Ben’s experimentations with bread


When I first started this blog my husband Ben poked fun at me photographing all my cooking (in between moaning about the food going cold). It’s funny though because a couple of months on he now urges me to take photos of his food every time he makes something pretty.

So here’s a rather epic blog post dedicated to Ben’s recent experimentations with yeast based recipes that I have been badgered into photographing. As I’ve said before, he’s so much better at these than I am. I put it down to a more vigorous kneading technique, being generally more precise, and being able to follow a complicated recipe without getting impatient/ flustered.

The three recipes below are rather laborious and involve quite a bit of effort, but if you can be bothered they do produce delicious results. They start easy(ish) and get progressively more complicated.

Lorraine Pascale’s big, fat salt and pepper breadsticks

bread sticks

Actually these are pretty simple as they only involve one lot of proving. My daughter Elizabeth (age 5) loves helping to make these especially the bit where they get twisted up.

Makes 12

  • 450g/1lb strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 x 7g/⅛oz sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 250–275ml/9-10fl oz warm water
  • vegetable oil or spray oil, for oiling
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Dust two large baking trays with flour.

Put the flour, yeast and the salt into a large bowl and add enough of the water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead well for 10 minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface.

Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions, each weighing about 60g. Roll the portions into balls, then place each ball on a floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape about 25 cm x 2 cm. Shape into twists by running a knife down the centre to split the dough, leaving a bit at one end uncut. Braid or plait the two halves over each other to give a twisted effect.

Place the breadsticks on the prepared baking trays, spacing them 4 cm apart. Cover the breadsticks loosely with oiled cling film, making sure it is airtight. Leave in warm place for 30 minutes or until the breadsticks have almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Remove the cling film and brush each breadstick with the extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle half of the breadsticks with the sea salt and the remainder with freshly ground black pepper. Bake on the top third of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the breadsticks are lightly golden-brown and feel firm to the touch.

Remove the breadsticks from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays.

The next two recipes from Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking cookbook start with making a sweet bun dough.

Peyton and Byrne’s sweet bun dough

Makes 800g dough

  • 50ml whole milk
  • 150ml very warm water
  • 1 tablespoon dried yeast
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 20g unsalted butter, softened, plus 50g
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 10g salt
  • 1 large egg

Mix the milk and very warm water in a measuring jug so that the mixture is not too hot or cold. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve, then set aside.

Measure the flour into a large bowl, add the 20g of softened butter, rubbing the mixture into a coarse meal with your fingers. Stir in the sugar and salt and then mix in the egg. Finally, add the yeast mixture, the mix all of the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.

Once the ingredients are mixed together well turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface and start to knead it for about a minute. Then let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Now work the dough by stretching and slapping it down and kneading with the palm of your hands for about 5 minutes until it becomes silky. Cover and leave for an hour until the dough has doubled.

After this time, roll it out into a rectangle about 2cm thick. Break up the remaining 50g softened butter into small pieces and place in the centre of the rolled out dough. Fold the dough into thirds by folding each end in over the butter, as if folding a letter, then pinch the seams to seal in the butter. Roll the dough out into a rectangle again and then fold into thirds again. Let the dough rest and rise again for 1 hour.

Now repeat the folding and rolling and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Now follow either the Honey buns or Chelsea buns recipes below.

Peyton and Byrne’s Honey Buns

honey buns


2016 – renamed ‘buttery sweet dough buns’ in our house. No honey on top but served warm with jam, honey, or just butter (if you’re Edgar).

Makes 12

  • 800g of sweet bun dough (as above)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g runny honey

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Flatten the sweet bun dough with your hands and then cut the dough into 12 equal-sized squares or rectangles. Take one portion and fold the edges into the centre pinching them together to form a round. Then turn the bun over seam side down and press it down a bit. Repeat this with all 12 portions.

Place the buns on the prepared baking tray, cover them loosely with cling film and leave for 30 minutes to rise until they have doubled. Alternatively leave in the fridge overnight.

If they have been refrigerated remove them from the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Brush the buns with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven and brush immediately with honey. Serve warm.

I don’t think you need any more butter with these but they taste good with more honey, jam or chocolate spread.

Peyton and Byrne’s Chelsea Buns

chelsea buns

Makes 12

  • 800g of sweet bun dough (as above)
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing


  • 125g currants
  • 100g candied peel, chopped small
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • OR you can use pastry cream and broken up bits of dark chocolate (as in the photo above)

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • Bun wash
  • 70ml water
  • 60g granulated sugar

Butter a 33cm by 23cm baking tray.

Take the sweet bun dough made as above and roll out into a rectangle measuring about 40cm by 25cm and brush with two-thirds of the melted butter.

To make the filling, combine the currants, candied peel, brown sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl making sure to break up any little clusters of fruit or sugar with your fingers. Sprinkle this mixture over the melted butter on the dough leaving a border of 2cm.

Roll up the dough lengthways into a tight roll, like a Swiss roll. Pinch the dough along the seam to seal in the filling, then roll it over so that the seam side is facing down. Use your hands to gently shape it into a perfectly proportioned log, then brush with the remaining melted butter.

Use a sharp knife to cut the log into 12 equal sized slices. Place each slice cut-side down in the prepared baking tin so that the slices are touching. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise for an hour until doubled. Alternatively you can leave in the fridge overnight.

If they have been refrigerated remove them from the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature (about 20 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 220oC fan.

Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and brush over the tops of the buns and then bake them for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

While the buns are baking prepare the bun wash by heating the water and sugar in a saucepan.

As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush then with the bun wash and sprinkle with caster sugar if you wish.

These are best eaten while still fresh but they can be reheated the next day.


The revelation with the two sweet bun dough recipes is that if you start the process in the evening, you can stop at the rising stage and keep the dough in the fridge overnight. You then just take it out in the morning and leave to come to room temperature before baking. This means lovely fresh buns for breakfast (if you have a slave/husband to kindly make them for you).

Just a quick note on an experiment that didn’t work. This baguette recipe by Paul Holywood came out more like a bad ciabatta. Ben tried the recipe twice with the same results. I wouldn’t recommend it.

chelsea buns 2 chelsea buns with Elizabeth


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