  6. Write the recipe.
  7. Bake the bread!
  8. Make a few notes and change the recipe if necessary, ready to try again.
Scribbled notes with ideas and corrections
Scribbled notes with ideas and corrections
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