Past Questions

Question of the Week, from Debbie 

Debbie  asks:

Hi, I am a keen baker and try to bake using one of your books every weekend.  I was wondering if you have a recipe for a soft white bap/roll that would be suitable for a baby or toddler, (artisan bread is great for adults but the crust is a bit hard on baby’s mouth).  I wondered if your iced fingers recipe could be adapted by simply omitting the sugar?  Many thanks in advance for your help. Best wishes, Debbie

 

Paul says:

Hi Debbie, Yes the iced finger recipe will work a treat and don’t worry it’s fine to remove the sugar. I hope your baby enjoys them. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Eric from Minnesota 

Eric  asks:

Hi Paul, I’m trying your recipe for croissants and as I was rolling out the dough for the second time, when some holes appeared, exposing some butter. Will this affect how it rises as it bakes? Also, should I want to add ham and cheese or chocolate to my croissants, would you suggest altering the dough at all to accommodate for moisture? Thanks Eric

 

Paul says:

Hi Eric, Here are a few tips to help you next time you make the dough. It is very important to use the best butter you can get hold of, I use French butter. Have the dough and the butter at the same temperature, this will help stop the holes appearing. Carefully seal the edges of the dough once the butter has been added. You can add ham, cheese or chocolate to the recipe and don’t need to adjust anything about the recipe. Happy Baking!

 

Question of the Week, from Sylvia

Sylvia asks:

Hi Paul, I love your book Bread, however, how sticky should baguette dough be? I find it sticks to my fingers, but the final result is delicious. Sylvia 

 

Paul says:

Hi Sylvia, I am so glad you are enjoying my book. Baguette dough should be slightly sticky and if your finished results are tasty then it sounds like you are doing it right. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Cath from South Wales

Cath asks:

Hi Paul, I want to make a gingerbread house this Christmas. I attempted to make one last year, but it went soft and collapsed, the taste was lovely, but it literally fell apart. How can I get it to stay firm and crisp. Also what is the best way to store them and how long will they keep? Many thanks in advance Cath 

Paul says:

Hi Cath, I would suggest that you adjust the recipe a bit to help the dough to stay firm. If you increase the sugar and reduce the fat in the gingerbread mix this should give a crispier biscuit. The more sugar you use results in a crispier biscuit, whereas if you are have too much fat you end up with a softer biscuit. Bake at 200°C.  Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Marie in Denmark

Marie asks:

Hi Paul,  I would love to bake for Christmas, but there is so little time. Is it possible to make the dough for your Christmas Chelsea Buns and then freeze until I need it? Kind regards, Marie

Paul says:

Hi Marie, Glad you want to make my Christmas Chelsea Buns – they are very popular in my house during December. Rather than freezing the dough it’s actually best to make the finished buns and then let them cool completely. Once cool wrap and freeze like that. Then when you want them pop in the oven for 10 minutes from frozen to reheat them. They will make your house smell gorgeous on Christmas morning. Happy Christmas!

Question of the Week, from Mary in Wiltshire

Mary asks:

Hi Paul,  Every year I bake my own Christmas Cake, which is lovely, but unfortunately I never seem to manage to get the royal icing just right. What’s the best way to get perfect peaked royal icing? Thanks Mary

Paul says:

Hi Mary, Make sure that you sieve the icing sugar before adding to the egg whites. The egg whites just need to be frothy not whisked like for meringue. Once you have added the glycerine and a squeeze of lemon juice beat until the icing is thick and holds peaks. It helps if you have an electric hand held mixer. If the icing isn’t thick enough at this stage then it won’t peak. Happy Christmas!

Question of the Week, from Lillian in Liverpool

Lillian asks:

Hi Paul,  I have made malt loaf on two occasions, using yeast and both times  I have ended up with a very, dense loaf. What am I doing wrong? Thanks Lillian

Paul says:

Hi Lillian, Firstly make sure the dough isn’t too dry, different brands of flour absorb different amounts of liquid. Secondly leave it to prove slowly and make sure that it rises above the tin before baking. Thirdly don’t overbake and cool on a wire rack. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Wendy in Cornwall

Wendy asks:

Hi Paul, I have tried some of your bread recipes with much success. However, I have just tried your rye bread using a dark rye flour and after leaving it for several hours to rise it hasn’t seemed to have risen that well and is quite dense in texture. I would love your advice please. Thanks Wendy

Paul says:

Hi Wendy, don’t worry as 100% rye bread is naturally very dense with a close texture and does take hours to prove. You can use a starter a bit like a sourdough, it’s a slow process but gives great flavour. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Elisabeth in France

Elisabeth ask:

Hi Paul, Trying to improve my bread baking: where should the key (seam) be? Some say on top, others say underneath, some say underneath whilst proving and on top when baking. But what about you? Hey, you’re the master! Many thanks, Elisabeth PS: “Marcel” my sourdough starter lives a wonderful life! Elisabeth

Paul says:

Hi Elisabeth, to be honest there is no right or wrong way to do it, but for me the seam always has to be on the bottom.  Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Craig

Craig ask:

Hi Paul, I follow your eight strand plait recipe and iced buns recipe from Bake Off quite often and kneading isn’t an issue. The problem is rolling out the dough into strands. They are always fatter in the middle and skinnier at the ends. Advice please, Craig

Paul says:

Hi Craig, to get even strands first weigh the dough so they are exactly the same weight. Make sure you don’t have too much flour on the surface when rolling; you need the dough to adhere to the surface slightly. Then start rolling using your fingers, (not the heal of your hand) and roll from the middle of the strand outwards applying even pressure. It takes practice to get them perfect. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Amanda

Amanda ask:

Hi Paul, I have a pastry question for you. I have tried many times to make homemade pastry ie for mince pies. And they always fall apart when getting out of the tins. I have heard many myths of if room is too hot or hands are too hot. Any advice? I would love to master pastry because it has been a tradition in our family that the oldest female member of family makes the mince pies and would hate it if this tradition stops with my mum as I can’t make pastry. Thanks Amanda Retford

Paul says:

Hi Amanda, If you grease the muffin or bun trays with butter before you line them with the pastry, then they shouldn’t stick.  But don’t try to remove them when they are hot.  Some general rules when making pastry to remember are: make sure the fat is cold before rubbing in, add any water slowly and just enough to bring the pastry together and finally have a light touch and don’t overwork the pastry as it will make it tough. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Jan

Jan ask:

I have tried and tried to make a good sponge cake, but repeatedly failed. It come out dry. Please help. I recently made my first successful bread loaf by watching your bloom recipe demonstration. I am still frustrated by this cake. I bought a metric scale but I am still baffled. I consider your advice would be my best chance. Help please it comes out dry. Jan

Paul says:

Hi Jan, I am glad the bread making is successful. To avoid dry cakes, make sure the oven isn’t too hot. Buy an oven thermometer to check its running at the correct temperature and don’t add too much baking powder as this can affect the texture. Remove the cake from the oven as soon as its ready. So once it has shrunk away from the sides and springs back when you touch it very lightly with your finger.  Cool on a wire rack and once cold store in an air tight container. I hope that helps. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Sarah

Sarah ask:

Hi Paul, I would like to know if living at high elevations requires any special alterations to baking recipes. I have had a heck of a time with Yorkshire Puddings since moving here. The stove and recipe is constant, but sometimes they rise and sometimes they don’t. I also find the same with bread. Many thanks, Sarah

Paul says:

Hi Sarah, you are right cooking at high altitudes can affect the results in baking as the air pressure is reduced. Raising agents will work and produce the same amount of gas, but because there is less pressure they form bubbles more easily and more quickly and therefore produce bigger bubbles which can get too big and burst. For example a cake will rise quicker but then fall. Recipes therefore need adjusting to compensate for this. You can try reducing the amount of baking powder and increasing the temperature of your oven. You may find you also need to increase the amount of liquid you use as the liquid you use will evaporate quicker. Try these tips and see what works best for you. I hope that helps. Happy Baking!

Question of the Week, from Karen

Karen says:

Please can I ask if you have an easy bread recipe for someone with arthritis? I can’t use my hands too much, but have a mixer with dough hooks. Thank you, Karen

Paul says:

Hi Karen, Any of my bread recipes will work fine when made with a mixer with dough hooks. If kneading and shaping is difficult due to arthritis put the dough into a tin. A white bloomer recipe is a good one to start with and just bake in a 2lb loaf tin or two 1lb loaf tins. I hope this helps and you have success. Happy Baking Paul.

Question of the Week, from Ashleigh Davies

Ashleigh says:

Hi Paul, My name is Ashleigh and I’m 13 years old and have took cooking this year. Next week we are making soda bread and I would like your advice in what to put in the soda bread as I can’t think of any thing to do in it. Can u send me a few savoury ideas and a few sweet ideas please. Thanks One of your biggest fans Ashleigh xxx

Paul says:

Hi Ashleigh, Thanks for your questions. I am so glad you are loving baking and interested in trying new bakes. Soda Bread is delicious and you can definitely add ingredients to make it even more delicious. I would suggest adding either grated cheese and chopped raw onions, or pitted chopped olives and sun-dried tomatoes. You can also bake it using half wholemeal flour to white flour.  Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Iain

Iain says:

Dear Paul, could you tell me if it is possible to batch make bread dough and then store/freeze. I am not sure if you do this after the first prove or the second. Many thanks in advance for any insight you are able to pass on. Yours faithfully, Iain Brady.

Paul says:

Hi Iain, Yes you can batch make and then freeze. However, I would recommend part-baking the bread and then freezing rather than freezing the dough.  I hope that helps. Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Margaret from Aberdeen

Margaret says:

Hello Paul, I love baking but I find so many cakes have ground almonds in them and I hate almonds. Could I use ground chestnuts or any kind of ground nuts instead? Or could I just add more flour? I do not know if the flavour will be the same. Thanks Margaret

Paul says:

Hi Margaret, thanks for your question. You could use ground hazelnuts instead as they have the same properties as almonds. The nuts add moisture to the cake as well as flavour and if you leave them out you will change the consistency of the cake.  I hope that helps. Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Lauren

Lauren says:

Hello Paul, I have recently come across the addition of orange juice in bread. Do you advise for or against this? Also I’m struggling to work out when a dough wants lots of kneading and when it barely wants handling. I recently tried a carrot and sesame loaf with white and wholemeal flour that asked for just ten seconds kneading and I can’t understand why so little.  I get that spelt flour doesn’t want much handling as the gluten is fragile but can you explain why this one wouldn’t want kneading? Thank you for your help.

Paul says:

Hi Lauren, some very interesting questions.  Vitamin C is often added to commercial flours to strengthen the dough. It helps with volume, crumb structure and softness of the bread. This is maybe why you have found a recipe which includes orange juice. With regard to the kneading issue – I would always advise kneading dough for more than 10 seconds. All breads made with strong flour require kneading to bond the gluten strands, as you knead the dough it will become smooth, stretchy and elastic.  Good Luck next time and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Gill in Barnsley

Gill says:

Hello Paul, My son is in the Navy and currently on operations in the Gulf. I like to send him and his friends parcels. Can you recommend a biscuit recipes or any other suggestions, thats not too difficult, that I could bake and send to them. It can take two weeks or more for the parcels to get to them. I think home baking would be a great morale booster. They are nearly half way through a seven months deployment. Thank you Gill

Paul says:

Hi Gill, Wow what a great idea. I think there is nothing better than baking for someone you love and it must be hard having him so far away. As it takes a while for the parcels to reach the men, why not send a bake that improves with age, such a Yorkshire Parkin or a fruit cake which keeps like a Dundee Cake.   You can find my recipe for Yorkshire Parkin in British Baking book. Good Luck next time and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Linda in Stourbridge

Linda says:

Hello Paul, I hope you can help me. I love baking Victoria Sponge cakes, but by the next day the top of the cake is sticky. I’ve tried to make it with different fats, e.g. butter, margarine and different sugars e.g. caster, granulated etc. But I still get a sticky top. Any ideas where I am going wrong. Thanks Linda

Paul says:

Hi Linda, When you are making the batter for the sponge make sure you whisk the eggs and sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. Then make sure that it has completely cooled and then store it in an air tight container. I hope this helps.  Good Luck next time and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Sandra in Oxfordshire

Sandra says:

Hello Paul, I have tried making the round fruit loaf. However, it is always too wet after the first prove. I end up throwing it in the bin. Where am I going wrong? Thanks Sandra

Paul says:

Hi Sandra, Don’t throw it away! If it’s too wet to shape just place it in a lightly greased tin and bake. It will taste great anyway! It’s worth remembering that different flours absorb different amounts of liquid, if you feel the dough is too wet, don’t add all the liquid. Good Luck next time and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Marina Wilson

Marina says:

Hello Paul, I am looking for advice about making soft morning rolls. The recipes that I have been using keep getting a crunchy top, which is fine, but I would like them to be softer. Also how long can I leave the fast acting dried yeast to prove for the second prove? I would be very grateful for your help. Thanks Marina

Paul says:

Hi Marina, to achieve a softer finished product I would recommend increasing your oven temperature and baking the rolls for a shorter cooking time. This allows more moisture to stay in the roll. Once removed from the oven wrap in clean tea towels as this will also help keep them soft. The second prove is usually about an hour, or until the product has doubled in size. Good Luck and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Kerryn

Kerryn says:

Hello Paul, my name is Kerryn. I am a single mum of 2 young boys aged 7 & 5. I love cooking and have followed your recipes for breadmaking and love them and find them inspiring, thank you. If I could ask you a question, where is the best place to store your bread. I have heard so many stories and it just seems to go mouldy. What is best? Much appreciated Kerryn

Paul says:

Hi Kerryn, I am glad you like my recipes and enjoy baking for your sons. When it comes to storing homemade bread I would always recommend putting it in a paper bag in a bread bin. This will keep it fresh for as long as possible.  Good Luck and Happy Baking.

Question of the Week, from Paul Pickford on Facebook

Paul says:

Hi Paul, I don’t know if your Hot Cross Bun recipe is your own, but I please know that I have made them twice this week as the first lot were gobbled up in an hour! The apple addition is amazing, HOWEVER I do find the flour/water mix “cross” had rather a texture of cling-film after glazing. I used plain flour first time & SR flour the second…………..any hints as to how to avoid this? Paul

Paul says:

Hi Paul, I’m not sure why the texture is like that. The flour and water paste is traditional, however, it does needs to be piped very thinly.  As an alternative you can use rolled marzipan cut into strips and place over the buns. You must be careful not the let the crosses burn as the high sugar content in the marzipan will brown much quicker than the flour and water paste. Good Luck and Happy Easter.

Question of the Week, from Amanda 

Amanda says:

Hi Paul, Well I have tried your recipe for the hot cross buns and I want to know if I can use Stevia as a sugar replacement or whether this will spoil the dough. Or any sweetener is there one you can give advice on to use. I can only have little sugar.  Kind regards Amanda Roeloffzene

Paul says:

Hi Amanda, Yes you can use Stevia as a sugar replacement. However, do follow the manufacturers advice on quantity as it is much sweeter than sugar, so it will be less than the 75g in the recipe. Good Luck and Happy Easter.

Question of the Week, from Jeanette 

Jeanette says:

Hi Paul, I think I am a good baker/home cook and I really enjoy cooking. I have recently bought your books to expand my repertoire, however, I have tried now three times your recipe for iced fruit loaf from How To Bake and on three occasions it has been a disaster, all wet and slimy. I know you said to mix it in a machine, which I did, but even after proving it is just too wet to handle. I don’t wish to criticise but I was wondering if the volume of the liquid, including eggs, to dry is correct. I cannot see how it can be, when in your other recipes the ration of liquid to dry is much less. Your advice would be most gratefully received as I doubt I will give it a go because of the waste of ingredients. Thanks Jeanette

Paul says:

Hi Jeanette, Sorry you have been having problems with this recipe. I would suggest that you change the flour you are using. A good quality flour will absorb more liquid. Add the liquid a bit at a time too. That way you can control how wet the mixture is. Don’t add all the liquid if you feel it’s too wet. Good Luck and I hope you have success with it next time.

Question of the Week, from Cara on Facebook

Cara says:

Hi Paul, I made your Baked Brie and when I put it in the oven the Brie came pouring out onto the tray! What can I do to make it better?  Thanks Jeanette

Paul says:

Hi Cara, First of all make sure that the dough has risen enough, at least double in size. Roll out the dough so it’s a lot bigger than the Brie and make sure that you wrap it well. Turn it over and gently roll the top with a rolling pin as this will help seal it. Good Luck and I hope you have success with it next time.

Question of the Week, from Bev on Facebook

Bev says:

Hi Paul, I enjoy making rich fruit cake, but my problem is keeping it moist on the edges. I seem to have a raw middle so keep it in longer and then the sides are caught and dry. I double line my tin and cover the top partway through and have a tray of water in the bottom. Where am I going wrong? Thanks Bev ps I love you and your shows xxx

Paul says:

Hi Bev, You are right to double line your tin. It also helps to line the outside of the tin as well and to use brown paper for this, the type you buy from the post office to wrap parcels in. If you have the option on your oven don’t use the fan setting, instead use the traditional setting which gives you top and bottom heat. Good luck and happy baking. And Merry Christmas.

Question of the Week, from Susan on Facebook

Susan says:

Hi Paul I love your shows. What is the best way to store homemade Christmas puddings. After boiling I have replaced the greaseproof on top and muslin. But I have found them with mould on them!  Thanks Susan

Paul says:

Hi Susan, The pudding recipe should have alcohol in to help preserve the pudding. Before steaming, cover with greaseproof paper and a double layer of foil. Tie with string and boil for the amount of time stated in the recipe. Leave the pudding to cool, do not untie and remove the string or the foil and peak at the pudding. Leave in a cool, dark place and this will prevent mould from forming. Good luck and happy baking. Oh and Happy Christmas.

Question of the Week, from Berit Andersen in Denmark

Berit says:

I live in Denmark and I would love to make an English Christmas pudding. I know you have to make it some weeks before Christmas – but I haven´t got any clue for how long time in advance?  Thanks Berit

Paul says:
Hi Berit, You can make Christmas pudding up to 6 weeks in advance. So get baking! Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Mel

Mel says:

Hello Paul, I have noticed that some wholemeal bread recipes include sugar, whilst others don’t. Which makes a better loaf?

Paul says:
Hi Mel, You can make  wholemeal bread with or without sugar, it’s a personal choice. However, I prefer it without sugar. If you want to try a great wholemeal bread recipe then check out the Wholemeal Seeded Loaf from my new book ‘Paul Hollywood’s British Baking’. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Andrew in Bristol

Andrew says:
Hello Paul, I love making bread, though do not make the time to do it more regularly. I’m playing with the idea of a roasted garlic bread so that the garlic cloves are embodied into the dough. My concern is that the garlic may kill off the yeast. Is there a way around this?

Paul says:
Hi Andrew, what a delicious idea. I would roast the garlic first in the oven and then let them cool. This will give a sweeter flavour.  Then make sure you add the cloves after the first prove. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Corinne in Kent

Corinne says:
Hello Paul, Brioche is one of my favourite things. But I am puzzled as to why you have such a high butter to flour ratio in your brioche recipe. I always find my dough is too soft to shape, even after an overnight chill in the fridge. No way can I make the neat little balls you do. So I pile it into the tin and the resulting bake, although utterly delicious to taste feels more like a cake than a traditional brioche. I use flour when shaping to help it, is there a certain type of flour or butter I should be using that together will create a better consistency?

Paul says:
Hi Corinne, Thanks for your message and I am glad you are persisting with the recipe. I always use good quality French unsalted butter and a good quality strong bread flour. The mix should be soft, but if you add flour when shaping the balls that should help. Also the mix should solidify if you are using butter.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Rob

Rob says:
Hello Paul, I followed your recipe for Croissants from your Your To Bake book with brilliant results. I was wondering if it would be possible after all the folding process to freeze the dough and butter mixture and use at a later date. Would freezing then defrosting spoil the final result? Looking forward to your reply, many thanks Rob.

Paul says:
Hi Rob, I am so glad you tried the recipe. It takes a while but the results are really worth the effort. Because the process of making croissants is quite lengthy, being able to freeze the dough can really save time. So yes you can freeze the dough as you suggest and you should still get fantastic results. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sue from Cornwall

Sue says:
Hello Paul, I have today made egg custard tarts, following your recipe after watching you make them on TV. I used non-stick muffin tins, but the pastry still stuck to the pan. Do you have any tips to try and avoid this happening again? They were still delicious, even though they didn’t look so good! Thanks Sue.

Paul says:
Hi Sue, thanks for your question. I am really glad I inspired you to make the tarts. I love it when people try a new recipe. I am afraid that even when using non-stick pans baked goods can often stick. Therefore, I suggest you always grease the tin with butter just to make sure. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Scott on the Isle of Wight

Scott says:
Hello Paul, I was wondering if you can give me some advice. I can never seem to obtain a white loaf, there is always a slight yellow tinge to it. Why is this? Also what is the best way of keeping bread fresh? Thanks in advance, Scott.

Paul says:
Hi Scott, The reason your loaf appears slightly yellow is because British flour has a yellow tinge due to our milling process. If you want a really white loaf you need to use Italian flour which is bleached. To keep the bread really fresh place in a paper bag and store in a bread tin. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Naomi from Holbeach

Naomi says:
Hello Paul, I am always having disasters whenever I attempt to make stiff-peak meringue. I always carefully whisk the sugar in, a spoonful at a time, but my mixture always ends up runny! Do you have any tips? Thanks Naomi

Paul says:
Hi Naomi, Don’t worry this is a very common problem. Firstly you always need to make sure that your bowl is very clean and dry. Secondly make sure that there is absolutely no egg yolk in the egg whites. Finally, you need to whisk the whites to peaks before adding any sugar, then as you say whisk in the sugar one spoonful at a time until a glossy meringue is reached. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Nikki Hannagan on Facebook

Nikki says:
Hello Paul, I would like to make cupcakes with a mini egg inside. Do you have any ideas so that I can make them so that the chocolate egg doesn’t sink to the bottom, but instead stays in the middle of the cake. Thanks

Paul says:
Hi Nikki, I imagine you are wanting to use up leftover Easter eggs right?! There is a great little gadget that makes this clever trick really easy. It is a round metal disc with a point that sticks up. You place it at the base of your cake tin and then put the cake case on top with the point sticking through. Then you can place the mini egg or any other sweet, malteser etc, on the spike and it then stays in the middle while your cupcake cooks. You can find these in many bakeware shops and online.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sharon in Lancashire

Sharon says:
Hello Paul, do you need to make your Simnel cake in advance like you would Christmas cake? Thanks Sharon

Paul says:
Hi Sharon, Thanks for your question. You can make your Simnel Cake up to one week in advance and then simply wrap in foil and store in an airtight container. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Charles from Baughurst, Hampshire

Charles says:
Hello Paul, I have now made 3 batches of  your hot cross buns.  Previously, (using another recipe from a TV cook I won’t mention), I have  always chickened out over piping the crosses (I just slashed them), but I felt your gimlet stare over my shoulder so I obediently piped the crosses. The buns, I am happy to say seem fine to me,  but the crosses have the consistency of supple leather.  I did add about ¼ to ½ tsp of freshly ground cardamoms to the paste; was this the problem? Thanks Charles

Paul says:
Hi Charles, The crosses do have a different texture to the bun and as it’s just flour and water it will be a tougher texture, but this is traditional. Make sure you pipe them thinly as the cross expands during cooking. If you want a softer texture on the cross you can add a little sugar to the paste. Alternatively you can place strips of sweet pastry in a cross shape but again make sure they are very thin. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Bob on Facebook

Bob says:
Hello Paul, How do I get hot cross buns to rise reasonably quickly in a cold kitchen? I don’t even have an airing cupboard these days to use.  Thanks Bob

Paul says:
Hi Bob, Good question. You need to be patient when making hot cross buns. The longer the prove the better the flavour. Leaving them to rise at room temperature is best. It could take anywhere between 1 & 3 hours depending on the room temperature. Don’t forget to keep them out of a draft. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Debbie in Basingstoke

Debbie says:
Hello Paul, I’m making Chelsea Buns – how do I ensure they’re baked through but not overdone on the edges.  The recipe says 200 degrees, but I’m putting them in on 180 degrees as I have a fan oven. Your help would be most appreciated.  Thanks Debbie

Paul says:
Hi Debbie, thanks for your question. This can often be a problem when baking. What I would suggest is that after 15 minutes  of baking I would check to see how brown they are. If they are catching then cover the edges with foil and this should stop them from being overdone.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Karen in Macclesfield

Karen says:
Hello Paul, Thanks to you and your excellent books, I can now bake wonderful light, flavourful bread!!! I always knead by hand but for recipes in your books with a wet dough, you recommend using a mixer – how do you knead the dough if you don’t have a mixer? Many thanks, Karen x

Paul says:
Hi Karen, I am so glad that you enjoy baking my recipes. Thanks for writing to me. Don’t worry if you don’t have  mixer, you can simply knead by hand. However, for wet doughs always oil the work surface you are kneading on as this really helps it to stop sticking. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sue

Sue says:
Hi Paul, I made soda bread today, but it is quite heavy and feels doughy. I did not use white plain flour, just white bread flour from Tesco and strong stone ground wholemeal flour. Is that the reason.  Thanks

Paul says:
Sue thanks for your message. You are using the right flour. The recipe also needs baking powder or bi carb to lighten the texture. The crumb is characteristically dense, but it should not be doughy. Bake for at least 30 minutes and leave to go cold before eating.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Patricia from Cartagena

Patricia says:
Hi Paul, I was wondering if I can make your brioche recipe only with egg yolks and not the whole egg? Will it still be nice and soft and tasty? Thanks, Patricia

Paul says:
Hi Patricia, thanks for your question. Yes you can use only the egg yolks, but increase the milk to give the dough the correct consistency. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Kay

Kay says:
Hi Paul, I have your Pie and Puds supplement and would like to make a couple of the pies, (the pork and apple & the beef and ale). But I wondered, can I freeze them? Thanks.

Paul says:
Hi Kay, thanks for your question. Yes they will freeze. First you need to cook the filling and place in your pie dish, then you need to leave to go completely cold, before putting the pastry on. Cover and freeze at this stage and then defrost completely before baking in the oven. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Linda in Horsham

Linda says:
Hi Paul, Can you tell me how one would use a stonebake and what is it for? Regards Linda.

Paul says:
Hi Linda, Stonebakes are often referred to when people are talking about cooking pizzas. They either refer to a wood burning pizza oven or simply a flat baking cooking surface, usually made of stone that can be used in a normal oven?  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Ann in Redcar

Ann says:
Hi Paul, I’ve just followed your recipe for soda bread, which I found in a magazine, with disastrous results.  It looked golden and sounded hollow after 30 mins as stated in the recipe, but when I broke into it it wasn’t cooked and was heavy and inedible.  Where did I go wrong? I even tried putting it back in the oven for 10 mins, but still it didn’t cook properly.  Thanks Ann.

Paul says:
Hi Ann, soda bread shouldn’t be over worked. It should be mixed until it just comes together. Then all it needs is a gentle roll and fold, no kneading. Bake for at least 30 minutes until golden brown. Then leave to go cold on a wire rack before eating. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Shannon on Facebook

Shannon says:
Good evening Mr Hollywood, I made a sour dough starter around 6 months ago…. very carefully following your instructions. I feed it following your instructions and it looks as it should . My one problem is when it is time to actually make my sour loaf, my loaf gets a total mind of its own- when left to prove, it seems to triple in size within an hour and a half, any suggestions as to where I may be going wrong as I’m getting rather upset with feeding my sourdough, but not being able to make a loaf from it. Many Thanks.

Paul says:
Hi Shannon, It’s obviously a very active sourdough starter, so well done. Here are some of my tips to slow down the prove and result in a stronger flavour. Firstly if you leave it a little longer between feeds this might help, secondly feed it with 10% Rye Flour and thirdly tighten up your starter a little by adding less water. I hope those help. Well done for giving this a go. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sue in London

Sue says:
Hi Paul, How do you recommend storing freshly baked crusty bread in order to keep the crustiness?  Assuming, of course, there is actually any left uneaten to store! 🙂

Paul says:
Hi Sue, the best way to store freshly baked bread is to wait until it has completely cooled and then wrap it in carrier bags and then put it in a bread bin. This should help keep it crusty for a little longer, however, home baked bread does not contain the same preservatives so will never keep as long as a shop bought loaf. When you feel like the loaf is starting to lose its crustiness then the best thing to do is toast it. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sean in Ashenden

Sean says:
Dear Paul, firstly your the best thing about the GBBO. Secondly can you help me answer a question about my lemon meringue pie.  I get a kind of liquid from it all the time that makes the pastry go soft, and it’s like the meringue is floating on it. I have tried making my own lemon filling and using shop bought, own pastry and ready made, different meringues, fresh eggs and dry egg whites, putting meringue on filling hot and on the filling when cold, baking it quick and hot, and slow and cool.  Is it the sugar out of the meringue ? So, so fed up of not getting it right. When you buy a ready made pie you don’t get this, am I just a fool? I am not classically trained, but have just spent years working in lots of kitchens and just can’t sort this out. Many, many thanks Sean

Paul says:
Hi Sean, thanks for your question. It could be one of a number of things that is making your meringue leak, however, crucially all Lemon Meringue Pies will leak if you leave them too long. You are right it is probably the sugar in the meringue melting.  Try and serve your pie the same day that you make it and keep it in a dry environment before serving, never in the fridge. Happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Josh

Josh says:
Hi Paul, Should I be using the fan setting on my oven when baking bread? Whenever I try baking bread at 200 degrees it burns unless I cover it with foil. Do you have to reduce the temperature with a fan oven? Thanks, Josh

Paul says:
Hi Josh, I would avoid using a fan setting when baking bread and simply bake at 200°C. However, if you only have a fan option then make sure you that you reduce the temperature by 20° to 180°C. Happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Heather in Huddersfield

Heather says:
Hi Paul, I have had made your White Christmas Cake this year and I just wondered how long it will last for? Thank you, Heather

Paul says:
Hi Heather, I am so glad you have made it, I really hope you all enjoy it. If you wrap the cake in foil and keep in an airtight box it will last for a month. Merry Christmas and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Jean in Liverpool

Jean says:
Hi Paul,Please can you tell me if your Sausage Plait recipe can be made in advance and frozen in readiness for Christmas. Thank you, Jean.

Paul says:
Hi Jean, this appears to be a popular question at this time of year. Lots of you want to get ahead with your baking and freeze stuff for Christmas meals, parties etc. You can definitely do this with the sausage plait, you simply make it and then freeze it before baking. Defrost before cooking as per the recipe. Great idea and really handy for last minute guests! I have also had similar questions regarding pizzas and my quail egg pork pies. For the pizzas, make the bases and part cook them for 7-8 minutes, then freeze at this stage. When you need them remove from the freezer, add your toppings, bake and eat. With the pork pies, after cooking cool completely, wrap in grease proof paper and then foil and they can remain in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Jan

Jan says:
Hi Paul, I really enjoyed coming to see you recently, you signed books for me, I am looking forward to trying the recipes. I want to try your White Christmas Cake, (my family doesn’t like traditional cake), but I can’t find any candied angelica in the shops. I’m not sure if it is essential or not, can I substitute it with something else please?  Thank you, Jan

Paul says:
Hi Jan, I am really glad you are enjoying the books. Don’t worry if you can’t find dried angelica, you could try using dried cranberries instead. These have a lovely festive taste and will work really well in the cake. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Annie in Worcester

Annie says:
Hi Paul, why does my bread dough rise in less than half the time given at all stages.  It feels right and I knead it for the suggested time too. The finished loaf is not as light as I would like. Thank you , Annie

Paul says:
Hi Annie , I imagine that the reason your dough is rising so quickly is down to a warm environment. Do you add warm water to your dough? Try making sure that your kitchen is not too warm, or even leave your loaf to rise in the fridge overnight. I hope that this works.  Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Simon in Bath

Simon says:
Hello Paul, I thank you for inspiring me to get back into making bread with much better results this time! I am now encouraging my daughter to do the same. My question is what makes huge air holes within the loaf which only become apparent when showing off a nice home baked loaf! Insufficient knocking back? I’ve only had it happen a couple of times but am interested to know. I look forward to hearing from you and thanks again, Simon

Paul says:
Hi Simon, I am glad you and your daughter are having fun making bread together. I imagine that the air holes you are getting are caused by insufficient kneading. Make sure that you really spend the right amount of time kneading the dough properly and also making sure it is shaped properly. For tips on how to knead your dough check out the techniques page in my Baking Basics section of the website. For more ideas for baking with your daughter, please check out my Bake with Kids section. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Sandra in Co. Durham

Sandra says:
Sandra says: Hi Paul, I have attempted to make homemade bread several times, but when I have to knead it my wrists and fingers ache after only a couple of minutes as I have a touch of arthritis. What would be the best way for me to knead the bread to get a really good loaf? Thanks

Paul says:
Hi Sandra, I am sorry that you have arthritis, however, I am afraid that to achieve a successful loaf it’s really important to give the dough a good knead. If you think you are going to start making bread regularly, I would really recommend you buying a food mixer with a dough hook. This will take all the hard work out of bread making for you, whilst you sit back and relax. Maybe this is something to go on your Christmas list! Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Jacqui from Fareham, Hampshire

Jacqui says:
Hi Paul, I have just made some macarons for my daughters wedding (in fact hundreds!). Anyway I followed the recipe to the letter, they had the shine and smooth top, but the colours faded when cooked. I have tried to find out why, but to no avail. I hope you can help as I have seen the contestants on the Bake Off make some and they look perfect, with lovely bright colours. Thanks

Paul says:
Hi Jacqui, It’s really important when you are making macarons to use proper paste food colouring, which can be found in specialist baking shops and on-line. This is because the liquid food colourings can dilute the consistency of your macaron and cause the colour to fade. However, you will always get some fading during the baking process, so I suggest you make the macaron mixture darker than you want the end product to be. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Jack Beckitt, an American in West Yorkshire

Jack says:
Hi Paul, Just having the final touches done to my new kitchen and think the first thing I should bake is . . . bread! Otherwise it would be a sacrilege in my opinion. I fell in love with currant teacakes when I got here, but slowly fell out of love with them over the years. Do you have any tips to re-engergise this? Maybe something different, or point me to your favourite recipe. Thanks Jack

Paul says:
Hi Jack, I love teacakes too! You should check out my recipe in the bread section here. These are large, soft and sweet and quite different to shop-bought teacakes, which I find can be quite dry and disappointing. I use sultanas, as well as mixed peel and add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon for added spice. Good luck, enjoy the new kitchen and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Lynda Giles from South East London

Lynda says:
Hi Paul, HELP!! Have you got a recipe for making bread that is wheat, gluten and yeast free as I have just been diagnosed with an intolerance to them. Any help and advice you have would be much appreciated. Many thanks Lynda

Paul says:
The honest answer is that we haven’t perfected it yet, but it’s something we’re working on. In the meantime, why don’t you try corn tortillas that can be used as wraps for a sandwich. The recipe can be found in my Bread Book and uses masa harina which is gluten free flour from corn. Good luck and happy baking.

 

Question of the Week, from Lizzie from Monthault, France

Lizzie says:
Hi there Paul,  HELP! My dough is fine when I knead it, but after it’s proved it’s really sticky and not just a little bit sticky, I mean STICKY and loose, what should I do. It’s a simple white bread recipe. Thanks ever so. Lizzie

Paul says:
Hmm, this is a tricky one. I don’t know exactly which bread you’re making but it sounds like you may be proving your dough in a moist environment. Next time make sure that it is totally moisture-free and that you have really kneaded the dough for long enough. You can’t over-knead the dough and it should be really lovely and smooth before you leave it to prove. Good luck and happy baking.

Question of the Week, from Christine Jackson on Facebook

Christine says:
Hi Paul, what is the easiest bread to make for a first attempt? I love to bake and have only ever made . . . ahem . . . ‘homemade’ bread from a packet mix. Thanks.

Paul says:
Christine don’t worry, proper homemade bread doesn’t have to be difficult. The trick with learning to bake bread at home is to start with a loaf in a tin. That way you don’t have to worry about shaping the dough. Check out my recipe for a simple white cob loaf in the bread section of the website. Instead of shaping your loaf after knocking back the dough, form it into an oblong by flattening the dough out slightly and folding the sides into the middle. Roll the whole lot up – the top should be smooth with a join running along the length of the base and put it into a 1kg loaf tin, which has been lightly brushed with olive oil. After proving in the tin it can go straight into the oven. You will definitely be able to tell the difference between this and a packet mix. Good luck and happy baking.