Marble Rye

Judging from photos on the interwebs, there are a number of ways of producing a marble rye like the one immortalised in the Seinfeld episode The Rye. My memory of the one in the show was that it was a plaited loaf, a challah, so I decided to try that. Yesterday, I dipped my toe by making a couple of two-strand loaves, using a viking loaf dough and a lighter, unseeded, half. It worked quite well (and was delicious), so I decided to try a 4-strander of enormous proportions, but with no seeds.

The first attempt – a 2-strander

The dark half

I started the dark half with 150g of wholemeal rye flour mixed with just 50g of wholemeal wheat, half a teaspoon of yeast and enough water to form a dough. I left this overnight.

As with all overnight sponges made with dark rye flour, it didn’t do much – didn’t form a dome or anything, although the lump of dough itself expanded and did ferment. The following morning I added 100ml water, then 140g of wholemeal bread flour, 140g of French bread flour (the Flour Bin’s Type 55), two teaspoons of fast-action yeast, two tablespoons of cocoa (for colour), a tablespoon of treacle, one and a half teaspoons of salt, and about 20g of butter. I started the mixer, and added another splash of water, and kept adding water until I had a good sticky dough. It mixes for a long time before the gluten starts to develop. I added a little more water now and then, until I was happy with the consistency of the dough (sticking to the bottom of the bowl but not to the sides).

I left it to rise.

The light half

For this I used the same method, but substituted the Flour Bin’s lighter rye flour and used white bread flour instead of wholemeal. There was no cocoa, and I used a teaspoon of sugar instead of treacle. Again, I added enough water to form a stretchy dough that stuck to the bottom of the bowl but not to the sides.

Plaiting and baking

The 4-strander before the oven

When both halves had proved for an hour or so, I divided each batch into two and then created some long strands for plaiting. I’ve almost never done this kind of thing, and had to look at a youtube video to get the method right (4 over 2, 1 over 3, 2 over 3, repeat). I left this to rise with a clean cloth over it, and when it started to look right, turned on the oven. I left it on the standard “baking” setting, 205°C with the button set to the bread icon.

I brushed the top with an egg-water glaze for shininess, then put the loaf in the oven. It was almost too big for the width of my oven, even though it was on the metal tray that is its own shelf.

This is what it looked like when it came out:

Shut up, you old bag!

But the proof will be in the tasting. Got to wait for it to cool.

UPDATE: Tasted great. Eaten with home-made butternut squash and celery soup, or just on its own with or without butter. Delicious.

Viking Bread attempt 2


Following my first experiment, I wanted to try essentially the same thing using the overnight sponge method, hoping to develop more flavour and more of an open texture.

This time, I decided to leave the butter out, because with a dough containing both cocoa and treacle, there was a danger of making it too cake-like.

I ordered a variety of flours from the flour bin, and decided on this occasion to use their multi-grain mix along with a dark rye flour.

The overnight sponge was made with rye flour, a half teaspoon of yeast, and – experimentally – breadcrumbs from the last Viking loaf I made, soaked in milk. This was a suggestion from commenter Rashbre, a technique used in German rye breads. I spoke to one of the German teachers at school about this, too. I pre-cooked the milk in the microwave and then used it to soak the breadcrumbs I made in my blender from the end bit of the last Viking loaf, which I had set aside for this purpose. I made a double batch of sponge, so I used 300g of dark rye altogether, along with about 250 ml of milk.

It wasn’t very dough-like. This you expect with rye flour, which doesn’t have enough gluten in it. It didn’t look very inspiring, and didn’t seem to do much. I made it around 4pm on Friday evening, and even by the time I went to bed it didn’t appear to be alive in the way some dough starters are.

Got up this morning and split the starter in two. Had it done anything overnight? It didn’t look like it had, but it sure smelled fermented. It smelt great, in fact, like a proper sourdough, which gave me confidence going forward.

I made two batches. The first with 280g 100% 8-Grain Flour Mix added to the rye starter, along with a tablespoon of cocoa and one of treacle. Around two teaspoons of fast-action yeast, 250 ml water, and (once the dough was looking stretchy in the mixer) 1 1/2 tsp salt. You should add water in stages, because this was a wet dough. I left it on the wet side, though I did add a couple of tbsp of flour bin Type 55 French bread flour, too.

The second batch was made with half 8-Grain and half Type 55. To the first batch, I added a handful of caraway seeds (often added to rye recipes); to the second a handful of toasted sunflower seeds.

The dough took off like gangbusters, which was a surprise. I know the Flourbin put vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in their French bread flour, but both batches seemed to rise at similar rates, so they were just raring to go. I shaped both batches into loaves: one in a tin, the other not, and left them to rise a second time.

Haven’t tasted the second loaf yet, but the one above was great. A lovely mixture of flavours with the occasional burst of caraway.

The pizza


Summer’s here* and the time is right for barbecuing pizza.

In my greedy dreams of lottery winning extravagance, I have a proper wood-burning pizza oven in the back yard, maybe six or seven of them, but in reality I’ll never be able to justify the expense or afford one.

And in reality, nobody who isn’t running an actual restaurant really needs one.

I’ve got a Weber gas barbecue. I like a gas barbecue because you can light it and be cooking within 10 minutes and so you use it more often. It’s great for cooking things like salmon and other smelly foods without stinking out the kitchen. And if you want smoke, there are loads of solutions, like the wood wrappings or even a grilling plank. A gas barbecue is not a thing that you’ll only use on the very occasional sunny day.

For pizza, you just need a stone. The Weber stone I have is a 1cm thick circle of granite. It just fits onto my rectangular grill. After the dough has proved, you light it up, lower the lid, and let it warm up while you prepare the pizza.

I use Caputo pizza flour, which is available in red and blue varieties. The blue makes for a crispier crust; the red makes a crust that is still crispy, but also has enough softness for a satisfying chew. For three family-sized pizzas, I use 450g of this flour, which needs water to the tune of 65% the weight of the flour. That’s about 293 ml or 293g of water. For pizza, I just use warm tap water, or filtered water slightly warmed in the microwave. You need a sachet of instant yeast (or 2 teaspoons), 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and a teaspoon of sugar.

I put the salt and sugar on one side of the flour and the yeast on the other. I add the water and then mix the dough with a dough hook on my mixer for 5-10 minutes. When it’s nice and stretchy, I pour in a little olive oil, just to stop it sticking to the sides of the bowl. I then cover it in cling film and put the dough in a warm place for about an hour, though 45 minutes is usually long enough on a warm day.

When the dough has risen, it’s time to light the barbecue and let the stone warm up.

Now you gently knock back the sough, divide it into three balls, and set two aside. They will continue to rise a bit. If you have the time, it’s a good idea to wait 15 minutes at this stage to let some air pockets appear in the first dough ball.

Now, sprinkle flour on the side and roll it out. Have a pizza peel ready. I sprinkle flour and/or semolina and/or cornmeal on the peel, which helps the pizza to slide off. Flatten your dough ball with a rolling pin and stretch it out into a circle that’s as big as your peel or just smaller than your pizza stone. You can also stretch it by hand.

Put the stretched dough circle on the peel. Now spread on about 2 generous spoonfulls of tomato sauce. I generally do either one of the following: use unadulterated sundried tomato paste, or a mixture of passata and sundried tomato paste. You don’t want anything too watery. Some people swear by fresh basil: I don’t. I don’t even like it. I think the best herb to sprinkle on at this stage is dried marjoram. Dried, because it has a better flavour.

Now comes the cheese. Yes, you can get expensive little balls of buffalo mozzarella, but for a more reasonable price, a packet of grated mozzarella. 250g for three pizzas: don’t go overboard. Mozzarella is a satisfyingly melty cheese, but has no real flavour. For flavour, mix with a little grated gruyere. Waitrose sell it already grated; nobody else does. You don’t need much, but it really improves the overall flavour.

Now top the cheese with your choice of toppings. I use thin slices of pepper, (sometimes) fresh tomato, pineapple (wife and kids insist), (sometimes) sliced shallot or onion, sliced black olives ( half the pizza only because kids don’t like them), slices of bacon, ham, chorizo, pepperoni, anchovies (fresh from the deli counter is less salty than from a jar), etc. Bacon is better than ham, unless the ham has a really strong flavour. The trick is: not too much of anything, and vary as much as you can within your budget.

You might consider a drizzle of olive oil, but it’s not compulsory.

By now, the pizza stone is hot and the barbecue should be around 200 degrees C. It can get hotter, but doesn’t really need to. Slide the first pizza onto the stone and close the lid. While it’s cooking, get the second pizza ready.

To ring the changes, the middle pizza is a tarte flambée, with (half fat) creme fraiche and more gruyere than mozzarella. Bacon and onion/shallots is all you really need, though you can add other toppings. Slices or dices of (pre-cooked) potato is good, and leave off the pineapple.

The first pizza should be done within ten minutes. The second and third should take less time, as the barbecue gets hotter. Be careful with the third, because the base can burn if you leave it as long as ten minutes.

As you slice it, you’ll get a satisfying crunchy sound. The top will be perfectly cooked, the bottom crispy and (especially with the red Caputo) each slice will be good and chewy.


French bread recipe


Day One:

  • 130g French bread flour*
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 115 ml filtered water

Day Two:

  • 100g soft 00 flour
  • 400g French bread flour
  • 290 ml filtered water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

*I sourced this flour from – it’s their Type 55 wheat flour, with added vitamin C. In the main recipe, I used the same, with 100g of the Caputo red 00 flour.


Mix the overnight ingredients. It’s very runny, more like a batter than a dough: you could do it with one of those plastic whisks rather than a dough hook. Leave the batter/dough in a cold place overnight.

Baking Day

The next day, take it from the cold place and let it warm up for half an hour or so before adding the other ingredients – except the salt. Mix with a dough hook until you start to see some stretch in the dough, then add the salt. Adjust the amount of water, if necessary to make the dough properly wet. As with yesterday’s Pane Pugliese recipe, sticking to the bottom is okay, but it shouldn’t stick to the sides. The type 55 flour is lower in gluten than the strongest bread flours, and the flourbin recommends around 10% less water.

Turn out onto a floured surface and fold/stretch, as with the Pane Pugliese. Do this three times over about an hour, then gently shape into a ball and put into an oiled bowl until it has doubled in size.

Knock the dough back, divide it into three, and shape into loaves. I used a twin baguette tin, and put the spare on on a tray in more of a ciabatta type shape. Leave it for another hour or so, until doubled in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 240°C and, just before cooking, steam it by adding hot water to a hot roasting tin on the bottom of the oven.

When the loaves have doubled in size, then slash the tops (or snip with scissors), and brush with some salted water before putting into the oven.

Leave at 240° C for 10 minutes, then open the door to release the steam and reduce the heat to 205°C and cook the loaves for another 15 minutes.

Turn out onto a cooling rack when golden brown and hollow-sounding, then leave to cool before slicing. You should end up with a loaf that’s satisfyingly crunchy in the crust with a chewy crumb.


Pane Pugliese recipe


I got this recipe from, but their recipe is for a wood-fired oven. This is my domestic version, with proper metric measurements. Their version has some how-to videos (e.g. for the wet dough folding method). It’s a slow way of making bread, but the results are worth it as you can see in my Hipstamatic shot above. Waitrose charge £1.80 for about 5 slices of this stuff.

Day One, Biga (makes double)

  • 320g unbleached bread flour
  • ½  tsp. instant yeast
  • 227ml filtered water at room temperature

Day Two, Dough

  • 300g biga
  • 140g durum flour
  • 140g bread flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 255 ml filtered water at 32-38° C

Flours: I ordered durum wheat semolina – you can get Caputo semolina from Forno Bravo (which is where I also get my pizza flour), or generic durum semolina in smaller quantities from

For the “bread flour” you could use the strong white you can get in the supermarket, or Caputo 00 pizzeria flour, which is available in the blue or (softer) red varieties. I’ve been using the blue for a couple of years now, and it’s great, but I just bought my first bag of red, just to try.


This is the sponge starter. You’re basically using a very small amount of yeast and leaving it to work for a long time, so it’s a little like a sourdough.

Combine the biga ingredients and mix to a dough ball. Put into an oiled bowl, spray with oil and leave to rise for 4 hours, then knock back and leave in a cold place overnight. My conservatory is ridiculously cold at this time of year, or you can use the fridge.


Take the biga out of the fridge, cut it into 8 pieces, cover it with plastic wrap & let it warm up for 1 hour before making the dough. I always use my plastic lettuce knife for dough-cutting duties. You can get one in Lakeland or John Lewis.

Add the water & the biga to the bowl, then put in the flours & yeast. Mix on low speed until a sticky, wet ball forms.

This is where you must use your judgement. If you’re like me, you’ll only have approximately 300g of biga in the bowl, so you need to adjust the levels of flour and water accordingly.

Sprinkle the salt over the ball. Switch to speed 2 & knead for about 4 minutes. The smooth, sticky dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl, but should stick to the bottom.

This is a wet dough, so don’t add so much flour that it clumps around your dough hook. As it says above, coming away from the sides of the bowl is okay, but it should still be wet enough to be sticking to the bottom of the bowl, so that you need to scrape it out.

Sprinkle the work surface with flour to make a 20 cm square. Transfer the dough using a plastic spatula (or your fingers) & proceed with the folding method*, then mist the dough with spray oil, sprinkle with flour & cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for half an hour, then fold it again, mist, flour, cover & let rest for another half hour.

Mist a large bowl with spray oil.  Fold the dough for a 3rd time, transfer it to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, & let it ferment for 2 hours.

*The folding method video on the Forno Bravo site shows you what to do. In short: you grab the dough from the bottom on one side, stretch it out and fold over on top of itself, then do the same on the other three sides. It’s a way of gently working a wet dough without covering yourself in sticky mess and flour. You rest it between and by the time you’ve done it  three times, it’s a lot less sticky.

Coat your hands & your bowl scraper with flour & gently transfer the dough to a well dusted work surface.  Divide the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Gently form the pieces into two rounds.  Let them rest on the work surface, seam side down, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Transfer to baking tray lined with non-stick parchment and prove for 60 to 90 minutes. Before baking, they should have increased to 1 ½  times their original size. Alternatively, use a pizza peel and prepare to slide it off onto a pizza stone in your oven. But this is a sticky dough and it might stick to the peel, so I just cut to the chase and put it on parchment  on a heavy tray, so it will just go straight into the oven.

(The Forno Bravo recipe, which is for a wood burning pizza/bread oven, uses a proving bowl. I’ve got one, but I really, really, hate it, and no matter how much flour I line it with, I find my doughs stick to it and won’t come out. So I’d rather just put it on a baking tray or peel, and cook on the tray or on a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one.)


How hot is the oven? The original recipe specifies somewhere between 280° and 290° C in a wood burning oven. Domestic ovens aren’t really designed to go that hot, but whack it up as high as you dare. If you’re using a stone, have the stone in the oven as it warms up. Steam the hot oven for 10 seconds, 10 minutes before baking. I do this by having a metal roasting tin in the bottom of the oven, which I splash boiling water into.  Slash the tops of the loaves quickly, then load into the oven. Steam again for 10 seconds. These breads should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes to bake to an internal temperature of 100°C, & they should be deep golden brown colour. They will take longer in domestic oven. Release the steam by cracking the door open after about 10 minutes of baking time. I also reduce the oven temperature after 10 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least half an hour before slicing.

Note: if you use fresh yeast rather than the dried instant kind, the dough will rise much more quickly. During the waiting and folding process, you might find yourself fighting back the dough, like Woody Allen with the pudding in Sleeper. Quicker proving saves you time but leaves the flavour less time to develop.