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Ale and honey bread


  • Strong white flour - 600g
  • Fast action dried yeast - 7g / 1 teaspoon
  • Water - 140g
  • Beer (at room temperature - not from the fridge!) - 280g (I used an English Pale Ale)
  • Fine salt - 1½ teaspoons
  • Black pepper - several turns
  • Honey - 1½ tablespoons
  • A little oil for the bowl


  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl – I prefer to use a dough whisk for this process, though you may like to use fingers, a flexible dough scraper, a table knife or a dough hook on your machine. It will form a very rough-looking sticky mess
  2. Leave for ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your dough scraper to get all of the residue out. Have your flour and scraper handy
  4. Knead the dough until the surface becomes silky and smooth – this will be about 10 – 12 minutes
  5. If – and only if – the dough is far to sticky to work with, dust a little flour on to the table. Otherwise you should persevere with kneading the dough without adding any more flour (this actually will change the ratio of flour to liquid and other ingredients so it’s best not to dust if you can). It should eventually start to come together without the flour and you can use your scraper from time to time to ensure all the dough is getting kneaded by scraping along the surface
  6. When the dough starts to come together, oil the bowl to prevent it sticking (if you have not managed to take the dough out without leaving a lot behind, you may want to use a clean bowl)
  7. Roll the dough up into a dome and place in the floured bowl
  8. Cover the bowl either with the tea towel/cloth or cling film (or if you have one a cheapo shower cap is ace for this)
  9. Leave to rise somewhere that isn’t cold until the dough looks like it’s about twice the height it was before. (This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to three hours depending on how cold a space you have)
  10. Lightly flour the counter you’re working on and the baking tray or peel
  11. Tip out the risen dough gently into the middle of the flour on the counter and press down gently with your finger tips all over to knock back the dough.
  12. Fold the dough over on itself from one side then the other and then fold the ends in
  13. Pinch the loose edges together to get them to ‘stick’
  14. You’re aiming to make the dome of the loaf tense and smooth without tearing it. By folding over towards the centre you create a tension in the surface of the loaf – it should look smooth and taut, and as circular as possible (but don't fret too much about this)
  15. Liberally flour your tea towel/couch (or prepare your banneton with enough flour)
  16. Place the shaped dough with the seam side down in the middle of the cloth. Push the sides of the cloth up to gather it at the sides of the bread in order to support the shape and stop the bread spreading (though if you have successfully given the surface of the loaf enough tension it should hold, but this will still help)
  17. [If using a banneton, place with the seam side facing upwards and cover]
  18. Leave for the second prove – roughly an hour depending on the temperature. It will be ready when and it springs back into shape if you press it gently with the pad of a finger
  19. Just before your loaf looks ready, start to heat your oven to 220 ºC fan / 230 ºC conventional and put in the baking tray or stone
  20. When the bread and the oven are ready, carefully scoop up the loaf and remove the cloth that's been supporting it, lightly flour the tray and place the dough back down on it [or tip out from the banneton to this sheet]
  21. Score the loaf at this stage with a lame if you want to
  22. Transfer the tray with the loaf on into the oven and onto the baking stone/tray (doing this ensures that you are working on a cool tray but the loaf benefits from instant heat from the bottom when placed on a hot tray)
  23. Spray the oven or pour a little water into a small tray at the bottom of the oven
  24. Shut the door and set the timer for 10 minutes
  25. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180C fan/190C conventional and bake for another 25 -30 minutes
  26. The bread should be nicely dark (though not burnt) where the slashes or cracks have occurred
  27. Test the loaf’s ‘doneness’ by tapping the bottom of it – it should sound hollow
  28. Leave to cool on a wire rack or something else that will allow airflow to the bottom of the loaf or the evaporated moisture that comes off a new loaf will gather and cause a soggy bottom (yes, this problem isn’t just confined to pastry!)