Paul Hollywood is pretty much the ‘King of Bread’. So what did I make of his instructions on how to make a White Bloomer loaf? And more importantly, could I create anything like the loaf I actually wanted to eat?
I’ve had success with his crumpet recipe before, so when searching for a decent but basic white loaf… I knew where to start.
I have the Kindle e-book version of “Paul Hollywood’s Bread” and the very first recipe is a Bloomer. Simply titled and introduced by saying “If you’re new to bread-making this is a good recipe to start with.”
Now this recipe (in a basic form) appears on the BBC Food website – BUT – a “White Cob” is available on Paul’s website. Want to know the difference between the two? The Cob has 3g more of fast-action yeast and swaps olive oil for butter. And actually… I like butter in bread recipes. So guess what?
Yeah, I swapped the olive oil for butter in the Bloomer recipe. I also added some vital wheat gluten to up the content of my German 550 flour, as I prefer the texture it helps to create. German flour is a little weak on protein for this.
The instructions are roughly the same between the Bloomer and Cob recipes too, though the book version is more descriptive and I found it more helpful for a novice baker. Which I am.
I’ve since found a Paul Hollywood video tutorial for this loaf! The link’s at the bottom of this post. However in this review, I’ll be comparing the book Bloomer recipe with the Cob recipe on Paul’s website.
You’ll see Paul specifies to mix the ingredients together by hand – and I’m sorry, I just can’t. Much as I love food, I can’t deal with the sticky, clingy aspect of bringing a dough together. My temptation is to add more flour, which results in a heavier bread in the end. To avoid those basic bread making pitfalls, I use my hand mixer with dough hook attachments.
It took around 10 minutes to get the dough into a reasonably unsticky state with my method. I did finish this dough off by kneading on a work surface, though my second attempt at this bread was kneaded entirely with the hand mixer. As my second loaf was lighter than my first, I can’t say it harmed the bread-making process.
Around 2 hours and 30 minutes later, my dough had grown into a beautifully risen bread monster. Not that you can tell, but tapping this dough left no indent. It bounced back straight away, like the skin of a drum. It’s actually fairly fun but you should probably resist the urge to play with it…
The shaping instructions between the two recipes are slightly different. The Bloomer requires the baker to ‘rock the loaf gently’ to shape it, whilst the Cob asks for a smoothing and tucking action. The first time around I admit to struggling with this quite a bit – I couldn’t for the life of me get my dough to be smooth and taut over the top. I got pissed off at my inability to shape a lump of dough and decided to leave it as it was, before causing any further damage and overworking it. After all, appearance isn’t the most important thing about bread.
The second time I approached this loaf the shaping was far easier. If I was to pinpoint what went better? I was more decisive and decided that my first try was the only one the dough was getting. As long as the dough is tight enough around the surface to hold its shape and evenly formed enough for a consistent bake, I suspect you’re fine.
Mr. Hollywood specifies to put the whole tray inside a large, clean plastic bag to prove the dough for a second time. I’m not sure where he shops, but my plastic bags are not that big! Instead, I dusted lightly with flour and draped a tea towel back over. This worked for me on both occasions, so don’t get all stressed if you too cannot source gigantic plastic bags. Your tea towel will do the job.
When it comes to baking prep, the instructions are simple. Heat oven, add an empty tray to the bottom. Sprinkle the loaf with some water, gently smoothing over and dusting with flour. Use a sharp knife to slash the surface of the dough, giving the bread room for expansion (rather than letting your dough crack at the sides). Pop some hot water into the pre-heated tray (it creates steam, helping to form that crisp crust) and stick your loaf in the oven.
The last difference between the Bloomer and Cob comes with the baking. His book suggests a higher temperature for 25 minutes, followed by another 10-15 minutes at a lower temperature. The Cob recipe just goes for it, 30 minutes on high.
I like the Bloomer recipe from Paul Hollywood’s Bread. It’s creates a loaf with a really crisp crust and soft, flavoursome interior. I’m not sure this particular effort would pass a Paul Hollywood inspection, but then he’s not the one eating it – and I was fairly happy with my first attempt here.
I mean, it looks like a loaf, the crust didn’t crack and there are no unwanted large air pockets. Importantly though, it tasted good!
The loaf pictured here was my first attempt and it was a little on the dense side (see: frustrated loaf shaping) but the second one was perfect. Light and fluffy and full of flavour. It’s best eaten on the same day but makes utterly fabulous toast, even on the second day when the crust has softened up.
If you’re looking for a toastie serving suggestion… How about butter basted turkey breast slices, grilled and thinly sliced, combined with your favourite tomato chutney and cheeses? Mozzarella, cheddar, butterkäse. Whatever you like, it’s all good.
Yeah, I absolutely make this loaf just for the toasties.
If you’re looking for a basic shaped bread loaf, this Paul Hollywood recipe is one I’d recommend. Do you have a favourite, go-to loaf recipe? Drop your recommendations in the comments below!
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