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Perfect Artisan Bread Recipe

Updated on April 30, 2015

Want to make a perfect, crusty on the outside, soft, fluffy and sweet on the inside artisan style white loaf on your first ever try? Then read on...

Perfect, Soft and Sweet White Loaf
Perfect, Soft and Sweet White Loaf | Source

I haven't had children yet, but I would guess that the feeling of nurturing my very own soft little doughy creation from the mixing bowl to the cooling rack (then directly into my belly) would be similar. It is a soft, fuzzy, happy feeling much akin to thinking of the fifties or the feeling my grandmother clearly gets by dunking a chocolate digestive into a cup of hot milky tea then gumming it to a paste.

There are many reasons why we should make our own bread at home and by hand and why you should follow the White Bread Recipe below! If you have stumbled over this Hub by accident and you think I'm some sort of generic hippie telling you to throw off the oppression of the commercial bakeries then here are five real reasons why:

  1. Due to a number of factors such as longer proving time, and yes; Freshness, home baked bread tastes better! (what other reason could you want!)
  2. With home baked bread you know exactly what is in it! Which means; No aritificial stuff like preservatives, flavourings, colourings or other nasties!
  3. Mixing, kneading, proving and baking your own loaf is one of the most satisfying, relaxing and therapeutic things you can do, not to mention rewarding.
  4. They were baking bread in ancient Egypt! Much like dry stone walling, it is a skill we cannot afford to let die.
  5. Baking better quality bread at home is actually cheaper than branded or other commercially available bread!

So now you know why you should bake your first ever loaf! And if you aren't a total novice I would hope that you will enjoy the simplicity of this basic recipe and perhaps in the short story to follow you will recognise your own struggle to master the art of bread baking.

Please note that this recipe is based around getting a great loaf first time, which I doubt many people have achieved considering the many variables that can all go very wrong. The measurements and ingredients have all been put together to give you the greatest possible chance of success. At the least your bread won't turn out too dense and the dough shouldn't be too messy so as to deter you from trying again!



This loaf is from my early days and as delicious and wholesome as it looks you might notice that the ridges are a bit too deep meaning it is under risen! This was due to a drier dough!
This loaf is from my early days and as delicious and wholesome as it looks you might notice that the ridges are a bit too deep meaning it is under risen! This was due to a drier dough!

Common Mistakes

I made my first loaf about three years or so ago now and even though it was an unmitigated culinary disaster, in the end I got the exact same contented feeling as I get now when I churn out a masterpiece.

In short I bought the wrong type of flour, used the wrong type of yeast, under kneaded and over baked.

In fact, that first loaf was more a hybrid between a loaf of bread, a biscuit and a jaffa cake. It was burned on the outside and all but raw in the very centre. I ate a few slices and within half an hour the still active yeast created the most painful wrenching in my chest making me seriously think I was having a heart attack; it was though of course gas.

None the less I bumbled a long happily for the next two months, using some dodgy and some I'm sure fantastic recipes found online. Nothing got much better during this time because i was still using the wrong yeast! A few things started to slot into place and I did find out which flour to use before long and why. In reality though I learned very little in this time and though I loved each and every dough and had the greatest hopes for success on every occasion, my bread was awful.

After two months I bought my first baking book! Something I will review another time, but the learning began in earnest now. I learned that my dough wasn't rising at all, and slowly the penny dropped that I should use 'fast action yeast' and my dough might just improve! It was a scary time, I had got my bread to perhaps the best level it could get to on the old yeast and didn't want to start again! One try though and I realised it was time to start from scratch.

Many baking books later and a few science lessons too and finally I can make a range of breads, all different shapes, sizes, tastes and with different uses. I look back to my early days and shake my head at my own ignorance.

The young idiot I was at 22 years old
The young idiot I was at 22 years old

I realise that only idiots would forge on for so long making awful bread, without buying a book about it and doing a bit of research, and I really did wonder how commercial bakers and otherwise managed to make such soft bread so reliably during that time, but at no point was I going to give up! I think when you start from scratch at something and don't have any friends or family who are big bread bakers, then it seems there is so much to learn that you don't know where to even start!

Well if any of this rings a bell or I have managed to almost worry you out of giving this a go then worry no more! This hub is designed to get you baking from your first loaf, because lets face it, most normal people who have lives aren't going to dedicate much time to baking without some sort of early success (instead they will just buy a bread machine which as far as I'm concerned was created by the devil to mislead real would be bakers).

I will outline what you will need (not much) and why you need it! As well I will take you through a step by step process that is standard among experienced bread bakers. This is the information I wish i could have simply been presented with when I was a young impressionable baker (I was 22 then... so much has happened in the last 3 years).

I'm not going to get into any more details that would just confuse you more, just know that once you've made your first loaf or two and you're hooked, bread baking is a rich tapestry of very different flours, baking methods and ingredients. This basic recipe contains all of the basics and a little more to be successful every time (if you follow it that is).

The well balanced and capable individual I am today with my dearest girlfriend
The well balanced and capable individual I am today with my dearest girlfriend
These are your main baking apparatus and ingredients. Not much is it!
These are your main baking apparatus and ingredients. Not much is it!

Jargon Buster

Gluten - Without going into too much detail Gluten is very important. Each grain of finely ground flour contains this miracle agent and by kneading your dough the gluten is slowly released from those grains. This is what makes your dough become stretchy and allows air bubbles to form making the final loaf as fluffy as a cumulonimbus cloud.

This is why it is important to use Strong Bread Flour because it has lots more gluten in and makes far better bread!

Step One - Measurements

Its important to plan what you're going to do before you start mixing or kneading your dough.

Measuring out your ingredients means that everything will be ready for you when you need it. You might think I'm being at bit anal here but trust me, the second you plunge your hand into the flour to mix in yeast, salt or rub in butter your hands will be covered. And scratching around the kitchen looking for ingredients then measuring them will just get messy.

So measure out your ingredients leaving them in separate bowls or containers as follows (use this converter is you prefer imperial measurements):

What you will need...

Before you start, make sure you have the following, I have included realistic prices in Pound Sterling because its perfectly fine if you don't have some of these items, but it shouldn't be much more or less elsewhere.

Also note that I am taking into account that you may be starting off with none of these things.

Utensils for Making Bread

  • Ceramic baking bowl ~ £10.00 + Plastic or even metal bowls will do the job and may well be cheaper
  • Cooling rack ~ £3.00 +
  • Measuring Jug ~ £5.00 + You can use jugs that don't measure or even bowls if you don't want to buy one straight away. Use the scales to measure instead!
  • Good quality, accurate scales ~ Ensure you pay no less than £15.00+ You can get away with less in some shops but they won't be accurate or reliable
  • A clean tea towel ~ £3.50 + This will get you a little bundle! You will need them to cover you dough while rising. If you have a supermarket shopping bag or unused, clean bin bag I suppose you could use these instead, just make sure you cover full and make the seal tight.

Ingredients For Making Bread!

  • 'Strong White' or 'Bread' Flour ~ £0.60 - £2.50 (per 1.5kg bag) Why can't you just use plain flour? Strong White Flour has usually grown in a very fertile medium and environment and contains more gluten! You need this gluten or the dough will not go stretchy enough and your bread will end up very heavy. Don't make the mistake of using plain flour, you won't get away with it!
  • Fast Action Yeast - £0.15 - £0.30 (per pack)I made the massive mistake of buying dried active yeast (which needs around an 8 hour initial rising period) when I started out, another mistake might be to buy brewers yeast! You can also buy fresh yeast which works fine but one step at a time please! The way to avoid getting the wrong yeast is by reading the back of the pack, if the directions tell you to add the yeast to water first then don't buy it! If it tells you to add sugar then treat it with suspicion; this should not be necessary.
  • Sea Salt ~ £1.00 - £1.50 (per 200g) You can in theory use any salt you like! But remember that table salt usually contains anti-caking agents (along with higher levels of radio activity than other salts - not that I want to worry you). If using rock salt make sure its out of a grinder.
  • Unsalted Butter ~ £1.20 - £2.50 Make sure its unsalted, we need to control the salt content in the bread so it doesn't kill the poor little yeasts!
  • Clear honey ~ £1.00 - £3.50 (per 350g) I won't be upset at you if you use cheap honey, its probably mixed with all kinds of other syrups and sweet things to bulk it out, but I suppose it will still taste good.
  • Warm water ~ Free if you live near a river and its clean You want it about lukewarm. A good way to make sure you get it right is to boil a kettle then add 2 parts cold water to one part boiled.

There are a massive range of extras and alternatives that you could add to either of these lists, but I will resist the temptation to do so or make any suggestions because you're just starting out and you need it to stay simple; trust me!

Ingredient Measurements

  • 500 grams of the Strong White Bread Flour
  • 30 grams of the Unsalted Butter
  • 7 grams of the Fast Action Yeast
  • 10 grams of the Salt
  • 305 grams of the Lukewarm Water
  • Do not measure out the Honey just yet, you will however need about 25 grams

So now you should have all of your ingredients laid out and ready to use!

You should also before you start make sure you clean the work surface you plan on using. Spray it with anti bacterial spray and clean it thoroughly with a clean cloth. If you don't do this you will notice that your beautiful white dough will start to pick up little specks of whatever it is you were cooking last night, even though you could swear that the surface was clean!

Even if it is clean, do it just in case and make sure it is dry before you knead!


The yeast and the salt are kept separate before mixing
The yeast and the salt are kept separate before mixing

Fast Action Yeast

Fast Action Yeast is important in modern bread making.

You can buy it in tubs of up to 100 grams or more or like most you can buy it in sachets of 7 grams, these cost little more than £0.20 for two satchets!

If like me you tend not to trust sachets of food or flavourings and prefer to do things from scratch please trust me when I say that these little sachets are perfectly innocent and preferrable to me.

You can buy branded Fast Action Yeast and more often than not slightly cheaper supermarkets own. I have yet to find a reason how the branded stuff could possibly be better when all it contains are the exact same strain of bacteria in a dormant state.

Step Two - Mixing

1. Put your pre-measured flour into your ceramic mixing bowl if you haven't done so already.

2. Then tip your bowl or sachet of yeast in a heap on top of the flour. Make sure that you pour it to one side of the bowl... the salt goes in next and they shouldn't touch before being mixed.

3. Pour your measured out salt into a heap on the opposite side of the bowl.

4. Now that you have your flour, yeast and salt all in one bowl you should stick your index finger into the middle of the yeast pile and swirl it around until mixed in, then do the same with the salt... finally sift the flour together to even the mixture out.

5. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture so you can see the bottom of the bowl. Then pour your measured out Luke Warm Water into the well.

6. Now before you mix together its time to add the honey! Remember how I stopped you from measuring out your honey earlier? Well that's because if you put it in a bowl half of it would stick and you wouldn't get 25 grams worth and it would be a waste of honey!

So now get a tablespoon or soup spoon or whatever spoon you like. If it's a squeezey bottle measure out two generous spoons over the bowl, if it's a jar then spoon in two generous spoons, each time letting most of the honey trickle off.

It's important that you lick the spoon afterwards and make a yummy groaning noise so as not to waste the honey.

7. Now using your hands (or just one if you want to keep a hand clean)... yes it's going to get messy, start collapsing the flour into the water. Continue to gently mix the ingredients until you start to get something resembling a soft sticky dough. Make sure you regularly mop up the residual flour from around the bowl until it all comes together in one lovely bit of dough.


The well in my flour has been made, water added and now the Honey!
The well in my flour has been made, water added and now the Honey!

8. Your butter should have gotten a bit softer since taking it out of the fridge and now its time to use it. Try to clean the worst of the dough from your hands then tip the butter on top of the dough in the bowl. Using your hands again, gently massage the butter into the dough, folding it in and squigging it together. Should only be a moment before the butter all but disappears.

Why Warm Water?

Using warm water on your dough as opposed to cold water can be very important. Your yeast needs warmth, wetness and something to feed off. Warm water provides that initial warmth; activating the yeast. It also provides the wetness. The flour and honey provide the food!

Step Three - Kneading Dough

9. Now the kneading starts! The butter should have lubricated the bread nicely so you won't need to add flour to your work surface. Adding more flour now would make your dough slightly dryer and you don't want that because the softer the dough, the softer and lighter the bread!

Take the dough out of the bowl and put the bowl to one side for now and the dough on the work surface ready to knead. Now there are many ways to knead and I won't bore you with the various ways, I will just give you the best way:

  • Use one hand to hold the dough in place and with the other slowly push the dough away from you, flattening it out across the work surface. This should stretch and break the smooth surface of the dough.
  • Now roll the dough back up, turn to another angle and push the dough away from you again. Don't worry about the dough sticking to the surface it will a bit! Just keep going over the same spot and after a while it should come back together.
  • Repeat this for about 10 minutes! It's actually a good, mild workout!
  • After just a minute or two you should notice that the dough is becoming firmer and less sticky! This is because the magic gluten is being released already and making the dough very stretchy! Don't stop yet though!
  • If it gets too sticky I have now made an allowance in the recipe for you to flour your work surface, but don't flour the surface more than twice or the dough will start to get too dense! (28/04/2012)


I'm using one hand here (taking the photo with the other) but you can use the other hand to hold the dough in place while you begin to stretch it
I'm using one hand here (taking the photo with the other) but you can use the other hand to hold the dough in place while you begin to stretch it
After you get to this point and you've stretched the dough in one fluid motion, roll it back up, turn the dough (so you knead evenly) and repeat for about 10 minutes! And don't worry about the little flecks of dough you leave behind!
After you get to this point and you've stretched the dough in one fluid motion, roll it back up, turn the dough (so you knead evenly) and repeat for about 10 minutes! And don't worry about the little flecks of dough you leave behind!
See how stretchy it is now? This dough needs just another minute or so!
See how stretchy it is now? This dough needs just another minute or so!

10. Now you must shape your loaf into a round. This is nowhere near as hard as you would think! Again there are a million ways to do this but lets just go for the easiest one:

Try your best to shape it as close to a round as possible by rolling it around the work surface, then cup your hands either side of the dough and start doing mini karate chops around the base, making sure the sides of both hands meet in the middle.

It doesn't need to be perfect so if there are a few folds and lines on the surface of your dough, don't worry!

Your kneading should take about 10 minutes but how do you really know when your dough is ready?

This will take time to get a feel for but you want to get it right first time! There are lots of ways to do this! The best known way is to rip away a handful of dough and using both hands see how thinly you can stretch it out. You should almost get it see through without any rips.

Look at your dough by eye, is it silky smooth to touch now? Does it look smooth? If you flatten it out with your hands then fold it in half and press down onto the surface does it spring back quickly?

You can try the method above if you like but I did say I wouldn't get too technical or confusing, so if it's your first loaf just time yourself and don't stop kneading for 10 minutes and 9.9 times out of 10 it should be fine!

Step Four - Proving Dough

Your kneading is now done and your gluten should have firmed up your dough nicely! Hopefully you've managed to shape your dough into a ball (or 'round').

Now take the bowl you used to mix the dough initially. If you want to you can put a teaspoon of Olive or Sunflower oil into the bowl and smooth it up the sides! By doing this you ensure the dough doesn't stick to the sides when you turn it out later. This isn't a massive issue though as it only takes a second to pick any sticky bits back off the bowl if you want.

Take your tea towel and run it under a tap so its wet all over. Then rinse out the excess water before covering your dough over fully!

Leave it somewhere warm for 1 hour! During that time I would advise you clean your work surface before any residual dough goes dry and hard, it's a nightmare to get off otherwise!

This dough is ready! It is silky and smooth, doesn't stick to the surface and is soft and pliable!
This dough is ready! It is silky and smooth, doesn't stick to the surface and is soft and pliable!
Yummy dough! Just kneaded and ready for an hour of Proving
Yummy dough! Just kneaded and ready for an hour of Proving

How does dough rise?

When you put your dough into a moist, warm environment it will rise! In fact if you leave it too long it will collapse back in on itself and hundreds of little air bubbles will form! It is these bubbles; created as a by product of the yeast feeding which helps the bread develop a light and fluffy crumb structure.

Magic isn't it! I was like an excited puppy when my first dough began to rise and I couldn't help checking back every few minutes! You however should if possible stay calm and not disturb the protective wet tea towel more than once or twice as the dough proves. If you check it too much the air can get to it and a skin can form. Whereas this can help make a thicker crust and some say a tastier loaf, it also makes the dough less pliable and harder to shape a second time!

You know your dough is ready when it's doubled in size!
You know your dough is ready when it's doubled in size!

Step Five - Knocking Back Dough

It seems a shame to knock all that air that your yeast has worked so hard to make for you out of the dough, however necessary it is.

  • You now need to push your hand firmly on the dough whilst still in the bowl. A mini explosion of trapped air should follow.
  • Now scoop out the deflated dough and put it back on your work surface!
  • Next you need to distribute those air bubbles, helping you to build up an even crumb structure.


Once on the work surface make a claw with your hand and start pressing your fingers into the dough all over. This distributes those magic air bubbles that are left perfectly even!
Once on the work surface make a claw with your hand and start pressing your fingers into the dough all over. This distributes those magic air bubbles that are left perfectly even!
  • With the air bubbles distributed fold the dough in half and roll it around for a minute to smooth it out.

Flatten your dough again ready for shaping. This time you really do want to get the shape perfect because it will be going in the oven soon!
Flatten your dough again ready for shaping. This time you really do want to get the shape perfect because it will be going in the oven soon!
Pinch a corner of your dough firmly.
Pinch a corner of your dough firmly.
Lift and fold into the middle. Like so. Repeat this from 12 o'clock right the way round the dough back to where you started!
Lift and fold into the middle. Like so. Repeat this from 12 o'clock right the way round the dough back to where you started!

Once you have folded the dough all the way round you need to turn it back over again. You should be presented with a pretty smooth, evenly rounded surface!

Remember the karate chops you used to shape the dough last time? You will need to repeat this briefly, plumping up the already rounded dough and tightening the gluten a tiny bit more.


I use a silicon sheet instead of oil, but oil works just as well!
I use a silicon sheet instead of oil, but oil works just as well!

Step Six - Baking

Really by now you have finished most of the hard work! Before you congratulate yourself though we do need to actually bake the dough!

Firstly we need to transfer the loaf to a metal baking tray. So get about a table spoon of Olive or Sunflower oil onto your baking tray and with your hands rub it all over, ensuring that you cover the tray at least where you loaf is going to sit.

Now, be careful! Cup both hands under the dough and making sure you don't disturb your carefully shaped dough too much, lift and place onto the tray.

Remember that damp tea towel? Don't put it in the wash just yet! It should still be damp so lay it over the dough and the baking tray so the dough is covered entirely!

Leave to prove for up to one hour, turning the oven up to around 200 degrees celsuis. (You need it nice and hot before the bread goes in or your dough will over rise and deflate and will also take much longer to bake).

Optional

I really have tried not to give you too many options in this recipe because its only your first go at making yummy bread by hand and I don't want to complicate things or give you too much to think about, (or scare you away).

However if you are minded too when you are turning your oven on you might want to get another baking tray (if you have one going spare) and place it on the very bottom of your oven (or the lowest rack).

Ideally the moment your dough goes into your oven you want lots of condensed moisture to cloud around and cuddle it and the only way to do this is to have the extra baking tray beneath your loaf and filled with cold water at the last moment. By doing this the water fizzles and creates a steam bath in the oven, covering your bread in glorious moisture.

What does this do?

By doing this your loaf will come out crusty and will have a very satisfying crunch when you take that first bite!

Remember though this is optional, your bread will still be yummy if you prefer soft bread.


Use either an extremely sharp knife or a bread knife to cut your dough. Slash it gently two or three times across.
Use either an extremely sharp knife or a bread knife to cut your dough. Slash it gently two or three times across.

Almost there!

It's important now that you get your dough in the oven at the right time! There is no point in falling at the last hurdle after all and its not difficult to judge the correct moment.

About an hour is usually the right time, but one fail safe that I have personally developed is to take hold of your backing tray and give it a gentle shake. When ready the dough itself should give the very faintest bit of a wobble in a similar fashion to jelly. Just a slight wobble now not much at all. You will know what I mean when you try it!

(Make sure it is a gentle shake! If you are rough with your dough at any point from now you risk knocking some of the air out of it and you really don't want to do that!)

So time it as closely as you can with getting your oven up to temperature. Turn your oven up to 200 celsius at least fifteen minutes before the dough goes in!

As soon as the oven is on you should take the tea towel off the dough and you can now put it in the washing basket if you wish! Once that's taken care of you should take a handful of flour from you bag and sprinkle over the dough. Once you have done this run a very gentle hand all round it making the covering even!

Covering your dough with flour will help stop the dough from cooking unevenly or getting treated harshly by the hot oven. It also looks very nice once its all ready.


Making a Cut

Making one, or two, or three or more cuts in your dough is important! It serves several purposes and I sometimes like to get a bit arty.

Once your dough is floured you can slash the top of your bread! It helps the heat penetrate deeper into your bread, meaning that it will bake better and more evenly. This is important for the even crumb structure you're trying to achieve.

It also looks lovely! If I'm feeling particularly fruity I might even do a few squiggly cuts.

Now all you have to do is wait for the oven to heat up fully and gently put it into the middle(ish) shelf!

You want to leave it in for a total of around 25 minutes.Do not for any reason open the oven door for the first 10 minute of the bake. The yeast becomes hyperactive in the intense heat and the loaf will rise further as it bakes! Inevitably the heat does kill the yeast and that can take up to 10 minutes. If you do open the oven; even for a second and the temperature changes without a crust forming first then the dough will deflate and you will end up with a flat, dense and unattractive loaf!

Every loaf is genuinely different and just because it looks done on the outside it doesn't mean its done on the inside. So after 25 minutes take it out and using an oven glove on one hand (because it will be hot!) tilt the loaf on its side and tap the flat underneath. When it's done it will make a very clear hollow noise.

If you're in doubt when you do tap your loaf put it back in for another 5 minutes. It won't do too much harm and a slightly overdone crust is more desirable by far than a raw inside.

Finished and Delicious! Make sure you use a wire rack to cool before slicing into it. I nearly always rub flour onto my dough but wanted you to see the lovely colour on this one! Take a look at the very top photo of a floured loaf if you have.
Finished and Delicious! Make sure you use a wire rack to cool before slicing into it. I nearly always rub flour onto my dough but wanted you to see the lovely colour on this one! Take a look at the very top photo of a floured loaf if you have.

Your hard work is over, and with only a little bit of luck you have a beautiful fresh loaf of white bread! It should be crusty on the outside, very soft on the inside and the honey will have given it an addictive sweet aroma and flavour.

Speaking of aroma you should have been enjoying that fresh bread smell for the past fifteen minutes at least and I bet its made you hungry!

If you can wait then please do! Leaving it to cool for fifteen minutes is your best course of action. I know its not fair but the bread is still very warm and soft on the inside and also still quite pliable. Trying to cut it will crush the crumb structure and make the loaf misshapen and dense. Also didn't your Grandmother never warn you not to eat hot bread?


Next try Pain De Campagne, an excellent traditional bread with a few more technical tricks to get a mature flavour.

Enjoy!

I do hope you enjoy this recipe and if you follow it nothing will go wrong I assure you!

There will of course be variables. Your honey could be a particularly thin brand and make a wetter dough (add a handful of flour as you knead) and different ovens have a habit of doing different things, but you'll know more about your own than I do.

There is so much more you can do with bread! So many extra ingredients and methods of baking! Everyone of your loaves will be different and you will learn something from each of them.

I would recommend that you make this loaf with kids! White bread might not be as healthy for them as wholemeal (which I will do another time) but it is far softer and I would eat my own white bread vs a commercial wholemeal any day!

If one person is inspired to make their first loaf then the weekend its taken to write this was not wasted!


Finally, if you liked this hub then help me spread the word and share it on facebook or twitter :)

4.7 stars from 7 ratings of The Perfect Bread Recipe

Amendment - 28/04/2012

I have made a minor amendment to the recipe to allow you to put flour on your work surface whilst kneading. The recipe above is quite a wet/soft dough recipe and it can get sticky. The reason for this is in case it is your first time and you don't quite knead enough so you still have a better chance of getting a soft loaf. The minor amendment made has been done so that if it is sticky, and you don't like it you can dust your work surface with flour - this will prevent sticking!

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    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Wow! Great step by step recipe. Voted up!

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
      Author

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Thanks urmilasshukla, let me know if you try it!

    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago

      Woah! What a cool hub! I love homemade stuff with original photos. Thanks, really enjoyed!

    • profile image

      RILES 5 years ago

      just read it going to have a go today, wish me luck!!!, i'll let you know how it went.

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
      Author

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Go for it Riles! :)

    • profile image

      TAG 5 years ago

      Mathew,

      Thanks a bunch for putting this article together - it was very helpful an informative!! As you're final comments state - if you've inspired even one person to try their first loaf, then your job is done, and your time was definitely not wasted. I can say that things haven't worked out entirely perfect, but as a first attempt, I'm pretty impressed! :) The loaf did, in fairness, end up very dense and had more the feeling of "pumpernickel" than white bread, but given that I had some limitations to the kind of flour I was using (in this case, all purpose white flour), I suppose it's not a surprise. That said, I'm going to give it another go in the next few days, when I've managed to find the correct flower, and see how things shape up. As they say, "practice makes perfect", so will keep rockin' on things, and look forward to one of those fantastic looking loaves that I see in your article.

      Great humour, and great information - thank for taking the time to write this, and for helping out!!

      Great stuff!

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
      Author

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      TAG

      I can't tell you how much your comments mean to me. Thank you for trying it! You should be able to pick up the right flour in any supermarket. You will get it right next time! And I do hope you catch the bread bug! :)

      Let me know how it goes the second time and if you can send me a picture I will put it up on the hub :)

    • profile image

      Aroma 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this wonderful recipe . I just baked my first ever loaf and it was amazing . Please submit more recipes ,I will only follow your bread making recipes , they're the best!

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
      Author

      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Aroma

      Thanks a lot there is one more on here that you can look at, but there will be plenty more coming. Try back next weekend, should have something on then too. :) thanks for reading!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Matthew - What an absolutely terrific Hub. You are a great story teller and obviously quite a baker. Many years ago when my children were little I made a braided challah during the holidays. But I never tried any other kind of bread.

      Your step by step directions and pictures are simply wonderful. Every one should bake their first loaf using your guidance. Thoroughly enjoyed this. SHARING

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      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Ah Challah, made it only once myself. Such a good bread, for sharing especially.

      Thanks phdast7 for the comment, means a lot coming from yourself, history and archeology hubs look great!

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      J-J 5 years ago

      what a bread just used this to bake my first bread ever and wow, foolproof

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      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Really pleased it worked out J-J :)

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      Jessica Weaver 5 years ago

      My dough is proving right now, so I don't know whether I've got a good loaf yet or not, but I have really enjoyed using this guide. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of great recipes on the web, and I've been trying them over the last few years--I gave up on hand-kneaded bread a couple years ago when I couldn't get any light, fluffy loaves--only dense rocks--some more edible than others, but none came out the way I wanted. Someone gave me a bread machine and that has certainly helped. I use the dough setting and make pizzas, mostly, but I have not tried a boule, artisan loaf, or anything like this in a long time. Let me tell you--I have ALWAYS had to add what seemed like an insane amount of flour during the kneading. This time, with your instructions about the butter, I didn't add any flour. The kneading surface wasn't even floured. I had this feeling while I was kneading (even though I realize now I was not doing it right--I looked at the pictures too late) that this was how it was supposed to be--that I was finally doing bread the right way! Or, at least, close enough! So, now, even if I have to make some adjustments, it will probably be to the flour or moisture, salt or yeast, rather than the method. Thank you so much for this--you write instructions the way I do (very detailed and including all my little bits of wisdom from trial and error) so I understood them right away!! I really hope the loaf turns out well. I am trying a hybrid loaf with white whole wheat and good old fashioned Bread flour (or, Strong, as you call it.) My husband appreciates my attempts at making him whole grain food, but loves white bread so much.

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      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Really glad you're giving it another go! You're experience sounds just like my own when I started! Did it go slightly better?

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      Kelda Gibson 5 years ago

      Been making bread for years, (I say making but I mean trying to make) and some have been okay, some have been awful. Without a doubt, this is the best loaf I have ever made! Excellent loaf, and it's disappeared in record time!

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      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Great news Kelda :)

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      Charlie 5 years ago

      Hi,

      I'm 25, have attempted a few loaves of bread, first in a bread maker-very disappointing and then with the wrong yeast which just made it solid. I was really glad to stumble across your article because it gave me the confidence to try again.

      I followed your recipe and the bread came out perfect! The texture is WAY better then I've ever managed, it looks good and tastes good.

      So thanks! :o)

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      Matthew Kirk 5 years ago from Liverpool

      Hi Charlie

      The recipe is designed so you do get it right first time but it does take some common sense, so well done, sounds like it came out perfectly.

      Glad to see the young generation interested in this sort of thing! Makes me feel less lonely :D

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      AJ 4 years ago

      This is great! I have successfully created real bread!!

      My first try last week actually turned out OK but I had the wrong flour (it was a mix already containing yeast!) so was a bit weird during the process... I'm surprised it worked at all...

      This time I had proper strong flour. I tried the water in the pan at the end but I didn't put much water in so I don't think it produced much steam and it's not overly crusty.

      Despite that I have an amazingly impressive looking loaf and couldn't be happier!

      Now I need to figure out wholemeal bread as I never normally eat much white bread.

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Hi AJ

      Thats good news! https://hubpages.com/food/Basic-Bread-Easy-Wholeme... Is a wholemeal bread recipe, also gives you further info on how to make your own breads in the future.

      Never trust a 'ready made bread flour' here you just add water, these are low quality and contain many bread improvers / additives and preservatives. Sounds like you don't need them anymore now anyway! :)

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      AJ 4 years ago

      Thanks Matthew for the response

      Having now eaten half of my bread I actually find that it's TOO light and fluffy for my preference. Is there any easy (and predictable) way to make it a little denser?

      My crust is also very soft so I definitely need to try to improve that. Perhaps my particular oven could have been turned up a bit? Is that a possible factor? Or would you think it's more likely to just be the missing "steam bath"? :)

      Thanks again for a great site, and your personal responses here are greatly appreciated.

      AJ

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Well if you do like denser bread then use 500 Grams of flour to 300 grams of water and no honey, otherwise replace the water with the honey so you get 300 grams of liquid total. This should make it a little thicker. Otherwise, use the exact same recipe but swap half of the strong white flour for strong wholemeal flour, that way you will get a tighter crumb structure and denser bread.

      Have you got lots of large air holes? Is that the problem? Or just preference is for a denser bread?

      I like dense bread myself, the actual taste itself is better.

      Try pouring in a little more water, and try it straight out of the kettle, so the water is hotter. Is your oven electric or gas? Alternatively brush the loaf in milf, beaten egg or just warm water and that might also help it along to crustiness. Also ensure that the oven is well pre-heated and the baking tray underneath is left in to get hot before the dough goes in.

      Some electric ovens which are usually fan assisted take the moisture out of the air when you put the water in. Let me know how you get on - when you take your loaf out of the oven and put i on a cooling rack give it a minute then put your ear close to the crust, if you have a successful crusty crust you will hear it popping and cracking, soooo satisfying.

      My pleasure AJ, send me a picture of your effort and I will pop it up :)

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      AJLON 4 years ago

      Hi Matthew this is the same AJ as above...

      I tried the 1/2 white, 1/2 wholemeal and it still wasn't very dense but still great tasting and looking bread. Right now I'm proving a loaf with 100% wholemeal and seeds based on your other page (where incidentally you don't list the butter in the ingredient list!)

      This is my 3rd loaf now and I'm still trying to get a crunchy crust! I'm going to try to get more steam as well as brush the loaf with water this time but I guess that means I have forgo the lovely flour dusting which makes it look so great!

      I would love to send you a picture but I don't know how!

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Hi AJ, you've joined!?

      You will like a nice rye bread I think since you like such dense loaves. Try the above recipe but with thick treacle instead of honey and you'll love it.

      Another thing you should try to get it crusty is turning up the heat as far as it will go on your oven when you put the loaf in (ensure it is very well pre heated), then turn it down to about 170 after 10 minutes, it will make the crust darker, thicker and hopefully in conjunction with the steam crustier!

      You'll have to get your own recipes up soon, turning into a veteran :) let me know how you get on! Will pop a rye recipe up soon.

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      AJLON 4 years ago

      Would love to see your rye recipe! Please put it up I guarantee you'll have at least one person - me - trying it.

      I'm continuing to experiment and am happily baking and eating... I look forward to every new loaf I make.

      My crust is getting better, but tomorrow I'll try your idea with the high temperature and see how I go.

      Thanks again for introducing me to the world of baking :)

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Good luck!

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      Joss 4 years ago

      Wow.....this is the first time I've ever made a loaf of bread that I've been happy with.

      I was brought a bread maker a couple of years ago which completely shattered my bread making passions. (I used it twice and haven't made a loaf of any kind since). During a conversations with my girl friend (the person who brought me said bread maker) I realised that it was her who'd stubbed my dreams of making good bread and today set about remedying the situation.

      Whilst looking for a good recipe I came across a Jamie Oliver website. His recipe had many bad comments, one of which had a link which directed me to this page. Mathew I commend you. You have singled handly rekindled my passion for bread making. And hands down proved, that as you say, "the bread maker is the devil"

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Well done Joss, really pleased for you.

      Never need to eat a commercial loaf again :D

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      Sabrina G 4 years ago

      I tried the step by step method in baking the white bread. It came out good but i just can't get it like the softness from a bakery bought ones.the bread also breaks when folded. Is there a way to avoid that? In fairness, my bread came out soft, but too much holes.

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Hi Sabrina, do you mean the dough breaks up when you fold it? Your scales might be off if that is the case. It would give a denser concentration of air hole and a heavy bread. Anything else you think is suspicious?

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      Sabrina G 4 years ago

      Hi mathew. Its not the dough that breaks up. Its the finished product that breaks when folded in the middle. Im using a digital scale and follow to the last measurement. However I did not add any flour while kneading even if its a bit sticky cuz its manageable in the end of the 10 mins. mark. The dough came out soft and well risen. in fact it was three times bigger than from the start.Does too much water causes the breakdown?another thing is the yeast im using comes in 8grams satchet. I did not bother lessen it to 7 gms. Btw, is artisan bread similar to plain white sandwich bread? Having so much fun w your karate chops!

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      3 times the size!!! You can use this bread for sandwiches, but the best sandwich bread is here: https://hubpages.com/food/Milk-Loaf-Recipe...

      Now I think I know what you mean. Do you mean that the dough is cracking and when you take it out its like the inside has leaked out?

      If that is the case you need to make sure that the seal is facing down on the baking tray and nothing can escape. You may be doing too few or too many of these karate chops. Make sure the dough is smooth all over the surface before you make your cuts and put it in the over!

      Either way if you do the milk loaf recipe the use of a baking tin should cut out any problems! I hope.

      And if what I said above isn't the problem or doesn't fix it let me know. Remember though, proper bread is never going to behave like commercial.

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      Derek James 4 years ago from South Wales

      Well, I've been trying to make bread for many years. I've tried kneading, no kneading, sour dough starters, recipes from here there and everywhere, I've let the dough rise for two, hours, eight hours, twelve hours , in fact there was not much else I could have tried. All my results ranged from downright bad to fairly acceptable. I tried your method as a last resort and I could not believe how good the result was. My family who are very, very sceptical about my breadmaking were forced to eat their words as well as the bread. It was magnificent and I thank you for helping me to regain my status as a baker in this household. Voted up and awesome.

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      hi taff

      The above method of hand making bread is derived from the oldest method of kneading proving and repeating. The balance of liquid, flour, yeast, salt and fat is designed to ensure that if mistakes are made or your scales are off or you miss something out of the process you still have the best possible chance of getting success. As long as you stick to the proper ingredients and use 60% liquid, 65% if using wholemeal (to 100% flour), 2 - 5% fat (butter), 1% yeast and 2% salt, knead properly and prove until doubled in size you literally cannot go wrong.

      No knead recipes involving yeast should be avoided (soda bread is fine though). Sourdough is great and I would recommend continuing to try making sourdough breads (mature and prove the mix for at least a week before you use it), all bread was once sourdough, I don't do it too often though because of the minimum 15 - 24 hours proving times so I often add some starter to a fast action yeast bread!

      Sounds like you are pretty much a budding bread baker, good to hear you still going after getting it wrong like I did for so long haha! Let me know how you get on as you experiment!

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      Windsorweeds 4 years ago

      Matt - similar story to tell to other people commenting. I've been producing below average bread for a few years now and occasionally just thrown the result straight in the bin in frustration. Now I'm an intelligent chap and therefore I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong for what is a basic recipe.

      Having read all the cookery books that say that baking was "so easy

      " and that "we should all do it" and we can all produce brilliant home made bread...well, I was starting to believe that there was a mass conspiracy, where the real art of making bread was being kept from the masses.

      Your breakdown of each element of the process has proven invaluable, because now I can see where I was going wrong, however I stuck exactly to you method and had a great looking loaf. So good in fact, that when the wife came home tonight, she tucked in to some of the bread and said "Thank God you bought this one from the bakers, it's so much better". When I told her that I'd made it she was completely shocked.

      Reading your hub has come just at the right time because I was literally about to throw the metaphorical wet tea-towel in on the whole sorry baking episode. No longer - I'm up for more baking now, with the zeal of a convert!

      Great work and thanks, I follow some of your other recipes over the next few weeks and feedback again.

      Andy

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Great news windsor, out of interest which part of the process where you making mistakes on?

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      Windsorweeds 4 years ago

      Well, I was trying to use the process from the 'fabulous baker brothers' but there are no clear picture of the process and what the dough should actually look like.

      Maybe I was a bit slap dash in my approach, but I'd say the dough was too dry and I'd not distributed the air bubbles like you recommend or really thought about shaping the dough.

      These changes I think made all the difference in my opinion.

      The final point is that they recommend a 240 degree oven which should then be turned down after 10 mins and I was getting bread with really hard crusts and then raw in the middle.

      A lower heat for 25 mins seemed just fine, I might try an extra 5 mins next time and also the steam trim to firm up the crust a bit more.

      The observation I'd make is that having followed Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith and the above mentioned baker brothers, there is no consistency to the process.

      Yours just works so I'll stick to that for now because it's the eating the bread that really counts or me.

      Cheers

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Hi windsor

      I would recommend turning the heat up too in a more complex process, it keeps the moisture in, but best to get the basics right first like you have done :)

      I turn the heat up as far as it goes on my loaves for the first 10 mins, it sounds like a dryer dough problem mainly, and it is strange I think that when you see delia or jamies recipes that they often skip out the shaping part, or just tell you to do it without explaining how or why.

      Glad you're hooked!

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      Rachael 4 years ago

      Hi there,

      I've tried the loaf and I've found that it takes a lot longer than 25 mins to cook... I can't work out what I'm doing wrong. I think I've added too much water the second time which has made it sticky but other than that i *think* I've followed the instructions to the letter.

      Are there any common errors that I might be making?

      It's a superbly written recipe, all the details and reasons why you do certain things are really useful. Thank you - you've inspired me to keep baking!

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      What are you adding water to a second time?

      Ovens do vary quite a lot! Some might even take up to 40 minutes in some cases! So extend your baking time, it may mean a slightly darkened crust, or darker than you think you want but this genuinely won't really affect the inside a will affect the taste very little, just might not look as good. Tap on the bottom to as soon as it comes out and if it doesn't sound very hollow put it straight back in.

      If you are adding water to the tray the bread is on before putting it in the oven (which is what I'm guessing you mean by the second time) then it should be added to a second separate tray already in the oven.

      Stick with though, perseverance will over come all :)

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      Rachael 4 years ago

      Oh - sorry. I made the loaf twice. Sorry. In spite of being undercooked (my impatience and inexperience!) it was still by far the best loaf I've managed to make.

      The second one was better as I left it in longer and it was, as you said, darker crust but better cooked - just a bit sticky still. I realised I used more water than I should which probably made a difference.

      I did try the water in a tray underneath too but did that the right way.

      Is it a bad idea to cover the loaf with tinfoil to stop the crust darkening too much?

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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Sounds like you're getting there anyway!

      I'm not sure what effect tin foil would have, give it a try but don't use it for the first 10 minutes of the bake.

      Alternatively you could turn your oven up to as high as it goes (mine goes to 250 degrees!) for the first 10 minutes then decrease to 180 degrees for the remainder, that keeps in moisture as well as giving it a bit of a hotter bake. Let me know how you get on :)

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      Rachael 4 years ago

      Thanks. That's helpful. I'll sort the quantities out and have an experiment :)

    • Matthew Kirk profile image
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      Matthew Kirk 4 years ago from Liverpool

      Hope it went well!

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      Lindsay P 3 years ago

      I have made this 3 times now and it's a GREAT recipe, thanks soooooo much for putting it up :-)

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      Paula 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for a fabulous recipe. Works best for me if I cover in clingfilm and leave to prove overnight in the bottom of the fridge. Best loaf I've ever made!

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      Matthew Kirk 3 years ago from Liverpool

      My Please to both of you. The slower proving time in the fridge will give it a more mature flavour and is a great idea :) I suppose it also means fresh bread first thing without much effort!

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