Although not quite through its first quarter, 2011 has seen me conquer some of my Baking Fears.  As I’ve said many times, I’ve discovered that the secret ingredient in cooking is confidence.  I’ve been slowly building my baking confidence with reliable recipes, like Nessa’s Family Kitchen scones, or Darina Allen’s brown bread for beginners.

Darina’s Brown Bread for Beginners recipe, from her ah-mazing book Forgotten Skills of Cooking, is fool proof.  And I should know, because I am a fool when it comes to baking.  And a few other things, probably.  I’ve followed this recipe and made about 8 batches of this bread in the last six months.  It was, in fact, the recipe I used when I attempted my very own first batch of homemade bread last year.  What’s great about brown bread is that there’s no faffing around with yeast and no kneading, no fear of Hot Hands Syndrome putting all your hard work to waste by ruining the bread at the last minute.  None of that.  It’s so simple.

Curiously, every time I make it, it’s a bit different.  Not in a bad way, just…different.  I don’t change any of the ingredients.  I don’t even change the brand of the flour.  Yet, I’ll notice that the dough is either more wet or the final bread is more spongy.  Baking is so WEIRD.  Like, WTF?!

Of all the various ways this bread has turned out, it’s always been pretty delicious.  So, if you’re a baking novice like myself, get stuck in.  And have your jam of choice ready.

*UPDATE 9/11/2011 I have been using this recipe since I posted it last March. I have found that in my oven different temperature settings than those stated below makes for a better loaf of bread. I use the same ingredients and measurements but I cook the bread for 45 to 50 minutes at 160 C in my Fires-of-Hell-Hot fan oven. Baking success can sometimes depend on how well you know your oven, so maybe take it out for dinner or even just ask it some personal questions.

I’ve left the recipe in its original Darina form below but you may find that a bit of trial and error is needed for you to achieve your perfect loaf in your personal oven.

What you need for Darina Allen’s Brown Bread for Beginners (makes 1 loaf)

400g stone-ground wholemeal flour

75g plain white flour

1 teaspoon of salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (aka bread soda or baking soda)

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon of sunflower or olive oil

1 teaspoon of honey

425ml of butter milk

2 generous tablespoons of seed mix – I use Good 4 U Sunflower mix which you can get in loads of supermarkets.

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C / 180 degrees C fan / gas mark 6.

Put all your dry ingredients – wholemeal flour, plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt – into a large mixing bowl.  Mix together.

Mix your buttermilk, egg, honey and oil in another bowl until well blended.

Get a loaf tin (23 x 12.5 x 5cm) and pour a teapoon of oil into it.  With your hands, make sure all of the inside of the tin is coated with the oil, to prevent the bread from sticking.

Now make a well in your dry ingredients.  Pour about a third of your milk mixture into the well.  Mix the mixture with your hand until it begins to get sticky.  Don’t mix it too much though, it will go a bit tough in the end if you do.  Add another third of the milk mixture and mix again.  Finally add the last third and mix.

The dough is supposed to be wet and sticky, so much so that you can pour it into the loaf tin.  As I said above, I’ve had varying degrees of wetness in the dough without changing anything obvious.  And all of the loaves have worked out really nicely, they’ve just all tasted a bit different.  So, there’s no need to panic at this stage.  Just go with what you have and it’s very, very likely to turn out really well.

Once your mixture is in the oiled loaf tin, pop it in the oven on the middle shelf for between 45 minutes and one hour.  I like to sprinkle seeds on top, but they do tend to get a little burnt.  I think I need to maybe coat them in a bit of oil first to stop them burning?  Any tips?

Once your bread is nice and brown, and sounds hollow when tapped, leave it to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

So that’s it. Please do give it a go and report back!


My favourite new artist of 2010 was without a doubt Computer Magic, otherwise known as Danz and sometimes known as Danielle Johnson.  She’s Brooklyn based and so far has only released stuff for free via her website, but she’s releasing her first 12 inch in the US this month and I am going to order it asap!  Exireh.  Have a listen to her track Found Out by following the link below.

Found Out by Computer Magic (on The Hype Machine)