• A flour-dusted bloomer is a perfect first loaf - and a great sandwich loaf for any baker (Bloomsbury / Paul Hollywood's bread)Source: Bloomsbury / Paul Hollywood's bread
Join Paul Hollywood as he shows step-by-step how to make this classic bread.
Kylie Walker

3 Jul 2020 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2020 - 11:13 AM

--- Join Paul Hollywood as he shows you how to make his favourite bread from around the world, from yeasted loaves to soda bread, flatbreads, sweet breads and more in Paul Hollywood’s Bread, double episodes Mondays 8.30pm 6 July to 20 July on SBS Food and SBS on Demand. ---


“I’m going to show you how to use flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water and turn it into something truly magical,” says Paul Hollywood.

Hollywood is talking about a bloomer – a classic bread that is, he says “a perfect learner loaf”.

It’s the first recipe he shares in his TV show, Paul Hollywood’s Bread. It’s also the foundation recipe in his book of the same name.

“A bloomer is one of those original breads that I first learnt how to make when I was about 13 years old. Master the bloomer, and everything else will fall into place,” he says in the show of this "crusty loaf with a soft interior, airy and light but satisfyingly chewy".

A bloomer is a classic British bread, a long loaf with rounded ends and evenly spaced slashes. Some say the name refers to how the shaped dough ‘blooms’ in the oven, or that it is related to the voluminous “bloomers” women once wore for cycling. Respected English food writer Elizabeth David wrote in her classic book English Bread and Yeast Cookery that she thought – since so many other loaves are cooked the same way – that there might be other more likely explanations, including one with a surprising Australian connection.

It could, she says, be to do with the use of the word bloom in the baking trade to refer to the lustre seen on a good, crusty loaf. Or perhaps, she says, it was because “good quality Australian flour was known as ‘bloomery’ and at one time it was understood that the bloomer loaf was of a special quality, made from high-grade flour.”

Make this loaf and you'll definitely be enjoying a bread that was long prized for its quality:

“A genuine bloomer is enriched with milk, sugar, lard or butter and should command a price in keeping with its food value,” writes Walter T. Banfield in the 1947 edition of Manna, a 500-plus page tome on British breadmaking – not all loaves, it seems, were genuine bloomers!

Hollywood’s loaf is enriched with olive oil: “It gives a bit of longevity to the loaf and keeps it nice and soft,” he says.

If you’ve never made bread before, Hollywood’s step-by-step guide to making this loaf is an excellent way to start.

A few key tips that he shares in the recipe, and in the show:

  • When adding dried yeast and salt to flour, he says to put the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt on the other, on top of the flour. “You don’t want to put it in contact with the yeast,” he says. Too much salt in a dough, or direct contact between salt and yeast, can inhibit the yeast’s fermentation.
  • You don’t need to use warm water for this recipe. “This is a big thing. Most people when they make bread actually use warm water. It’s a myth,” he says in the show. “Yeast is a microorganism, which grows when you add water. Using cold water means that the yeast grows slowly, and your bread will taste so much better.”
  • When you’re adding water, you’re aiming for a soft, sticky, messy dough that just hangs together in the bowl – “A wetter dough is harder to handle at first, but produces better bread,” Hollywood says. “Bear in mind that the dough will become less sticky as you knead.”
  • Use oil on your bench top, rather than flour, when you knead the dough.I use oil rather than flour to stop the dough sticking to the surface as it keeps the dough soft and does not alter the balance of flour to water.” It also helps stop the dough sticking to your hands. As you knead, the dough will gradually become a soft, smooth ball. That could take 5-10 minutes, or a bit longer if you are new to kneading dough.

  • “It’s vital to knead the dough vigorously to develop the gluten and give the dough stretchiness, and to knock back and shape the loaf well. All this strengthens the structure so the dough can rise upwards without a tin,” Hollywood explains. Don’t worry too much about how you work the dough; there are lots of ways to knead – you can stretch and fold, as Hollywood does, or work with a pushing and rolling motion. “The more you play with it, work it, stretch it, the better your dough will be,” he says.  
  • You leave the dough to rise twice – the first time, the ball of kneaded dough needs to double in size. It will probably take 1½ to 2 hours but can take up to 3 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen. A slow rise develops a better flavour, so don’t put it in a warm spot, Hollywood says. “The ambient temperature in most kitchens is between 18°C and 24°C, which is perfectly adequate.”
  • The risen dough is knocked back – a term that means deflating the dough – and then shaped. The shaped bloomer then gets left to rise again before baking. This rise takes about an hour but again, it will vary. If you very gently press the loaf with a finger, it should spring back very slowly.
  • Slashing the loaf before you bake does give it a lovely look, but it’s practical too: “On baking the loaf expands, so the slashes open up. If you do not slash the top, as the bread continues to expand once the crust has formed, cracks will form around the bottom of the crust.”
  • Just before you put the loaf in the oven, pour about 1 litre water into the roasting tray. This will create steam when the loaf is baking and give it a crisp crust and a slight sheen.
  • To check if the loaf is baked, “hold the loaf in a tea towel and tap the bottom. If the loaf sounds hollow, then it is ready”.

Once you have mastered the techniques in a traditional loaf like this, you will have the confidence to tackle anything, Hollywood says. The world of bread awaits you!

Recipe and images from Paul Hollywood's Bread by Paul Hollywood (Bloomsbury, available in hardback and e-book)


More loaves tolove
Overnight bread baked in a cast iron pot

For this recipe you don’t need to preheat the oven. Once you put the pot in, you turn the oven on to full heat and let the delightful smell fill your home.

Jewish Yemeni bread (kubaneh) with zhug

The long slow baking causes the butter between the layers of dough to caramelise, giving the bread an even deep golden colour and distinct, but mellow, flavour right to the core.

Fig and fennel pull-apart bread

Nordic countries have a closer association with the Mediterranean than many would imagine, with retirees and young families alike spending plenty of time down south topping up their vitamin D levels. I can only imagine that’s how this flavour combo was born. Two great bakeries I know of in Stockholm who make the best traditional cinnamon buns do so with these flavours – here they are incorporated into a more savoury dough to be enjoyed with butter and black coffee.

Kale and feta bread

I have a thing for savoury breads that border on being cakes: from zucchini bread to jalapeno cornbread. I've taken inspiration from those and today I present you with another rendition, made with spelt flour, shredded kale, a good dose of feta and a number of fragrant herbs. And to keep it all moist, I've added olive oil and Greek yoghurt. I like to toast this under the grill and serve it up with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for a decadent Sunday brunch. If you're not feeling fancy, simply serve it with a cup of tea for a nutritious snack. 

Bread of the dead (pan de muerto)

In Mexico, this sweet brioche will often be used to decorate the graves of loved ones who have passed away.