Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Hooray for Hollywood

I've been waiting for the episode devoted to sourdough before making any comments about Paul Hollywood's Bread TV programme (currently available on iPlayer).

Sourdough a la Hollywood
  Riders first of all - I've been a bread nut for many years and already have bread heroes in Joe Ortiz (The Village Baker) and Floss Dworkin (Bake Your Own Bread - And Feel Healthier) so Hollywood doesn't have to convert me - but I hope he is going to spearhead a new wave of enthusiasm in the UK for home baked bread.
Crumb Shot
Seeing last Monday night's programme for a second time on iPlayer I found the treatment just a little over the top for my taste, but maybe that's what is required to grab the attention of the reticent potential home bread baker.  Pumping music, slow motion kneading, the addition of whole extraneous buffets for me detract from the information value of the programme -  Someone labelled the new glossy bread books "bread porn" -  it seems the idea wasn't wasted on the producers of this programme!    The two handed boule kneading and the manual mixing verged on the obscene. Aside from this subliminal distraction I was a little disappointed that some essential details - like the quantity of water required for the first basic sourdough recipe were missing. In fact you need to adjust this to suit your kitchen but a rough idea of the starting point would help the enthusiastic novice get off the ground.
Risen Dough in Banneton
 The strongest aspects were first of all the sheer enthusiasm, secondly the exploration of the bread repertoire, and thirdly the visits to specialist bakers like the one in Hackney, and the Lithuanian one too. I scan for those tips and shortcuts, and suggestions. Twiddling the bagels to expand them and adding bicarb to the water they are boiled in are both techniques I will experiment with next time I make bagels.
Ready to Bake
I've got most the pieces of apparatus he uses - bannetons, a  lame, baking stone - but the dough docker roller was a novelty - one that has since sold out on Amazon.

Dough turned out
As you can see from the photos, I went back to basics and made a straight white sourdough for the first time in ages. PH does tend to stick to white flour in his recipes - a bit of a shame in my book. Rye and wholemeal flours nearly always feature in my breads.  I used to run a white sourdough starter and a rye one, but ditched the white one.  (One result of this is that my white sourdough was made with a white refreshed rye starter).

But away from any hint of carping PH is best when he visits other traditions. It seems he has spent some time living in Cyprus and the Greek and Turkish influences are fascinating. Now I think about it this might have been in the the Great British Bake Off Masterclass programme, but his Cypriot Easter bread Tsoureki was a revelation. Very similar to Challah he advised that for Cypriot authenticity you need to add some 'mahaleb' and some 'mastic' to the dough. So far I've only found the former, but boy what a fantastic addition it is (its made of ground cherry stones) and a small amount adds a magic quality to bread. The mastic turns out to be the resinous beads that weep from the Schinos tree Pistacia lentiscus  on the Greek island of Chios. Hence the product name 'Tears of Chios'.  Historically the penalty for stealing it was death, so I guess you could call   it an early enforced PDO! It's not cheap but you won't be surprised if I tell you I've ordered some over the net!

Another Middle Eastern treat from an earlier episode is Maneesh. A flatbread covered with Zataar spice/seed mix. Note that, although not mentioned by PH, bitter 'sumac' is an essential element of any Zataar (along with cumin oregano sesame seeds and thyme). My copycat effort turned out really well and was soon demolished.

Maneesh after Hollywood

Getting to the final credits, I laugh when I read  "Original Music by ..."  The tunes are poor derivatives of sixties classics.  Green Onions/ Cherie Babe/ Hold On.  All that's missing is Wild Thing!  The sountrack drives me crazy!

So all in all Hollywood gets 8/10 from me.


  1. I watched his programme too, and was impressed. I have never made bread (except soda bread), but PH's enthusiasm is hard to resist, so I'm tempted to have a go - probably with something simpler than sourdough to start with though.

    1. You won't look back once you do, Mark

  2. I think that he's going for a male Nigella image

    1. And it's working if some of the comments I've seen are anything to go by!

  3. My new pet is now waiting for its first feed.

    1. Do keep a record - you could blog it!

  4. Yummy! I'm also a keen bread maker, though I really need a new oven to indulge my bread yearning fully. Am saving my pennies...

  5. Hi Ruth. Not fixed that seal yet?

  6. Oh..just catching up with your blog...and you HAD TO DO Bread!!!! sigh...they all look wonderful, and the Maneesh...oh bet that tasted fantastic!