Bread week on Tuesday’s Great British Bake Off started with breadsticks. The judges wanted 36 of them, 25cm in length, and made with yeast. A tall order! Breadsticks are known as grissini in Italy where they were invented, and traditionally the breadsticks have to be the same length as the baker’s arm!
Kimberley, Ali and Ruby did really well in this challenge (Ruby’s Mexican Twists pictured above). Their breadsticks had great flavour, a good snap and looked attractive – all the thing the judges were after. Making breadsticks looks pretty tricky, especially making 36 identical ones all of the same length! Uniformity is not an easy thing for a home baker. Rob advised to bake slowly on a low heat to draw all of the moisture out, ensuring a good snap as the breadsticks should not be chewy. Kimberley also mentioned that she had made 200 breadsticks to practise this bake, and it certainly paid off!
Frances again stood out with her creativity and presentation, by making these ‘matchstick’ breadsticks pictured above. Flavoured with ginger, and dipped in chilli chocolate. the judges loved the presentation, although were unsure if the flavours should be used for a breadstick.
The technical challenge was English Muffins – my bake along this week! We learnt that there really was a muffin man back in the 18th century when these were first popular. Following a Paul Hollywood recipe, the bakers were asked for eight English muffins which should be evenly baked, have a chewy texture and light air holes. Poor Howard’s muffin’s suffered an accidental elbowing from Sue!
Bread week isn’t my favourite as bread is not my forte, but I always learn something! Here’s what I learned about English Muffins… The dough for the muffins is very wet and sticky, but you just have to keep working it until smooth. As muffins are made with an enriched dough, this slows down the gluten and so it can be difficult to tell when the dough is proved. It should have air holes and spring back when touched. The proved dough should be handled with care to maintain the air holes. Kimberley advised me not to twist the cutter, and to resist adding more flour to the dough. I’d take her advice as she won this challenge!
For the showstopper a beautifully decorative shaped loaf was requested. The bakers got extremely creative with a Physic Octopus Tribute Loaf (Rob), a White Chocolate & Orange Peacock (Ruby), and a Yin & Yang loaf flavoured with chicken tikka and paneer on one side and white chocolate and apricot on the other side (Ali)! I was really impressed with the level of creativity here and the look of the loaves. Ruby got star baker this week, admittedly I wanted Kimberley to get it as I think she was best overall, but I think it’s a great boost to Ruby’s confidence and definitely deserved for what she produced this episode.
Sadly Lucy’s loaf looked rather unimpressive compared to everyone else’s and after coming last in the technical challenge and her breadsticks being branded as ‘very plain’, she left us this week. I was disappointed to see her go as I enjoyed what she did in week one. It was strange how she really experimented with flavour in the cakes, but her bread flavours were extremely simple. I think sometimes it is hard to please the judges as well as pleasing yourself.
As I mentioned, I’m not the best with bread. I’ve made several things in the past – bagels, pretzels, flatbreads – and they were always yummy, but I find bread quite hard work and it doesn’t come as naturally to me as cakes and other sweet goodies. I decided to follow the technical challenge again this week as I do find my creativity is not as strong when it comes to bread.
I followed a recipe from Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door. She is much more of a natural with bread than me so I trust her opinion! I doubled her recipe to get a few more English Muffins, and I started by dissolving a sachet of dried fast action yeast in 125ml tepid water.
I then added another 125ml of tepid water and 150g natural yoghurt and mixed in until smooth.
In another bowl I weighed out 450g strong white bread flour and 1 tsp salt.
I poured the yeast and yoghurt mixture into the flour and mixed it to form a dough. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes. It was so sticky! I hoped it would start to smooth out, but nothing was happening and I didn’t want to over knead it, so I put it back in the bowl, covered it, and put it in a warm place (my boiler cupboard!) to prove for an hour.
After an hour it had definitely risen, but was still extremely sticky. I was concerned I had done something wrong, but decided to carry on and see what happened. I gently rolled out the dough to 2cm thick, and cut rounds out of it until all the dough was used up. I did have to flour it a bit at this point, but I tried not to go to crazy.
I placed the rounds of dough onto a floured and lined baking tray. It was hard to get neat rounds. I only had a small plastic cutter, I think a larger metal one would have been better. I sprinkled semolina over the rounds, covered with cling film and a tea towel and left for 40 minutes.
It puffed up nicely. I heated a little drizzle of oil, about the size of a 1p piece in a frying pan. I have an electric hob that goes up to number 9, I kept the heat on 4 and this was perfect I thought.
I placed the rounds in the pan in batches, I cooked for 7 minutes (no more than 8) on one side, then flipped.
When they were cooking they puffed up a lot, this is a good sign as it shows there’s air still in the dough.
When I flipped the muffins they had browned nicely.
I cooled them on a cooling rack.
I cut into one to see if it was fully cooked, check out the air holes! Perfection! Light and airy. I was so chuffed when I saw this. All my concerns and doubts about the wet dough went away.
I made 10 muffins from this batch, which I will be enjoying over the weekend. I’m planning on having eggs on them!
I had a little bit with butter on, and was really happy with the texture and taste. I felt good after making these, and it has boosted my confidence with bread. It is a lot of work, and waiting, and for me – worrying! But I felt proud of what I had made at the end so it was definitely worth the journey.
- 1 sachet Dried fast action yeast
- 250ml Tepid Water
- 150g Natural yoghurt
- 450g Strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp Salt