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Bread Making Basics - Tips and Tricks

Making your own bread is one of the most rewarding skills to master in the kitchen, and you don’t need lots of gadgets or ingredients to do it! Bread making basics are a bowl, measuring spoons, a measuring jug and something to bake the loaf on or in – either a loaf tin or a baking tray. You could also try a baking stone, which you place in the oven increasing the bottom cooking temperature and meaning you can bake directly onto the hot stone; they are great for sourdoughs, flatbreads and pizzas.

For ingredients, you only need a good quality bread flour; yeast – cultured or naturally occurring as in a sourdough starter; water and sea salt.

Bread Making Basics - Which Bread Flour Should I Use?

Always use strong bread flour, either white or wholewheat. Stone-ground flour will give you better flavour, colour and texture. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than regular plain flour, which makes the dough stretchy and gives your finished loaf lightness and volume. You can make different types of bread with spelt and rye flours, which have lower gluten content and result in a denser loaf.

Bread Making Basics - Which Yeast Should I Use?

The ingredient that makes bread rise is yeast, and there are three types of yeast that you can use. Fresh yeast is available from bakeries and in-store bakeries in some supermarkets. It can be kept wrapped in the fridge for up to a week and for a month in the freezer. Fresh yeast isn’t suitable for using in a bread making machine. You will need 25g fresh yeast for every kilo of bread flour. Dried active yeast comes in a tin and you mix this with warm water and a little sugar before combining with the flour, which means you can kick-start the yeast and check it is still alive (bubbles form on the surface of the water). Keep your open tin of dried active yeast in the fridge and use within three months. You will need two tablespoons of dried active yeast for 1 kilo bread flour. Finally, you could use sachets of fast acting yeast, which you add directly to the flour – they are easy to use and suitable for bread machines. You will need 2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast for every kilo of bread flour.

Bread Making Basics - Tip and Tricks

  • Cold doesn’t kill yeast but excessive heat does, so don’t add hot water to your yeast or leave dough to rise in a really hot place such as on top of an aga.
  • Kneading puts energy into the dough to stretch the gluten. The stretchier the dough, the better it will hold the gasses released by the fermentation of the yeast, and the better the texture of the bread. Knead for at least ten minutes.
  • The dough should be sticky, but not too wet, it should hold its shape and not flow over the work surface. When kneading start with a stickier rather than a drier dough as it will come together as you knead.
  • To check if your dough has been kneaded enough, lightly press with a finger the indentation should pop straight back, if it doesn’t, knead more!
  • Cover your dough while it is rising to stop it drying out with cling-film greased with a little oil.
  • Most recipes recommend double proving your dough – this means leaving it to rise until doubled in size, then knocking it back to its original size, forming into shape or place in a greased tin and leave to rise again. By doing this you get a lighter, less yeasty, good textured loaf.
  • To improve the baking process preheat your oven to its maximum temperature and reduce to baking temperate when you put the loaf in, adding a spray of water from a simple (clean!) gardening spray creates steam, which promotes the baking process.
  • To test whether a loaf is cooked turn it over and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow. If not, pop it back in the oven for a few more minutes. It is a good idea to put the loaf back into the oven without its tin, or upside down if it’s a rustic loaf to ensure that the base of the loaf is well cooked.

Bread Making Basics - Easy Recipes to Get You Started

Once you've mastered the basics the bread making world is your oyster. Here are a few of our favourite easy bread making recipes to get you started!

If you're hooked and you want some hands on bread making help sign up for one of our baking courses or one of our diplomas which include a fabulous baking module!

If you have any burning (!) bread baking questions leave a comment below or come and talk to us on social media! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and, if you like this post, please share it!

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