I already bake my own bread – so whats involved?

22 02 2010

Baking bread in a clay oven is basically the same. You will make your dough the same way and then shape it by hand (not in a tin).

Product of a days word - Yumm

Product of a days word - Yumm

  • The oven can take up to 2 hrs to get up to temperature so needs to be lit when you start making your bread.
  • There is a different temperature profile in a clay oven – high temp dropping off – so the loaves are best a little smaller than you would normally do them (about 290 grams dry weight).
  • The bread comes out a little earlier than normal and must be left to stand until cool – as it keeps cooking.

The great thing is – assuming you are organised – you then pop something else in (chicken, ham etc) and let it cook for upto 5 hrs as the oven cools down – fantastic.

It does take a little practice but then that is part of the fun.

If you are interested in attending a course then please go to The Real Clay Ovens Company for all details.


Pizzas in clay ovens

27 05 2010

A clay oven is perfect for making fantastic pizzas as you get a real all round heat. Unlike sometimes when you make your own in the kitchen oven the bases are not soggy but crisp and cooked.

See www.realclayovens.co.uk on more about clay ovens and find out how to make your own.

Pizza straight from the oven

Pizza straight from the oven

My Perfect Bread Recipe

25 02 2010

I have been asked so many times by people “How do you make your bread?” that it is about time I wrote it down.

Basically the same way everyone else does – flour, water, yeast, salt and energy.

This is how I do it,  there maybe purist’s out there who will shudder and suck their teeth but never mind.

This ia recipe that makes one tin or shaped loaf  from 500g dried weight (I usually make twice the amount at a time).


I use dried yeast (Allisons) it must be in date as yeast can go off.

In a jug add 300 ml of warm water (put your finger in and you shouldn’t be able to feel the water) and then two level desert spoons of yeast granules (16 grams) and 1/4 dessert spoon of demerara sugar – to get it going. Do not add the water to the yeast. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast.

Stir and leave for 10 mins. It has to become frothy, otherwise throw away and start again.

The oven

At this point I turn the oven onto 60 degrees as a warm space.
Now get the big china bread bowl out (well a bowl).


I use a wide range of  flours but basically it is always 40% whole wheat of some sort and 60% white. The quality of the white is important (I use Allisons).  So that is about 200g of wholewheat and 300g of white. Exact numbers are not important as making bread is more of an art any way.

Add 12g of salt and mix in well.

My favourite wholewheat flours at the moment are Hovis malted, Wessex Mill (particularly good) and Allison five seed and Waitrose Love malted flour


Add the yeast and water. Not all of it, leave a little over – it is much easier and better to make a dry dough wetter than a wet dough drier. I mix in with a strong spoon (mine is stainless steel) and then start to use the hands.

Keep mixing until you have a lump of dough which you can lift out of the bowl. Transfer it to a hard work top (mine is granite) and start to work it with the ball of your hands pushing the dough out. As I push I rotate the dough ball. When its all pushed out I put it back in a ball again.

By now you can start to tell if the dough needs more water.  It shouldn’t stick to the fingers and you will be able to get an idea whether it will absorb more water. It always amazes me how much water dough will take in as it is kneaded. To add more water I squeeze the dough into a tube shape and dip it into the water, this way you add a little at a time. Then knead again.

After a minimum of 8 minutes the dough will have started to smooth out and become more stringy. At some stage in this process I taste the dough just to make sure I haven’t forgotten something (usually salt). Eating dough is alright but can make you burp if you eat too much (my dog can tell you that).

When I am happy with it – and it takes some experience – I shape it into a ball and return it to the bowl. Then  I cover with cling film o keep the moisture in and put in the pre-warmed oven – which I make sure is switched off.

This is left for a minimum of 60 mins – set a timer. If it is left for 3 hours it doesn’t really matter. (If your wife turns the oven on to cook a chicken then it does!) If you are planning to leave it for hours then you will not need a pre-warmed oven (warmed to 50c). Generally the longer and slower the dough rises the better.

Second Phase

Your dough will have at least doubled in size and will fall out of the bowl (may need a little encouragement).

Turn the dough out onto a hard surface. At this point it needs a small knead – not lots – just to push any air out.


I always tell people that shaping is the most important part of bread making. Obviously this isn’t true but it is where a great looking loaf separates from an ordinary loaf.
You shape the bread to give it an even skin all over so that it will rise evenly on the tray or in the tin.

Form a ball and then with the palm of your hand roll it along one side. Keep rolling but ensure the ball moves with your palm so that you end up with a really even ball. It is probable that there is a scrunched bit a the bottom but this will be the bottom so its OK.

Now roll in flour. Just flour should be enough but if you are not sure then oil your tin or tray.

Put back in oven with the cling film from the bowl resting on top.

Leave for 30 mins – make sure the oven is off.


Remove from oven and it should be rising nicely – filling out the tin of expanding in the tray.
Take the cling film off  and turn the oven up to 220 degrees.

We need to cut the loaf so that it expands evenly in the oven. I use the bread knife and cut along a tinned loaf or a cross on a open loaf. Cut quite deep as the loaf will fill in. Let the weight of the knife do the cutting try not to press down.

Leave to rise until the oven is up to temperature – about 10 mins.

Do not leave too long. If you forget (and we all have) it is perfectly possible to beat the loaf down again, reshape and leave to rise.

When ready put the loaf in towards the top of the oven and set for 32 mins.

All Done

Get the loaf out and turn onto a wire tray and leave for an hour. The loaf will keep on cooking so try to resist cutting it too early (leave it for at least 30 mins).

There we are – no secrets now.

Good Luck and happy baking

The Joy of Having Your Own Clay Oven

1 02 2010

It will be an experience you’ll never regret having had.

There is a growing interest in the use of clay ovens as an authentic green approach to outdoor cooking. They have been used for the last 2000 years across the world. Clay ovens are made from a mix of sand and clay on a brick base and are wood fired.

It is quite simple to build and experience your own clay oven but it is always easier to be shown how and why.  And you will get to taste some fantastic food.

From April to October 2010, Real Clay Ovens will be running one day courses at the Wandlebury Country Park near Cambridge, owned and managed by local charity, Cambridge Past Present & Future. You will be shown, hands on, how to build your own oven, how to bake bread in your oven and other foods to cook. The one day course includes a full lunch cooked in a clay oven to experience the real cooking effect.

Ever since we built and used our first ovens we’ve been total converts – we know you’ll be the same!

If you are interested in attending one of these courses then please go to The Real Clay Ovens Company for all details.