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AGA baked granary bread


For the sponge: 340g of strong white flour (I use Bakers' white flour), 1tsp of dried yeast (I use Doves Farm), 400ml of tap water

For the final dough: 200g granary flour (I use Shipton Mill's light malthouse flour) and 100g of strong white flour (Bakers' white flour), 1tsp of dried yeast, 40g of powdered milk, 2tbsp of cane sugar, 2tsp salt, 20g of soft butter, additional water (~90ml, see recipe)

Material: 2 1lb loaf tins (note: I split the bread in 3 loaves on the pictures but on retrospect I think it'd have been better to only use the two smallest of my tins for higher loaves with squarer sections), bake-o-glide liners (or whatever you normally use in your tins to prevent sticking).

I bake all my bread in the top oven of a 2-oven AGA range and do all my mixing in my Kenwood Chef Premier as I really hate handling very sticky doughs so the below only recommends hand handling of the dough for the folding and shaping into the tins, feel free to adapt if you are a more hands-on baker.


1/ Mix the sponge ingredients until you obtain a smooth batter resembling unset yogurt; in a separate bowl mix the flours, yeast, milk powder and sugar of the final dough and sprinkle on top of the sponge so that the dry ingredients of the final dough lay on top of the sponge mix. Cover your bowl with cling film (I use a shower cap) and leave to prove for 1-2 hours at room temperature (longer if you have a cool kitchen or prefer longer proving times at lower temperatures). In my kitchen I dont measure the time accurately but know it's ready when some of the sponge starts "erupting" into the dry ingredients of the final dough.

2/ Add the salt, soft butter and some additional water (how much exactly will very much depend on which and how much granary flour you use; I weighed how much I added in my latest batch and it came to 93g but that only gives you a rough idea of how much water you MIGHT need) and start mixing on low speed with your mixer; with the Kenwood I do this on the minimum speed setting. After a couple of minutes, if the dough is too dry add more water until the dough starts forming a ball and the sides of the mixer bowl are left clean. I know that my dough is wet enough but not too wet when it forms a ball that coils itself around the dough hook when it is rotating but falls into the bowl through gravity if the hook is stopped and lifted. Ideally the dough can fall into the bowl in one single lump that leaves the hook clean, then you know you have got just the right amount of water and you've kneaded the dough enough. You can also do the window pane test on the dough. In my case, I usually let my Kenwood on for about 10 minutes and add the water very little at a time as I dont like having to add more flour if I put too much water. If you think you have added too much water it's worth continuing to knead as sometimes a very sticky dough does sort itself through kneading.

3/ Oil a large plastic bowl (I use Lurpak spray from its new cooking range) and place your ball of dough in it, cover your bowl with oiled cling film (or shower cap) and leave to prove for 2 hours. At the end of the proving time, the dough will have roughly doubled in size, be plump and full of air (picture 2).

4/ With oily hands you should be able to pick it up out of the ball and put it on an oiled work surface (picture 3, showing the bottom of the dough, the bit that was touching the bowl). You should be able to turn it over easily without any bit sticking to your surface (also if well oiled), see my picture 4, you see my fingerprints of when I first lifted the dough out of the bowl.

5/ Cutting and folding: you are going to cut your dough in either 2 or 3 (as I said before I made 3 loaves but 2 might have been better) next. First pat your dough down into a rough rectangle and cut it in either 2 or 3 bits (picture 5). Take one bit and elongate it into a large rectangle (picture 6) pat down again and fold the rectangle over itself in 3, first folding the right third towards the middle then the left third over it (picture 7), ending up with roughly a square. Pat down (picture 8) so that your square becomes thinner and larger. Then roll the square into a sausage, making sure that your dough leaves your work surface clean (this side of your dough will be the top of your loaf so you want it to look good, tight and with a smooth surface). You end up with a sausage with the seam at the bottom (picture 8).

6/ Line your tins with what you normally use. I use a sheet of bake-o-glide with a light spray of Lurpak, but you may use just oil and no liner, semolina or nothing at all if you have non-stick bread tins. Place your sausage in the tin, seam down so that the top of the sausage is clean and tight with no blemish (picture 10). Do the same with the other bit(s) of dough (picture 11).

7/ Put the loaf tins into a plastic bag (as a precaution also oil the inside of the bag that is directly above the dough), close the bag (picture 12) and leave to prove for about 1 hour or until the dough forms a dome in each tin (picture 13, also note how shiny the dough has become after all the proving!).

8/ Bake in your hot oven for about 20-25 mins. Again this time will very much depend on your oven. In my AGA (which must be about 230 oC), I start with the loaves right at the back with the long sides parallel to the sides of the oven. After 9-10 mins, the loaves have usually taken their final shapes (oven proving is done) but they are still very plate. Next I swap the tins around (if I have 2 tins I just put the right to the left and left to right; with 3 I rotate them) and leave it another 8-9 minutes by which times the loaves are nicely coloured but need a little bit more. Finally I bring both tins to the front of the AGA over (where it is cooler) to let them take their final colour.

9/ Baking time is over when the top of the loaves get a rich dark golden colour (pictures 14, 1 & 18).

10/ With a non-stick liner like a bake-o-glide, it's easy to handle the loafes even right after the oven as they simply slide off it. At the bottom of each loaf, you can still see the original seam of the sausage (pictures 15, 16 & 17).

11/ This recipe yields about 1kg of bread (picture 18).