A guide to Naked Wedding Cakes

The Naked Wedding Cake is pretty much all the rage at the moment.  The Naked Cake can lend itself to most styles of wedding from vintage to rustic, from elegant to contemporary.  The final look and feel of the cake … Continue reading

Paul Hollywood’s easy white bread

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The History

Now, Paul Hollywood refers to his bread as a Cob which is apparently a term used in the Midlands, likely due to the resemblance to a Cobblestone!  I couldn’t really find much about the history of the Cob loaf.  So I looked into the history of bread . . .

Now, you can imagine, a lot came up about that.  And to be honest, I’ll be here all day if I went into that much detail about it.  But if you’re really that interested, I have found the most amazing website which details the history of bread from the present, all the way back to 8000 BC.  So check out www.bakersfederation.org.uk – it’s rather impressive!


My Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed making this bread.  It was my first time making bread like this.  I found it, almost therapeutic. 

I loved watching the dough rise.  I loved the kneading.  I loved the smell of it baking.

And it was so easy.  AND CHEAP!!! A loaf this big would probably cost you £1.50 or so in the supermarket, but it cost me pennies to make.

I highly recommend making this loaf.  You can’t go wrong.  And your family will be so impressed.

To aid the ease, especially if you’re a bread baking novice like me, check out Paul Hollywood’s how to video here.

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The Recipe

Over 2 hours preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 1 loaf


  • 500g/1lb 1oz strong white bread flour, plus a little extra flour for finishing
  • 40g/1½oz soft butter
  • 12g/2 sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 300ml/10¾fl oz tepid water (warm not cold – about body temperature)
  • a little olive or sunflower oil

Preparation method

  1. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Add the yeast at one side of the bowl and add the salt at the other, otherwise the salt will kill the yeast. Stir all the ingredients with a spoon to combine.
  2. Add half of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add water a little at a time, combining well, until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. Mix with your fingers to make sure all of the ingredients are combined and use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl. Keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
  3. Use about a teaspoon of oil to lightly grease a clean work surface (using oil instead of flour will keep the texture of the dough consistent). Turn out your dough onto the greased work surface (make sure you have plenty of space).
  4. Fold the far edge of the dough into the middle of the dough, then turn the dough by 45 degrees and repeat. Do this several times until the dough is very lightly coated all over in olive oil.
  5. Now use your hands to knead the dough: push the dough out in one direction with the heel of your hand, then fold it back on itself. Turn the dough by 90 degrees and repeat. Kneading in this way stretches the gluten and makes the dough elastic. Do this for about 4 or 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Work quickly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands – if it does get too sticky you can add a little flour to your hands.
  6. Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl and put the dough back into it. Cover with a damp tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and set it aside to prove. This gives the yeast time to work: the dough should double in size. This should take around one hour, but will vary depending on the temperature of your room (don’t put the bowl in a hot place or the yeast will work too quickly).
  7. Line a baking tray with baking or silicone paper (not greaseproof).
  8. Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out of the bowl to shape it. The texture should be bouncy and shiny. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back by kneading it firmly to ‘knock’ out the air. Use your hand to roll the dough up, then turn by 45 degrees and roll it up again. Repeat several times. Gently turn and smooth the dough into a round loaf shape.
  9. Place the loaf onto the lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove until it’s doubled in size. This will take about an hour, but may be quicker or slower depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  10. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan assisted)/425F/Gas 7. Put an old, empty roasting tin into the bottom of the oven.
  11. After an hour the loaf should have proved (risen again). Sprinkle some flour on top and very gently rub it in. Use a large, sharp knife to make shallow cuts (about 1cm/½in deep) across the top of the loaf to create a diamond pattern.
  12. Put the loaf (on its baking tray) into the middle of the oven. Pour cold water into the empty roasting tray at the bottom of the oven just before you shut the door – this creates steam which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust.
  13. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes.
  14. The loaf is cooked when it’s risen and golden. To check, take it out of the oven and tap it gently underneath – it should sound hollow. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Recipe courtesy of bbc

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The Taste

Although it had the hollow knocking sound when I took it out of the oven, and although it came out crusty, it did go soft, and I think it was under baked.  I think a bit longer would have made it perfect.

My only other complaint is that, for me, it was much too salty.  So I would recommend only 1tsp of salt.

Other than that, my family were impressed with my first effort a t cob.  I think it looks rather lovely really . . .

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My first real challenge: Mary Berry’s treacle tart with woven lattice top

The History Treacle Tart is odd.  It doesn’t have any treacle in it! Treacle Tart’s key ingredient is actually Golden Syrup, which makes this delightfully British desert, fairly young, as it was only “invented” with the advent of the gold … Continue reading

Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia

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The History

This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices and other ingredients is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.

Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is yeasted flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Early versions were cooked on a hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile, like the related flatbreads. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

Many regions of Italy have an inventive range of flavorings they add to their focaccia. For many centuries it has had an association with Christmas Eve and Epiphany. Italian focaccia has branched out in various directions. Savory versions are more familiar, they can contain olive oil, rosemary, sage, garlic, cheeses, and onion. There are also sweet recipes of focaccia containing eggs, honey, raisins, anise, sugar, and lemon or orange peel. These enrichments make the product so different from plain bread that in at least one place in Italy though history it escaped a tax placed on bread.

Today we enjoy this versatile bread alone as a snack or light meal or on the side, complementing a full meal.


My experience

I have never made bread before. The closest thing to a Foccacia I have baked, would probably be a brioche, which was a complete disaster as I used the wrong yeast. So I was quite nervous about this. Added to the mix, I was making this for a dinner party so really couldn’t afford to mess it up.

But, it was a infallible success.  It was, quite simply delicious. Light, perfectly formed and really tasty. I was so impressed. And I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

To ensure success, I would recommend watching the following video so you can hear all of Mr Hollywood’s tips, plus see for yourself the texture of dough you’re looking to create – without that I would’ve added more flour as I thought the dough was too wet, and in doing so, would have completely messed it up.

But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed making the Foccacia. The whole kneading process was quite therapeutic. My hubby and friends were suitably impressed too. I would definitely recommend this recipe. Thank you Mr Hollywood.



The Recipe

Over 2 hours preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 2 loaves

This focaccia recipe is easy to make and easy to adapt. Try adding herbs such as rosemary or thyme, or perhaps some chopped chilli.


  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400ml/14fl oz cold water
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • fine sea salt

Preparation method

  1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
  2. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
  3. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
    Kneading bread with oil
    Watch technique: 1:01 mins
  4. Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.* When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.


*it’s at this point you can add your herbs, tomatoes, potatoes etc.  I made one simply with fresh rosemary and sea salt, and the second as the first but with sun-dried tomatoes.  Lovely!

A good tip, included in the GBBO book, but not here, is that as this recipe makes two, you can freeze the bread quite easily.  Wrap it it in greaseproof paper and clingfilm, bung in the freezer.  When you’re ready to bake it again, allow it to defrost (takes a couple of hours), sprinkle with olive oil, and bake in the over for 5-7 minutes.  Fabulous!

Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos

How did you get on with this technical challenge?  Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.