Barm Cakes

Suitably inspired to start my week of baking in style, I splashed out on Paul Hollywood‘s book, “How to Bake” – after all, I was after getting back to basics, so who better to consult than the master baker himself?

This is my first attempt at his recipe for Barm Cakes, which all in all worked quite well. My one reservation as the limited amount of time I had (these needed to be on the table for an entertaining lunch), combined with the recent drop in ambient temperature  – I think that next time I’d like to give them longer to rise and longer to prove as I didn’t get the growth that I had expected.  Having said, the texture was great, nice and light with a subtle sweetness.

Well worth a try!

Makes 12ish, takes 3 1/2 – 4 hrs


  • 500g Strong White Flour
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 10g Fast Action Yeast
  • 40g Golden Granulated Castor Sugar
  • 40g Butter, diced & softened
  • c320ml Cold Water
  • A little Olive Oil
  • Flour for dusting


  • Put the flour, salt, sugar, butter and yeast into a bowl (keep the yeast aside from the salt) and mix briefly with your hands
  • Add about 3/4 of the water and mix together with your fingers, bringing the dough together.  add more of the water until you have a soft dough – it will be quite sticky, but not soggy. NB: you may need more (or less) than the quantity of water specified
  • Use the ball of dough to clean out the bowl and tip onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth.  Refrain from adding more flour, despite the fact that it may seem quite sticky – this will start to improve as the kneading progressed
  • Lightly oil the bowl and return the kneaded dough. Cover with cling film and set aside out of the draft to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back,  Work the dough by folding in on itself – this will eradicate any big air pockets and give a consistent bread with fine, even texture
  • Divide the dough into 12 pieces – this can be done by cutting into 2 pieces, rolling each into sausage shapes and cutting each into 6.  Adjust the size of each to make them even.  Alternatively, weigh out lumps of dough, they should be around 70-75g a piece
  • Carefully work each piece into a neat round – try and get any seams on the bottom and a smooth side on the top.  NB: this shaping is definitely something I need practise on…
  • Leave the shaped dough to rest for 30 mins
  • Take the rested dough and with your fingers, flatten out to even rounds which are twice the diameter of the original roll.  Place on baking sheets (prepped with baking parchment), making sure that there is plenty of room between each.  Cover over with cling film or in a plastic bag and set aside to prove until they have doubled in size – about an hour
  • Remove cling film and bake for 10 minutes in a preheated oven, 210oC.  When cooked they’ll have a golden brown top and sound hollow when the base is tapped
  • Cool on wire racks before eating

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Darren says:

    I followed the recipe to the letter but for some reason the dough didn’t rise very much like most bread other doughs the double in size . I’m beginning to think I missed out something.????
    Cheers darren

    1. Hi Darren,
      You probably didn’t miss a step. Bread dough can be a bit temperamental. If the ambient temperature was low or the water was particularly cold, or there was a bit too much salt or the yeast wasn’t quite up to scratch – these would all slow down the fermentation process. It would work in time, but may take a little longer. By adding butter to enrich the dough also makes this a slower rise than normal bread dough

  2. MattP says:

    I just finished my second bake of these from the Paul Hollywood book and am quite pleased. My first attempt at baking these went awry and they did not rise when proving – still delicious (kids wanted more – and they never finish a shop bought roll!) but some flat enough to be difficult to cut in half… What I think I did differently (and hope made the difference) was:

    1. Gently but meticulously stretching out and folding in to knock the air out after the first rise*.

    2. Better rolling of the dough into balls. What I found worked was to roll the dough from under the centre of my palm out and around to my finger tips – placing moderate force on the dough whilst rolling under the centre of my palm. Too much flour on the dough and it doesn’t grip the work top meaning it got pushed around without balling (I used my granite worktop saver which seems not to need flouring or oiling as much as other surfaces). Some dough also just didn’t ball well. For these I folded the edges into the centre of the dough a few times and again rolled them into a ball with a much better result.

    3. I also deviated from the book by flattening the rested balls of dough under my palm rather than using a rolling pin. I used a wiggling motion to try to retain as much of the air in the dough as possible. After my first attempt at these I felt I had over worked them with the rolling pin and forced too much air out of them. It seemed odd to effectively knock them back at this point so I didn’t.

    I thought I had set the oven too hot because the tops of the buns were hard to the touch when they came out of the oven whereas my first batch had been lovely and soft. I covered them with a tea towel and left them on the baking tray – the escaping steam softened the tops. Not sure if I made an error but they are fine now.

    * I made the dough exactly to the recipe, kneaded it and then refrigerated it for 5 hours in the oiled mixing bowl covered with cling film to rise. Foolishly I used a ceramic mixing bowl which stubbornly holds it’s temperature making the cooling and returning to room temperature a longer process… I took it out of the fridge and replaced the cling film with a tea towel for an hour before using. When I could smell the dough from across the room I knew it was ready. My eventual aim is to make the dough the evening before it’s required and remove it from the fridge just after breakfast so fresh barm cakes are achievable for lunch with a lot less stress.

    I also found that a large vacuum storage bag made the perfect proving bag for a largish baking tray.

    Finished Barm Cakes:

    Hope this is helpful to somone 🙂

  3. Gary Haigh says:

    Mine came out absolutely perfect 😍

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