Creating a bread recipe…

For anyone interested in creating their own bread recipes, rather than just following someone else’s, this is how I work up a new recipe.

The first step – beyond thinking about if for a while – is to put together a recipe that should get you reasonably close to what you want to achieve. Some times you get lucky, and hit the perfect combination of ingredients first time. Mostly, though, it takes a couple of attempts.

You should, though, get something that’s at least perfectly eatable the first time (if you have a bit of experience), even if it needs tweaking. And I do mean eatable – it can be edible, but you may not want to eat it, or enjoy it if you do.

I wanted a spiced fruit bread, flavoured with orange, along the lines of a similar product made by Warburton’s, though not identical since, no matter what the date on the wrapper, it always seems to be stale.

So, this is my first attempt. The result was rather nice, though a long way from what I wanted. This is how it went.

First step, write down the recipe and – as I failed to do – try not to make too many (or even any), ad-hoc adjustments. It just clouds the issue.

Fruit Bread (Test recipe)

400g unbleached organic white flour

68g organic wholemeal light rye flour (an odd amount, it should have been 50g, but there was no point leaving a bit in the bag!)

50g melted butter

130g golden sultanas, soaked overnight in orange juice

280ml liquid (a mix of OJ and water, to taste) 60% hydration

1½  teaspoons mixed spice

2 level teaspoons fine sea salt

45g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon yeast

1 teaspoon Muntons nut-brown malt flour (used to start the yeast, in place of malt extract I normally use, which is hard to measure accurately).

Baked for 30 minutes at 200C.


As I said, it turned out an acceptable fruit loaf, but it wasn’t what I was aiming for, not least because it was way too crusty (I know how to get a crusty loaf, how the hell do I get a soft crust, which is more appropriate to this style?)


Malt flour doesn’t ferment (not readily anyway). Omit and use sugar to start the yeast. Note that making a starter with the yeast, something fermentable, like sugar, and a tablespoon of the flour, isn’t essential, but I think the bread ferments more readily than it would just tossing the yeast straight in. As ever, I used Fermipan yeast.

Replace rye with white flour (the rye giving the wrong texture, and contributing to the hard crust). The crust will, of course, soften if the bread is wrapped, but only by drawing moisture from the crumb. A crust that’s soft from the outset is more desirable.

Replace butter with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, also for better texture.

Don’t pre-soak fruit. Reduce golden sultanas and add some mixed fruit/

More sugar

More spice

Oven spring was excellent, as was then finished texture, allowing for the rye, so stay with 60% hydration

Taste is very good but texture soft and rather cake-like, probably because of insufficient kneading.

Moisture content is OK, but fruit disconcertingly wet. Also needs balancing with normal mixed fruit.

How to get a soft crust? Research needed.

So the revised recipe for the next trial will be as follows:-

500 g flour as before

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or very light olive oil

90g golden sultanas

50g mixed fruit

300ml liquid (a mix of OJ and lukewarm water, to taste, about 60% OJ works for me), 60% hydration. If the OJ is fridge-cold, zap the mix in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off.

3  teaspoons mixed spice

2 level teaspoons fine sea salt

80g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon yeast

I’ll probably make this next week (I’ve got the first one to eat yet!), and I’ll report back here then.

In the meantime, I’m switching from my normal Doves Farm organic flour to Shipton Mill’s flour. Still organic, but a greater range, and getting it delivered saves me humping the bloody stuff from the car-park!

Note: At the time of writing, there is a fault with their website. If you order, you need to input your post code in lower-case, and without the space. Totally wrong, but that’s what their system wants, as I discovered after a hell of a lot of hassle. They don’t seem to see this as a problem, which frankly is plain dumb, but there you go – at least you know now.

I’ve suggested it’s costing them business, and they should put it right (I can be bloody-minded when faced with a problem, and try to get it fixed; most people will just go elsewhere). If they do fix it, I’ll post an update.

If anyone’s interested, this is what I ordered:-

Bags            Type                                                 Pack Wt.      Cost

2        Organic Medium Oatmeal (404)                  1kg;            £1.30

2        Organic Dark Rye Flour (603)                     1kg;           £2.60

3        Organic Light Rye Flour (601)                    1kg;            £3.90

2       Organic Strong Plain White Flour (701)        2.5kg;         £5.70

2        Organic Spelt Wholemeal Flour (407)           1kg;           £3.16

2        Organic Emmer Wholemeal (414)                1kg;           £3.50

Postage:                                                                               £5.00

Total                                                                                   £25.16

Should keep me going for a while and, if anyone is wondering, emmer (Triticum dicoccum), is a seriously ancient form of wheat, its first recorded cultivation dating back to 9,000 BC or so, in south-east Turkey. These days, it’s the grain known as farro in Italy, though it’s also grown in other countries.