Archive for February, 2014


I miss Jamie the most when the bread doesn’t rise

Written by Jess and dedicated to a fellow bread lover. For Mark, I hope you and Jamie are baking together somewhere. 

Jamie, the bread whisperer. For him, flour plus water equalled magic. Jamie had been exclusively eating his own hand made bread for near on 6 years. About 12 months into the obsession he collected some grapes from a friends house so he could establish his own sourdough starter. I’m not completely certain it is the same one, but a friend is still looking after what will forever be known as “Jamie’s Bug”.

It wasn’t just sourdough. It was anything containing the magical ingredients. He had mastered them all.

Pizza bases so perfect you would think Jamie was an Italian Mama.
Baguettes too good to call French sticks.
Flat breads so pliable he would have proudly served them to Sam and Sam Clarke.
Tortillas just like those on the hot plates in the streets of Mexico.
Pita breads better than anything served at your local souvlaki joint.
Chapati that would rival any made by Madhur Jaffary.
Hot cross buns so soft and sweet you would think Jesus himself had made them.

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I think you get the picture.

There is only one place in Christchurch that Jamie would buy bread from. This is the Bellbird Bakery. Available at all the best farmers markets around town. I got a little star struck when I bumped into the owner of this Bakery on the street recently. But I managed to pluck up the courage to tell him how great his bread was.

When Jamie came across the following short film about Chad Robertson and his San Francisco bakery, Tartine, Jamie decided that this was his future. We were both pretty keen to start trading bread for money on a small scale and I’m still hoping that I might have the confidence to do this sometime in the future. 


Jamie always said that I didn’t have the patience to make good bread. Good bread takes time and a little bit of science. Well Jamie, I listened and found me some patience. I’ve also managed to remember all of those tips you taught me. All those years of politely smiling and nodding every time you blabbed on about some new folding technique or flour mill, I can remember all of that now. Not only can I make a pretty good loaf, I can also recite answers to most peoples bread related questions.

There are so many notes on, and recipes for, bread lying around I don’t actually know which method Jamie was currently using for his every day loaf. So instead I will have to share my own foolproof method.

For lack of a better name I will call this.…..


Jamie was always telling me off for measuring by volume. So out of respect for him I will record it by weight. Where possible, I have included some photographs to accompany the method. These photos were taken by Jamie. He was in the process of recording his recipes, but unfortunately hadn’t yet put pen to paper.

250g white flour (approx 1 ½ cups)
125g wholemeal flour (approx 1 cup)
85g rye flour (approx ½ cup)
10g salt (approx 2 tsp)
¼ teaspoon instant active dried yeast (my scales don’t read this low)
355g tepid water (approx 1 ½ cups)

Place flours and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and drop in yeast. Pour the water into the well. Mix to combine. It should look quite sticky and shaggy. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave for between 12 and 24 hours.
number 1

Dust bench with flour, turn the dough out and dust the top with a little more flour.number 2

Fold the dough in half a few times until it resembles a round-ish shape. Move the dough into desired shape by tucking a side under and giving the dough a quarter turn, repeat this action until you have an even surface on the top. Very hard to explain using words. You can do this using your bare hands, or as Jamie does in the picture, using a dough cutter/scraper.

number 3 number 4

Dust the top with a little more flour and cover with a tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.

At this point I always dust the loaf and chosen rising surface with cornmeal. Cornmeal is a great for not letting things stick. If you don’t have this on hand you could use a mix of corn-flour and plain-flour.

Place into or onto chosen rising surface, cover (with either 2 tea towels with no gaps around the side, or a plastic cover) and leave for 2 hours in a warm-ish place. This could be on a chopping board or in a banneton basket.

number 5

I use either a clay baker or very heavy cast iron pot. As long as you have something reasonably heavy with a lid it should work. Heat up for half an hour at 250 degrees Celsius before turning your bread into it. Bake with the lid on for 25 minutes, remove lid and bake for a further 7 – 10 minutes.

Take out and rest on wire rack.

Voilà, you just made bread.

number 6

And here are all the important points that Jamie taught me.

You can use any combination of flours. But the type and mix of flours you use will dictate the exact amount of water required. So hold back approximately 2 tablespoons of the water and add if the mixture is still a little dry. The longer you leave for the first rise, the better it is. Always use a linen tea towel. A terry-cloth one will always end in a sticky disaster. If the dough is quite sticky use a little more flour on the surface and on your hands as you shape it. Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife before baking so it looks pretty and neat when it splits open. Make sure it is cool before you cut it open.