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How to conquer 'bread dread' and bake the best loaves with recipes inspired by the Great British Bake Off

Bread making 
This week's bakers tackled the infamous bread week, which proved that loaves can take time to perfect Credit:  Andrew Crowley

“Good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight,” wrote the late, great American cookery writer M.K Fisher in The Art Of Eating. Sadly this delight is denied to most novice bakers attempting their very first loaf.

In reality, there is the sticky knead, the nail-biting first (and sometimes second) prove, and a whole lot of tension waiting to see if the oven produces a brilliant bake – or a brick.

This week, eleven hopeful bakers returned to the Great British Bake Off tent to tackle Bread Week, an infamous set of challenges set by Paul Hollywood, who is, according to presenter Noel Fielding, “part-bread, with a chest like a baguette”. If this image of Hollywood didn’t get the sweat rolling from the bakers' foreheads then the challenges – a yeasted tear-and-share loaf, a tough technical task making floury burger baps, and decorative loaf showstopper – certainly would. 

Some contestants excelled. Michael Chakraverty (who admitted to having “bread dread” at the start of the episode), made a spectacular coconut and chilli Keralan star tear-and-share bread that earned the first ‘Hollywood Handshake’ of the season. Meanwhile Rosie Brandreth-Poynter was praised for her Spanish flavoured chilli and manchego tear-and-share that “tasted of heaven,” according to judge Prue Leith, and Priya O’Shea’s cheesy jalapeno creation was said to have “loads of texture” by the steely-eyed bread expert himself. 

But it wasn't all sunshine in the tent. Leith was left reeling after a bite of Amelia Le Bruin’s fiery chorizo brunch loaf gave a smack of unexpected heat, and Steph Blackwell’s sundried tomato and pesto star was described as “bone dry” by Hollywood. 

The technical challenge, which demanded eight white burger baps and four vegetarian burgers, produced results varying from perfectly dusted buns to Scooby Doo-esque fast food, according to Hollywood.

Henry scored first place for his selection with excellent open structure but it was poor Amelia who came last with her selection of giant, soggy burgers and comically tiny baps. A disappointing showstopper that was deemed underbaked sealed her fate. 

Amelia was the latest contestant to be evicted from the GBBO tent  Credit:  Love Productions

Though it’s unlikely that any of us will be attempting a decorative tower of bread any time soon, there are valuable rules to follow in order to achieve a well-made loaf – not least on Paul Hollywood's own website (how to judge whether your dough has been kneaded enough? Pull a piece between your hands – it should stretch to 20cm without breaking).

Whether you use an electric stand mixer with a dough hook to knead or get stuck in yourself, little compares to the satisfaction of baking a loaf from scratch – coming close, even, to the delight that M.K Fisher described in the 1950s, often regarded as the decade of good bread.

Armed with this set of recipes and tips, everyone from novice to experienced baker can turn out a batch of perfectly made bread, in all of its guises. So go on, try them, and conquer your bread dread once and for all.