Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Rye, Ale and Oat Bread

It's only five days before my return to Oxford, so in the meantime I'm trying to get as much baking in as physically possible. Unfortunately, five days til Oxford means only TEN days until collections (exams that we have at the beginning of every single term).

Consequently, this bread was made in between long sessions sitting at my desk revising Old English heroic poetry. It seemed quite apt, whilst writing about Anglo Saxon culture and customs, to be making a bread out of rye and ale.

According to my brand new favorite thing (The Oxford Companion to FOOD) rye cultivation entered Europe around 2000BC. When the Anglo Saxons invaded England, they bought rye with them, and for a long time more rye was grown in Britain than wheat.

This recipe uses the traditional combination of rye and strong white flour, mixed with a local Herefordian ale: Butty Bach (Welsh for "little boy" - i'm a font of knowledge today.)

Personally, I think all beer/ale is repulsive, but my Dad requested this bread from Paul Hollywood's new book and it really is absolutely delicious. I'm a total newbie at bread making, and had a minor hiccup towards the end of baking... Here's the recipe:

350g rye flour
150g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g fast action dried yeast
50ml black treacle
140ml cool water
250ml full flavoured ale
Olive oil for oiling
Also - 150ml ale (for the topping)
100g rye flour (For the topping)
Pinch of caster sugar
50-75 jumbo oats

Mix the rye and the white flours together in a bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. (You have to do this otherwise the salt kills the yeast.) Add the treacle, 100ml of the water, and 200ml of the ale. Use the fingers of one hand and a clawing action to bring the ingredients together. Continue to add the remaining ale and water, a little at a time, until you have a soft, sticky dough. You may not need all the liquid but try to add as much of it as possible. Rye flour needs more liquid than white wheat flour. (I used all of the ale but didn't use about 50ml of the water.)

Pour a little oil onto the work surface and place the dough on it. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. It will become less sticky as you knead it and turn into a smooth ball with an elastic texture.

Modelling my dressing gown sleeve..
When the dough is smooth and stretchy put it into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with clingfilm or a tea towel, and leave to rise until doubled in size. This will take longer than white bread; possibly as long as 4 hours.
Pre rise bread
Meanwhile, make the beer batter topping. This helps form a crust and enhances the appearance and flavour of the bread. In a bowl, mix the ale and rye flour and sugar to form a smooth paste. Leave to the side.

No, this is not porridge..

Post-rise dough
Tip the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock it back by folding it repeatedly in on itself to gently push out the air until it is smooth. Flatten the dough out into a rough rectangle with your hands, then roll it into a thick oblong. Fold the 2 shorter ends in towards the centre and press them down to get a chunky squarish shape. Turn the dough so that the fold is underneath. Shape the dough into a ball.

Spoon the beer batter on top of the loaf and smooth it gently with your hands to form a thick, even layer. Sprinkle with oats and dust with flour. Place the loaf on a baking tray, lined with baking parchment or silicon.

Shaped dough, ready to rise
Shaped loaf
Leave the bread to prove again until doubled in size, about 1 and a half hours. Pre heat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. This is where it all went wrong for me. I went from having the beautifully shaped loaf above to having... well.. an accurate description, would be a frisbee:

Frisbee loaf!
Place the loaf in the centre of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Then lower the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and bake for a further 10 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the base. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

I'm not sure why the frisbee effect happened, I think the place I proved it in may have been too warm for the yeast to cope with. If Paul Hollywood, or any other bread experts happen to be reading this, do let me know. Despite the rather odd shape though, the flavour of this bread is sublime, and its amazing with chutney and cheese.

*Happy Baking*


  1. Ah I love to bake! <3 This looks so delicious, will definitely try it! :))


    1. It was really really yummy despite the funny shape!
      Have fun baking x

  2. I can't wait to try this! I had to Google black treacle, and may have to substitute golden syrup and molasses, but otherwise I think I have everything I need.
    Maybe a little more flour in the recipe? When I've had a really moist dough it flattened out like that, though I don't mind that shape at all.
    Nice rustic loaf of bread!

  3. Lovely, lovely bread! Congratulations !

  4. Your bread looks great! I tried this recipe and I think I had too much liquid - did you use it all?