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My ‘Bakes’

On this page I will be bringing you a whole host of my ‘Bakes’.

For the first time ever, I tried making Semolina Bread. I got the idea from Fram (who has her own blog at I had never even heard of making bread from semolina until Fram spoke about it a few days ago.

I did not have a recipe for semolina bread – I didn’t even have any semolina – so I used couscous! As you can see from the pictures below, it turned out really well and the taste is very good – light in texture, not heavy (I thought it might turn out a bit heavy), a good crust, and I have since found out it is really fantastic for toasting.



This is how I made it:- my standard Sponge Method’ starter – I know there are lots of ways to make a sponge method starter. This is what I do. Equal parts flour and water, for example, 400 grams of strong bread flour and 400 ml of water, and a teaspoon of ‘Dove’ yeast. NO salt.

Now here’s a thing – there is a lot of controversy about yeast – fresh yeast – dry yeast – using a bit of water or not! Again, this is what I do – place the yeast (I always use a dried yeast made by Dove) in a glass, add about 4-5 tbsp of ‘blood’ temperature water and a pinch of sugar. Stir.  Set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes – then use. I would love to hear comments on this subject.

Place everything into a LARGE bowl (as the batter will really expand to begin with and you don’t want to lose any). Whisk the whole lot up quite vigorously with a balloon whisk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

Handymanchef’s tip #1 – instead of using clear wrap, clingfilm, or a cloth to cover starters, and bread while it’s rising, I use disposable but re-usable Shower Caps. They are really cheap and work fantastically well. They can be dampened or oiled to stop them sticking.

270 g starter, 150 g instant couscous, 300 g bread flour, half a teaspoon ‘Dove’ yeast, 1 tsp sea (kosher) salt and enough water to produce a workable but loose dough. I am using grams, I hope it is not confusing for our American friends! I can’t understand cups! I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook attachment and I generally give my breads 10 – 15 minutes mixing on speed 2.

Handymanchef’s tip #2 – as you will all know, yeast hates salt so I only add the salt towards the last 5 minutes of kneading/mixing. I find this produces a much better textured bread.

Because I used couscous and not semolina, I found that the couscous soaked up the water quite a bit, but not until I had been working the dough a good 5 to 8 minutes.

Set the dough in a floured loaf tin – I get my loaf tins from Lakeland in the UK. They are the biggest ones they produce and really are top quality and non-stick. Cover with an oiled shower cap and put somewhere warm until the dough is almost crawling out of the tin.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade with a shallow tray set on the oven floor. When the oven gets to temperature, put the breads in the middle of a non-fan oven, get half a cup of water and throw the water into the tray below, being careful – steam is really hot – close the door quickly and give the bread 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, open the door and let the steam out, then close the door again, turn the oven down to 180c and time for another 10-15 minutes. Then check the bread again.

I like to take the bread out of the tins for the last 10 or 15 minutes, this gives the loaf a wonderful overall golden brown colour and makes the sidewalls slightly crusty as well.

Handymanchef’s tip #3 – I always cook my breads on a pre-heated flat metal tray.

28 March 2013 –  I have just made the most amazing bread. It was a complete experiment and, apart from my problems with having a ‘hang over’ (see image), it has turned out really well.



It has a wonderful crust, the texture is awesome and the flavour (English spelling) is superb. But as the dough rose, it sort of ‘spilled’ over the sides of the tin!  Does anyone know why this happens and how to stop it?

This is the recipe:-

300 g My sponge starter (see Sponge Method above)

300 g strong white bread flour

Blend of seeds comprising:-  50 g milled buckwheat, 20 g millet, 20 g linseed, 20 g blue poppy seeds, 70 g rye flour

Extra half tsp of dried yeast, tsp of sea salt (kosher salt)


Mix all the seeds with the flour, pour the flour into a mixing bowl, pour over the sponge starter, add the yeast into the mix and add just enough water to enable you to produce a loose dough, and mix.  Then gather everything together in the bowl and turn out onto your kneading surface, and knead for 10 – 15 minutes.  I like to add the salt towards the end of the kneading process because, as you know, yeast hates salt and I find, if you add the salt at the end of the kneading process, you get a better rise and a better texture to the finished loaf.

Handymanchef’s tip #4 – Maybe this isn’t necessary but, regardless of what a recipe says, I like to pre-start my yeast.  I put 3 tbsp of water at blood temperature into a glass, add a pinch of sugar, and sprinkle over the yeast.  Mix thoroughly with a skewer and leave for at least 10 minutes before adding to your flour.

Put the dough in a loaf tin, or form into a boule, cover with an oiled shower cap and leave for at least 1.5 hours or until dough has doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 200 C.  Place a shallow tray in the bottom of the oven.  When the oven is hot enough, place the tin in the centre of the oven, tip a third of a cup of cold water into the tray at the bottom of the oven and close the door immediately.  Cook for 10 minutes, Open the door for a few seconds to release the steam and close door again.  Reduce temperature to 180 C and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Depending on the size of your loaf, you may choose to either remove from the tin and cook for a further 10 – 20 minutes, checking periodically, or simply cook for a little longer until the bread sounds hollow when you tap its bottom!  I hope this works for you, let me know your thoughts and results.

Wednesday 3rd April

I made a brand new batch of ‘Bakes’ yesterday, using all the advice I have been given on over the past week or so.  As you will know, if you have been following me, I have been making some novice mistakes with my bread making.  But hopefully I have learnt and things are now looking up – even the bread is moving up! lol

Below is a picture of some of my latest loaves.  This one is my favourite so far.  It is a Multi-Grain loaf with FIVE different types of grain in it.


You will see that I no longer have anaemic looking sides to the loaf nor an overhang, and the overall colour is more consistent.

This is what’s in it:-

½ my Standard ‘Sponge Mix’ (see my Standard Sponge Mix recipe for details)

500 g Strong White Bread Flour (or you can use 30% Strong Brown Bread Flour but it will make a much heavier loaf)

50 g milled buckwheat

20 g millet

20 g linseed

10 g poppy seeds

10 g sesame seeds

50 g rye flour

½ tsp yeast mix (see my yeast mix recipe for details)

1 tsp diluted salt – I now take the required amount of salt I need, place it into a cup with some warm water and dilute the salt thoroughly. This helps to disperse the salt more easily and quickly. But, only add the salt towards the end of the kneading phase.

Just enough water to make a stiff mix

I will tell you the method and how to do the other things next time.

That’s it for now folks, let me know what you think.


My ‘Makes’

Welcome to this page of My Makes!

On this page I will be bringing you some of my ‘Makes’ – things I have made myself.  Mostly in wood, but not always.

Below is a picture of my Wood Workshop, which houses just about everything that a decent carpenter or woodworker would need.  It is 28 feet (9.33 m) long, 8 feet (2.67 m) wide and about the same high at its highest point.  It has a good size window in the right end wall (as looking at the photograph) so I can get long lengths of timber in the workshop easily.  It has a roof that slopes slightly forward and a good overhang to shed off water, and a galvanised tin extended overhang above the doorway.  It also has a double door in the front just to the left of the front window (as you look at the photograph).  To the left of the Wood Workshop is a small shed which holds dry workable wood, and next to that is a larger covered area for larger pieces of treated timber which will need working on before they are usable.


OK, to start with – one of my latest Makes.


I think the most common name for such things as this is a Kitchen Island.  It has room on the left hand side to put knives when you’re using the kitchen island.  If you look carefully, you can see I have incorporated a couple of pieces of wood below the knife slot.  One is to stop the knife blades moving any further left, therefore protecting the user and anybody else in the kitchen from accidentally touching the knives, or brushing against the blades.  There is a small L-shaped piece below that for the longer knives to butt up against serving the same purpose as the above bar but also to protect the very point of the knives.

There is a shelf holding the mixer which pulls out for easy access, and the unit has a really solid working surface.  The dimensions are 62 cm x 54 cm and 90 cm high.  I made it that height because it suits me.  The work surface really should be at a height that suits your own personal style and your own height.  Very important if you are going to be working at the unit for any length of time, for instance when kneading breads or rolling out pastries.  A work surface at the correct height for the user will save a lot of discomfort in the lower back, and in the shoulders to a lesser extent.

This is how I made it:-  To save money, I normally buy ‘rough sawn’ wood.  This is wood that usually comes directly from a saw mill, that is not smooth yet, but has just been put through a saw to give it its initial shape.  When buying timber in this way, you need to buy wood that is slightly larger than the dimensions of the finished wood.  This is because, if you want a nice smooth finish, you will need to put the wood through a thicknesser/planer.  You can also plane it down by hand but it is a long, laborious and thankless task.  I use a thicknesser/planer that I bought from Axminster Tools in Devon, UK.

I am not going to give you exact dimensions or sizes at this point because, as I have previously explained, the actual dimensions of the kitchen island really depend on the user and the amount of space you have.

But essentially you bring all your wood together and you put it through the planer to make it smooth.  I started by making 4 good strong legs so I cut 4 identical lengths of wood which are approximately 10 cm x 8 cm.  I then decided on the dimensions of my worktop and, with some planed wood approximately 10 cm wide by 2 cm thick, I made a good strong border all around my work surface.  I put 2 struts under the work surface to give it even more rigidity.  By the way, the work surface is around 2.5 cm thick.  From there, I stood the legs in the 4 corners of the work surface and screwed through the work surface into the legs, making sure that I had pre-drilled a fine guide hole with a good countersink which will allow the head of the screw to sit well below the work surface.  I also put in 2 screws from each of the 2 sides of the border into each leg.  I then cut thinner lengths of wood approximately 6 cm x 1.5 cm thick and made a wooden frame around the legs to give them rigidity and stability.  At this point, you need to make sure that your legs are at 90 degrees to the work surface and are parallel in every plane.

You then have to decide if you are going to have a shelf, whether it is going to be pull-out or not.  For most people, a simple shelf held in place by battening would probably suffice.  If you need to know how I made the sliding shelf, please leave me a message.

The next part is the most laborious and time-consuming of all, that is the rubbing down of every single surface, making nice rounded corners and edges where needed, and preparing everything for several coats of Yacht Varnish.  This can either be done by hand, an electric sanding machine, or with a router and the correct bit.  I always use Yacht Varnish because it gives a much harder finish and will be far more durable than a standard polyurethane varnish would be.  Before varnishing, I recommend you give the whole unit a thorough wipe down with a damp cloth, then leave it to dry for at least an hour before giving the unit 3 or more coats of top quality yacht varnish.  You need to leave each coat of varnish for at least 12 hours before applying the next coat.

Handymanchef tip:- When varnishing, make sure you are in a dust-free environment.  Also, between each coat of varnish, rub the whole unit down with a very fine grade of wet and dry, and wipe down after the sanding and before re-applying another coat of yacht varnish.

Any questions or comments, please contact me.