Basic hearth breads and Orange Syrup Cake

Continued on from yesterday's woodfired oven baking effort, I present the bread report. As I mentioned already, the bake-off was a spur of the moment decision and I jumped right into it before I had a chance to change my mind or make excuses (so easy to do). Therefore, the breads were basic, fast and easy to prepare.

I have a very small selection of much loved bread books in my bookshelf but the ones I keep going back to are Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf. Both of these books are worthy of my humble praise both in the layout, pictures and the wealth of information for new bread bakers. Peter's book (US based), has many 'formulas' for amazing breads using commercial yeast, with the majority of the formulas taking 2 days plus to prepare (a little organisation is needed here!). Dan Lepard's book (UK based), has a fantastic section on sourdough leavens, starting them from scratch, feeding them and baking with them. This is the book to read if you are all about 'old school'. If you are passionate about good homemade bread, I would recommend both of these beautiful books to you.

Yesterday, I made up a batch of dough with the inspiration taken from Dan Lepard's "Quick White Loaf", which is basically a white floured loaf with whole milk as the main proportion of liquid.
I changed the liquid ratios and chose instead to use a mixture of flours for my dough. I ended up using the following:

1800g strong white flour
1100g wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
12 tsp instant dry yeast
6 tsp salt
6 tsp bread improver
1 litre full-cream milk (room temp, UHT)
1litre warm water
3 tbs honey

The dry ingredients were combined in my largest bowl which was only just large enough. The liquids and honey were added and then the whole lot was combined at first with a large metal spoon and then later with my hands...wrist and err... elbows. Just kidding. Only about the elbows though. The hands were the only way and it was really hard work to mix this much dough in one go. Next time I might halve the ingredients into two bowls and mix it in smaller batches. I really don't want to dislocate a wrist in the name of eating well.

The dough kneading took a good 30 minutes by hand and even then I feel it could've done with a bit more, but other things needed doing so this was all it was going to get. The dough was split in two and placed in oiled bowls to rise and covered with oiled clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

As I had placed the doughs into a warm oven to rise, they were puffing out of their bowls an hour later. They were shaped and placed into: 2 x bread pans, 2 x wicker baskets lined with oiled clingfilm (sadly I don't have beautiful, rustic 'bannetons'), and 4 x free-form loaves - 2 with sesame seeds for future garlic breads and 2 rolled in kaipseed mix (sunflower, sesame, poppy and linseed) for sandwiches and toast.

The loaves were well on their way 30 minutes later and needed to be placed in to the fridge to slow down their growth (the woodfired oven wasn't hot enough yet). If using a regular oven the timing wouldn't be so tricky...just bake them when they are ready.

The loaves were baked between 20 and 30 minutes in the hot oven with the coals removed and the heavy door wedged into position. If using an electric (fan-forced) oven, they would be baked for 40-45 minutes at 200-220c, rotating the loaves half way through to create an even crust.

The eight loaves, nearing the end of their baking time. The baking paper makes it easier to slide the dough onto the oven floor and they can be moved if needed, without fear of sticking to the bricks.

Free form loaf with kaipseed mix

An attempt at a 'boule' shaped loaf and this way of scoring. Next time I would like to try a wash to darken and add shine to the crust (salt maybe?)

Once baked and cooled, the loaves were sliced with our small, rickety food slicer and placed into the chest freezer for future consumption. I would be happy if a batch liked this lasted a month (with the occasional store bought or breadmaker loaf in-between). I think I can cope with a bake-off once every four to six weeks. It's just a matter of getting organised and setting aside the time to do it.

Yesterday's bake-off also produced an Orange Syrup cake that was wonderfully moist when eaten warm straight from the oven. It took longer to bake than usual as the temperature was dropping in the oven by the time it went in (150c). I can't remember how long exactly..maybe an hour and 15-20 compared to the 55 minutes it takes in the regular electric oven.

I acquired this recipe years ago when I was working and it is still one of my top favourites. It is big enough to feed a group or one hungry family, and it uses oranges which is great for when you may not have a bundle of lemons or bananas just lying around waiting to be turned into a cake.

Orange Syrup Cake

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated orange zest

1 cup yoghurt or sour cream
1/2 cup orange juice

3 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup orange juice
3 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 180c. Grease and flour a large kugelhopf tin. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add extract and zest.

Combine the yoghurt/sour cream and orange juice together in a bowl and whisk with a fork. Add the yoghurt mixture to the butter mix, alternating with the flour. Start and end with the yoghurt mixture. Fold the flour in gently. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until well risen and golden brown on top. Allow to cool in tin for 5 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to continue cooling.

Combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer gently for three minutes. Brush hot glaze over warm cake. Let stand 10 minutes or so before slicing.


  1. That cake sounds delicious and yyour breads all look wonderful Christine. : )

  2. This cake is wonderful. I made one today, mine isn't as pretty as yours because mine stuck to the pan...

    I love your wood oven and it seems quite a tallent to bake in one. Hope to see more posts about it soon.

    OX Karyn

  3. Thanks Tammy, we like this recipe a lot :0)

    Oh Karyn, what a shame. I always butter and flour the (metal) cake tin really well. It would still taste the same in a mass of crumbs though...

    I'm finding the trick to the woodfired oven is the timing.. it needs to heat up to really hot before the temperature can drop to commence baking. It's just coinciding the breads and the temperature that is the challenge.

  4. Those breads look so great. *sigh*, now I have wood fire envy as well... You might be interested in having a look at this blog
    she is doing a whole heap of Dan Lepard stuff.

  5. Wow, thanks for the link, I will take a look :0).

  6. You inspired me to get into the kitchen a bit today and I made up and froze a pizza base and some rolls : )

  7. Good for you, Tammy!! It's good to be (occasionally) organised, isn't it, lol!

  8. The bread sounds so yummy - but I don't have the option of a wood oven. Could I use less mixture and do it in the breadmaker part-way? Having cold hands I have trouble getting yeast to "prove". Sandie.

  9. Hi Sandie, of course! Using the breadmaker is a great way to prepare dough, especially when you need to be off doing other things. Most breadmakers have a "dough" setting, just select that and reduce the flour quantities to around 500g and the other ingredients to suit. Once the dough has proved, shape it into a loaf and place on a tray or in a loaf tin, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise again somewhere warm, (30-40mins), then bake at 200-220c for 40-45 mins. Hope this helps, :o)


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Hi there, so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Christine x

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