We’re sharing some bread you’ll just loaf for #RealBreadWeek!

This recipe is included in Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young, it was contributed by Ursi Widemann. Here’s what she said: “I love pretzels! I could eat them every single day . . . maybe it’s because I’m Bavarian”.

Pretzels are usually dipped in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye) prior to baking, which gives them their characteristic taste and shiny brown skin. As food-grade sodium hydroxide can be hard to obtain and is hazardous to handle, this recipe uses bicarbonate of soda/baking soda instead, which gets you safely toward a similar result.


Taken from Slow Dough: Real Bread


Makes: 12
From mixing to oven: 12–16 hours
Baking time: 15–20 minutes

For the pre-ferment:
125g/4½oz/¾ cup plus 2 tbsp wholemeal/wholewheat bread flour
20g/1½ tbsp rye sourdough starter
100g/3½oz/½ cup minus 1 tbsp water
For the dough:
375g/13oz/223 cups white bread flour
25g/1oz/2 tbsp butter
8g/1½ tsp fine/table salt
160g/5¾oz/23 cup water
For dipping:
1kg/2lb 4oz/4¼ cups water
20g/heaping 1½ tbsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
For the topping:
coarse sea salt flakes or crystals, or you could use sesame seeds, poppy seeds or caraway seeds

Mix the pre-ferment ingredients together, cover and leave at room temperature for 8–12 hours until bubbly.
2 Mix the dough ingredients with the pre-ferment, and knead until you have a firm but supple dough: tighter than usual, but if it really is too stiff to work, add a little more water. Put the dough into a bowl, cover and leave to rise at room temperature for a further 3 hours, giving the dough a single fold halfway through this time.
3 Divide the dough into 12 equal-size pieces (65g/2¼oz), roll into balls, cover and leave for 20 minutes, then roll each piece into a strand about 25cm/10in long that tapers at the ends with a little belly in the middle. Bend each strand into a “U” shape, cross one side over the other about halfway up, give it a twist where they cross, then fold the ends up to meet the bend of the U and press down gently to fix in place. Cover the dough and leave to prove for 45–60 minutes.
4 Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and heat the oven to 230°C/210°C fan/450°F/gas 8. Meanwhile, bring the water to the boil in a large pan and add the bicarbonate of soda/baking soda. Drop the pretzels into the boiling liquid 2 or 3 at a time for 20 seconds, lift out with a slotted spoon and place onto the baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with the topping of your choice while the dough is still tacky. Slash the dough at its fattest part and bake for 15–20 minutes until deep brown.

Happy baking! Don’t forget to tag us in your posts – #NourishBooks AND #RealBreadWeek!

We’re celebrating the return of the Great British Bake Off with this delicious recipe for Masala Chai-spiced Bread and Butter Pudding from Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young! Read on for the full, spicy and satisfying recipe!


Masala Chai-spiced Bread and Butter Pudding taken from Slow Dough: Real Bread.


PREPARATION TIME: 45-55 minutes

COOKING TIME: 30-40 minutes



600g/11b 5oz/XXX cups milk (or a mixture of milk and cream)

1 green cardamom pod

1 or 2 cloves

1 slice (about 3mm/1/8 inch thick) fresh ginger

2cm/3/4 inch piece of cinnamon quill or cassia bark

1 vanilla pod/bean

a twist or two of black pepper

50g/194ozl/4 cups caster/superfine sugar

2 eggs

300g/10 and a 1/2 oz stale Real Bread, sliced about 1cm/1/2 inch thick

50g/1 and 3/4 0z/3 and 1/2 tbsp butter

zest of half a lemon

50g/1 and 3/4 oz/1/2cup seedless raisins or sultanas/golden raisins


  1. Measure the milk into a saucepan, add the spices, vanilla and pepper, and heat but do not boil. Cover and set aside to cool and infuse.
  2. Grease an ovenproof dish. Butter the bread on one side and arrange half of the slices in a layer in the dish. Scatter the lemon zest and raisins over the bread and layer the rest of the bread on top. If you are using a smaller, deeper dish, you might get three layers of bread and two of fruit.
  3. Strain the spices out of the milk. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds back into the milk (dry the vanilla pod to use again, or to flavour a jar of sugar.
  4. Whisk together the sugar and eggs, then add the milk and whisk again. Pour the custard over the bread, butter and fruit in the dish – it should reach about half way up the top layer of bread. Press the bread down into the mixture (you don’t want any dry bits) and leave to soak for about 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4. Put the pudding in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until brown on top and just set in the middle – wobbly, not watery. Serve warm or cold with cream or custard.

Happy Baking! Why not upload a #SourdoughSelfie tag @RealBreadCampaign and @NourishBooks on Instagram!

Welcome to #SourdoughSeptember! We’re so excited to join the 2020 #LockdownLoafers in baking and creating artisanal sourdough this month. Of all the things the pandemic brought forth, bread is a strong favourite here at Nourish HQ.

To get the celebrations started, we’re sharing this Fig and Fennel Sourdough recipe from Slow Dough: Real Bread by Chris Young – to join in and make some Real Bread, you can get your copy of the book here!


Fig and Fennel Sourdough, taken from Slow Dough: Real Bread


Makes: 1 large loaf
From mixing to oven: overnight plus 5 hours
Baking time: 30 minutes


For the pre-ferment:
100g / 3 and a 1⁄2oz / scant 1⁄2 cup white sourdough starter
75g / 2 and a 1⁄2oz / 1⁄2 cup plus 1⁄2 tbsp white bread flour
75g / 2 and a 1⁄2oz / scant 1⁄3 cup water
For the dough:
350g / 12oz / 2 and a 1⁄2 cups white bread flour
150g / 5 and a 1⁄2oz / 1 cup wholemeal / wholewheat bread flour
300g / 10 and a 1⁄2oz / 1 and a 1⁄4 cups water
10g / 1 heaping tbsp green fennel seeds
10g / 2 tsp fine / table salt
175g / 6 and a 1⁄4oz / scant 1 and a 1⁄4 cups quartered dried figs


1. Mix the pre-ferment ingredients together thoroughly, cover and leave at room temperature for 12–14 hours (typically overnight).
2. To make the dough, add both flours with the water and fennel seeds to the pre-ferment, and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 20–30 minutes.
3. Mix in the salt and knead for a few minutes. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin to roll it out into a rectangle. Distribute the figs evenly over half the dough, then fold the other half over them, pressing the edges together to seal. Roll the dough out again, fold in half and roll out once more. If the figs are not evenly distributed, repeat the process but be careful not to mush them up completely.
5. Shape the dough into a ball, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for 1 hour.
6. Give the dough a single fold, cover and leave to prove for another 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size.
7. Dust a proving basket well with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape to fit the basket. Place the dough seam-side up in the basket, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for 1 hour.
8. Heat the oven to 230°C/210°C fan/450°F/gas 8, with a baking stone or baking sheet in place. Turn the dough out onto a peel and slide it onto the baking stone. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/gas 6 and bake for a further 20 minutes, checking halfway through that it is not browning too quickly.

Happy Baking! Why not upload a #SourdoughSelfie tag @RealBreadCampaign and @NourishBooks on Instagram!


This article is adapted from Slow Dough by Chris Young.

Like the word bread itself, the terms ‘artisan’ and ‘craft’ have no legal definition. This means anyone can call themselves an artisan or craft baker and market their loaves as artisan or craft bread. The production methods used may not be obvious and, in the case of loaves that aren’t pre-packed – such as those from a supermarket in-store ‘bakery’ – you’ll have your work cut out to find whether or not artificial additives have been employed.

Though some of the differences between Real Bread and industrial loaves may be obvious, labelling and marketing regulations and the way they are policed in various countries can leave loopholes that deny shoppers the right to know exactly what they’re getting.

Knowing that many of us find a litany of chemical names or E numbers off-putting, some manufacturers are now turning to so-called processing aids. By a quirk of EU law, if an artificial additive is deemed to be a ‘processing aid’, it does not have to appear on the label, as long as any ‘residues do not present any health risk and do not have any technological effect on the finished product.’ As a consequence, suppliers often market these as ‘clean label’ or ‘label friendly’. Companies may defend the use of processing aids with comments along the lines of ‘we always comply with the law’, or ‘they get used up during manufacture’ even though despite the fact that their use may, quite legally, ‘result in the unintentional but technically unavoidable presence of residues of the substance or its derivatives in the final product’.

An allegedly ‘fresh baked’ unwrapped loaf sold by a supermarket, convenience store, petrol station or other retailer may have been manufactured a long time ago in a factory far away, then chilled or frozen. Having then been re-baked in a retailer’s ‘loaf tanning salon’ oven increases the energy consumed in production, and results in a loaf that may well stale faster than a genuinely fresh one. Not that you’d know any of that, so you could be forgiven for making a like-for-like comparison with a loaf of Real Bread from a local independent bakery, which helps to sustain more skilled jobs per loaf for local people making genuinely freshly baked bread without the use of artificial additives. Which part of this is fair on you the shopper or a genuine artisan baker?

Perhaps it’s time to BIY – bake it yourself.

Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign’s first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear’s Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.


Chris Young
Slow Dough: Real Bread
£20.00, available from Nourish Books



stilton stout and walnut main

This article is adapted from Slow Dough by Chris Young.

Until relatively recently, the future of bread in Britain looked bleak. Following World War II, the number of independent high street bakeries headed into what seemed a permanent decline, with a handful of industrial giants and multiple retailers rising to dominance and helping to speed their demise.

A particularly dark day for Real Bread historians came in July 1961, when the British Baking Industries Research Association unleashed what later became known as The Chorleywood ‘Bread’ Process (CBP), which takes a shortcut through dough’s natural fermentation and ‘ripening’ time, slashing it from hours or even days to tens of minutes.

Convinced by expensive marketing campaigns to believe that one brand of CBP loaf was in any meaningful way different from another, we began to look to our supermarkets for sandwich loaves, using the same squeeze test we might use for toilet rolls. And the manufacturers and retailers conspired in a race to the bottom, so driven by low prices that by the end of the 1990s, you could buy a sliced CBP loaf for about 7p. Nope, that’s not a typo: in 1999 at least one supermarket dropped the price of its ‘value’ range own-brand loaves far below even the cost of production, to just seven pence.

From Roman and medieval statutes; through nineteenth century wholemeal advocates including Sylvester Graham and Thomas Allinson; national newspaper campaigns in the early twentieth; and the Campaign for Real Bread that ran in Britain as the 1970s turned into the 1980s; the fight for better bread is perhaps as old as bread itself.

In 2008, the food and farming charity Sustain joined forces with baker Andrew Whitley to discuss setting up a new organisation to fight for better bread. Quickly, this attracted the interest of hundreds of people, and after a series of open meetings, the Real Bread Campaign was launched on 26 November of that year. Since then it has thousands of supporters in more than twenty countries. Behind a rallying cry of ‘not all loaves are created equal!’ together we’ve been finding and sharing ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet.

The Real Bread Campaign doesn’t wish to deny any industrial baker their job, but believes that a small, independent Real Bread bakery is of greater benefit to both its bakers and to its local community. These benefits might include:

  • Skilled, meaningful jobs for local people producing food for their neighbours.
  • More jobs-per-loaf than an industrial loaf factory.
  • Opportunities for social interaction between employees and customers.
  • Support for the local high street and economy: money spent with a local business is more likely to be re-invested locally.
  • Potential to support local producers, growers or other smaller or more ethical suppliers, by providing an outlet for their goods.
  • The chance to shop on foot, by bike or public transport, rather than having to drive to an out-of-town megamarket.

While the wrapped, sliced industrial loaf still accounts for the largest percentage of the ‘bread’ market in Britain, it is in decline. In May 2016, Kantar Worldpanel reported that industrial loaf sales had fallen by more than £130 million in just 12 months, while IRI found that supermarkets had sold 50 million loaves.

While nobody seems to count the sales of small, independent bakeries (or even how many there are), in August this year, British Baker magazine reported that sales by one of the larger independents had risen by 41.5%, who had taken on more than 360 staff to meet the demand for their Real Bread.

As for the Campaign, it now has paying supporters in more than 20 countries, around 680 bakeries have added Real Bread to its map, and has more than 25,600 followers on Twitter. Its work has helped more than 10,000 children at over 150 schools learn to bake; encourage and champion the creation of more Real Bread businesses and secured the ASA’s rulings against misleading advertising by supermarket chains.

Chris Young is Campaign Co-ordinator for The Real Bread Campaign, a charity project with a mission to promote additive-free bread. In addition to compiling this book, Chris edits the quarterly magazine True Loaf, and wrote Knead to Know, the campaign’s first book. His work has appeared in publications including Spear’s Magazine, The Real Food Cookbook and the London ethical food magazine, The Jellied Eel, which he also edits.


Chris Young
Slow Dough: Real Bread
£20.00, available from Nourish Books