Bread, General how to's & recipes

Bread making in 6 steps

If bread making is new to you, it may be helpful to get a bird’s eye view of the process before you start working with different recipes.  There are six basic stages:

  1. Mixing: mix flour with yeast, add water, add salt
  2. Kneading: work the sticky mass until it develops into a smooth, strong & bouncy dough
  3. Resting: rest dough in a large bowl until it has doubled in size (this allows the yeast to produce carbon dioxide which fills the mixture with gas, allowing the dough to rise)
  4. Shaping: gently ease the dough out of its container and then cut to size (if required) and mould into desired shape
  5. Resting: rest the dough so that it can rise again (this is called proofing)
  6. Baking: bake until the inside is set and the crust is brown – test for readiness by tapping on the underside (a hollow sound means the loaf is ready)

The type of loaf will depend on the kinds of ingredients and proportions used.  How the bread is kneaded also influences the texture of the bread.  The more air you incorporate into the dough as you fold, compress, stretch, fold, compress, stretch… the finer the texture of your bread will be.  Beware of overworking (the dough will become sticky again).   Some breads call for minimal kneading for a courser texture.

Room temperature effects the rising time.  The warmer the room the better.  At chef school, we light up the gas stoves while we are working and then we leave our dough to rise near the stove.  We also spray water into the ovens before baking as this prevents a crust from forming too soon.

I am busy learning the basics and have made several boo boos along the way.  But I’d still rather eat a not-so-perfect bagette from my own oven than a mass produced loaf from the supermarket down the road.  

Give it a bash!

Bread, General how to's & recipes

How to make Danish Pastries – using laminated sweet potato standard bread dough

Favorites Zurispizli 21st Cake w butter cream 22 July 09 005

I have fond memories of Sunday mornings when I was a kid – my father would pop down to our local bakery and come back with bags full of pastries and the Sunday newspaper.  All six of us would sit in my parents’ king size bed and munch the morning away.

Danish Pastries come in a variety of shapes and can be sweet or savoury.  They were developed in Scandanavia and are also known as Pâte Levêe Feuitêe.  They make use of laminated yeast dough (as do croissants) – we used the laminated sweet potato standard bread recipe to make our batch (see previous post for the recipe).

Favorites Zurispizli 21st Cake w butter cream 22 July 09 007


  • Always use 3 single turns for Danish Pastries – more turns and the dough is too heavy (see ‘how to make puff pastry’ for more info on turns – it uses single and double turns)
  • ALWAYS USE BUTTER (margarine leaves a sticky/plastic residue when cold – the taste tends to stick to your palette unlike butter)
  • Overcooking will result in a bitter or rancid taste (ruined dairy/oil content)
  • Undercooking leads to ‘sinking’ dough

Recap on making sweet potato standard bread dough (as used in croissants) – in rough pictures (see seperate post ‘how to make sweet potato dough’ for a full description:

Next – You’ve made your dough and allowed it to rest… Now it’s time to laminate (layer the dough with butter by doing THREE SINGLE TURNS) – a recap in rough pics (see ‘how to laminate sweet potato dough’ for a full description):


Step One: Roll dough and cut squares

Once your dough has rested…

Roll it out into a long rectangular shape…

Mark off aproximately 6 x 7 rows (depending on how much dough/what recipe you used)…

Cut across the dough as marked… you should have around 48 squares to work with…

Step Two: Decide on your fillings and spoon into centre of each square

We experimented with our own fillings – my favourites were plain pastry cream & pastry cream with apricot.

A spoonful of ricotta/cream cheese with one black cherry per pastry

A spoonful of apple or mixed dried fruit (marinade with boiling water or rum/brandy to soften the fruit first) per pastry

Pastry Cream (see ‘how to make Creme Patisserie’) – a spoonful per pastry

Add tinned fruit like halved apricots (fantastic!), poppy seeds (mix aprox 75 g honey with 250 g castor sugar & 250 g water depending on amount you require),  jam, walnuts etc

Step Three: Decide on your shape, egg glue appropriate corners and create!

There are a number of Danish Pastry shapes – I’ve sketched a few rough shapes in the picture above.  Here are two simple shapes… use egg glaze to glue the points together:

Step Four:  Egg wash your Danishes on top (for colour and sheen) and place on a baking tray…

Step Five:  Place in a pre-heated oven @ 180 degrees celsius and bake until light brown

Favorites Zurispizli 21st Cake w butter cream 22 July 09 010

Step Six: Brush sweet pastries with melted apricot jam (check that your pastry brush doesn’t lose hairs along the way!)

Step Seven: Dab white icing on top with a pastry brush and leave your pastries to cool for an hour

Step Eight: Make a cup of tea and taste!

Favorites Zurispizli 21st Cake w butter cream 22 July 09 004

Bread, General how to's & recipes

How to make laminated sweet potato dough – creating buttery layers (for flakier croissants & danish pastries etc)

The laminated version of sweet potato dough uses the same recipe and method as the previous post.  The only difference is that we’re adding 350 grams of butter and laminating it (creating layers of butter and dough).  Use it to make croissants and Danish pastries.


Once your normal sweet potato bread dough has rested for about half an hour (to double in size) and been in the fridge for another fifteen minutes (to rest it), knead it into a ball shape

Slice the ball in half but not all the way – you’re aiming to create a rectangle shape as you fold the two halves away from each other (still intact at the centre)

NOW for the lamination – the gist of it is you want to do THREE SINGLE FOLDS to incorporate the butter (see ‘how to make puff pastry’ for more detail on what a single fold looks like.  Puff pastry uses single & double folds…)

Throw flour on a tray

Pat the dough into a rectangle shape in the tray  and place in the fridge to rest (about 15 – 30 mins)

Measure out 350 grams of butter and mix with some flour, kneading it into a similar consistency as dough.  Don’t overwork it.  Bang it into square shape with a rolling pin

Roll out the butter into a rectangle shape and cut it in the centre

Place it in the centre of the dough (from the fridge)  and fold the open left section of the dough over the butter

Place the remaining butter on the fold and fold the remaining right open section over it

Pinch the sides together for a neat finish – this is your first fold!


Roll out the dough into a long rectangle shape

FOLD again – this is your second fold (without butter) – see ‘how to make puff pastry’ for the SINGLE fold sequence

Roll out the dough into a long rectangle shape

FOLD again – this is your third fold (without butter)

Place in the fridge to rest (15 – 30 mins)

You’ll find how to make croissants in the previous post (without lamination resulting in a ‘breadier’ croissant).  How to make Danish Pastries with sweet potato dough will follow in the next post…

Bread, General how to's & recipes

How to make a basic bread recipe with sweet potato – & less fattening croissants!

Last time I went out for croissants, we jumped on a borrowed moped, sea sand in our toes, the wind in our hair and one helmet between us … Upon entering the buzzy Food Barn I halted in my tracks – there was a baker rolling up croissants, something I’d never witnessed before.  It looked like an art form, something that took years of practise.  I had no idea we’d be doing the same thing a couple of weeks later at chef school… sans the grace and style… and sans the butter content!

We substituted sweet potato for butter which resulted in a bready type croissant… not quite my cup of tea (a croissant HAS to be buttery and flaky, nes paux ?)…  but great if you’re looking for a ‘healthier’ version.

Ingredients for sweet potato dough (makes 48 small croissants):

1000 grams cake flour (1kg)

60 grams fresh yeast

40 g castor sugar

2 tablespoons salt ie. 30 grams

150 g butter

2 eggs

250 g sweet potatoes (boiled and drained)

400 ml luke warm water

How to make the dough:

Sieve flour and rub in yeast into the flour (rub in from a height with fingertips)

Rub in butter (rub in from a height with fingertips)

Add sugar and salt and sweet potato (you can also add the sweet potato into the well in the next step)

Make a well and add the eggs and water

Work the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients

Knead the dough while rolling in at the same time and also throwing the dough down flat as you knead… until you feel a silky texture – work into a ball shape

Place in a bowl and cover with cling film and a cloth

Put next to a warm stove until the dough has risen to twice the size (the longer you leave it the more it will rise)… leave it for half an hour or so (depending on the weather) – then refridgerate for 15 minutes so that the dough can rest before you roll it


Cut dough into quarters (cut the ball in half and cut those halves in half again)

Roll each section out into a round shape (ours were very lopsided!)

Cut into twelve pieces PIZZA STYLE so that you are left with 12 triangle shapes

How to make a plain croissant:

Take the longer end of the triangle and stretch it out as you roll it down towards the end point.

Glaze the corner with egg wash and push it down onto the croissant

Glaze the top of the croissant with egg wash (on a seperate baking tray or counter)

Place on a baking tray and bake until golden brown.

How to fill a croissant:

Sweet – Place almond paste (in which case you could add two teaspoons of lemon extract to the dough) or chocolate chips (or Nutella) at the top middle section of the croissant before you roll it.  Don’t forget to egg wash the corner to secure it in place.  Brush with icing glaze.

Savoury – place a piece of bacon down the length of the triangle and roll it up, securing the corner with egg wash.

We were shown an alternative version – a laminated version which uses the same sweet potato dough recipe but includes 350 g of butter.  This laminated, more buttery version will be posted next!

Bread, General how to's & recipes

On making dough & other things…

Working with dough is something like watching your lover wake up to you all groggy in the early morning… But slowly, little by little, you feel him come out of his sleepy state and snuggle up to you, warm and delicious… 

It’s a primal thing, a most satisfying and grounding thing… although not always an easy thing at first…  Learning to work the dough requires patience, letting go of timetables, being in the moment, being at one with it … 

Working the dough allows you to express yourself, your feelings, your delight, your anger, your passion (and even your violent nature as you throw the dough) …

You start with the raw and seemingly lifeless ingredients of flour, yeast and water…

You mix and mould them into a sticky mess…

You knead and knead… and knead… and throw… and knead…

You start getting into the rhythm…

And finally, you start to feel the dough warm up in your hands…its silky smooth softness ready to be shaped into anything you desire!