Bread baking tips, ingredients and recipes
Baking tips, loaf of bread recipes and ingredients needed to get a perfect bake for various types of bread
Baking, unlike other cooking, is a science, chemical reactions happen with very precise quantities of ingredients to make bakes rise or drop, change textures and flavours. Baking tips on this page and my 'how to bake a loaf of bread recipe' will help you to achieve the perfect baked bread and to realize the precision needed. Different types of bread recipes are also covered here.
When I cook in the kitchen, I'm always quite proud of my guess working approach to cooking. If I am following a recipe I will often add the ingredients thinking 'that is more or less right' rarely using scales, measuring spoons or liquid measures. I can rely on my experience and taste buds to more or less make the food turn out the way I want.
I could not be more different when it comes to baking. The difference of a few grams here and a few grams there, of the main ingredients, can turn the whole bake into a disaster. The moral of the story is, follow the basic rules and ingredients to the gram.
Image: My loaf of Bread, by peterb6001
Easy white loaf of bread recipe
Simple white loaf of bread recipe
500g or 1lb 1oz of strong white bread flour (see flour above), and extra for finishing
40g or 1Â½ oz soft butter (see butter tip above)
2 6g sachets or 12 grams of fast action dried yeast
2 tsp salt
300ml of water
Small amount of Olive Oil
Add flour and butter to a large bowl. Add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Mix together.
Put about half the water in and mix with fingers in the 'spider position' (see above). Continue to add water a little at a time until all the flour is absorbed into the mix. Not all the water may be needed. The dough should be soft but not to wet.
How to knead
Lightly oil your surface and begin to knead. Knead quickly for about 5 mins to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. If it is to sticky you can dust your hands with a little flour.
Put in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave to prove for an hour.
The Second quick knead
The dough should have doubled in size.
Bash dough a couple of times on an oiled surface to knock out the air bubbles. Fold and stretch a few times and then knead it a little more.
Next, shape into a loaf.
Time to prove again
Line a baking tray with baking paper (not greaseproof) put the loaf onto it, cover and leave for a further hour to rise again.
Baking the bread
Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan-assisted) 425F or Gas mark 7.
Remove the damp tea towel or film from the dough, which should have now risen again. Very lightly flour and mark slices on the top.
Put the loaf in the middle of the oven.
Put a baking tin in the bottom of the oven and leave to get hot. Before putting the loaf in, put cold water in the tin add the loaf and close the door. This will cause steam giving a nice shine to the bread.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Remove and check if cooked by tapping underneath to see if a hollow sound is made. If it does that is good. Put on a wire rack and your loaf is ready.
Top Tip, Use Digital Weighing Scales
Due to the precision needed in any type of baking I would highly recommend the use of digital weighing scales. I have handpicked the best ones from Amazon for you here.
The best digital weighing scales
These scales are not only excellent for bread baking, but will come in handy for all cooking in the kitchen. I even use mine to weigh my packages that I am going to send so I can look up online how much the post will cost. Great for anybody selling on eBay or sending gifts (especially with the festive season coming up).
The best selling Cuisinart Digital weighing scales will weigh up to 5 kilos. The detachable glass top is easy to remove and clean. Touch sensitive with large digital display.
Here are some of my best bread baking tips
The basic ingredients for baking bread
Flour is basically ground wheat. It contains starch and gluten which give the shape and forms of food. The dough is formed by flour and sometimes a mixture of eggs and water. Air bubbles become trapped which help it rise.
Three basic types of flour
Contains approximately 10% protein and a raising agent such as baking powder. Note that if you don't have self-raising flour you can use plain flour and add a raising agent
Contains approximately 10% protein level
The protein level has to be above 12% to represent strong flour. For bread, I would recommend strong flour with between 12% and 15% protein, which is available from most supermarkets. It should say something like Strong Bread Flour, or just Bread Flour.
The higher the protein levels the higher the gluten level. Gluten = glue, it holds and binds the bread and structure together, locking in air bubbles and keeping it strong.
Why shouldn't salt touch yeast?
When adding yeast and salt to the flour in a bowl, always put the yeast on one side, and the salt on the other, as direct contact between the two will deactivate the yeast, stopping rising.
What temp water for bread
Any still water or tap water (if safe) can be used for baking bread.
Make sure once again you follow the exact amount, but the one little problem is that each flour absorbs at a different rate.
The biggest mistake people make when making bread is adding all the water at once.
Add it little by little whilst mixing in the bowl. If mixing by hand, before kneading shape your fingers in the following way. Imagine making a spider with your fingers crawling on the table. Freeze your fingers there. That is the perfect hand and finger formation for mixing.
What temperature water should I use when bread baking?
Warm water helps the yeast to make the dough rise faster. With tepid water, the dough will rise the same amount but slower. The faster the dough reacts the less flavour it will have!
Olive Oil, Butter and Lard
Ingredients for baking bread
Really any type of Olive Oil can be used when making and baking bread. It doesn't necessarily have to be virgin or extra virgin.
When baking other sweeter bread I would refrain from using olive oil and use butter instead.
Butter and Lard
I always use unsalted, in all types of cooking, that way you can always add salt to taste. Using salted butter gives you less control as you cannot lower the amount of salt.
Butter Softening Tip
If soft butter is needed and it has been in the fridge do not microwave it. Put the butter in hot water for a couple of minutes. This will make it nice and soft without melting it to liquid.
Little Lard Trick
To get lard distributed more evenly and finely in the mix you can freeze it and then grate it like cheese.
Can I use olive oil to knead bread?
Flouring the surface to stop the dough from sticking adds more flour into your dough with the risk of making it 'tight'.
Olive Oil is a great alternative, and your surface will be easier to clean afterwards.
What are the different bread kneading techniques?
Below is a short clip of three different popular styles of bread kneading. The second style used is the one mainly used on this page for basic bread recipes. Please note here that olive oil is being used instead of flour.
The second technique is a method of stretching the dough away from you, folding it in half towards you, turning it and pushing away. Repeating this for the required amount of time.
Try to avoid putting your fingertips into the dough. Mainly use the bottom of the palm of your hand to push and stretch. To fold the dough over towards you, you can grab it with your fingers, cupping it underneath.
Once the kneading is completed the dough can be left to prove for normally about an hour. This can be put in a bowl with a little olive oil to stop sticking, covered in cling film or a tea towel and left in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
3 Different Kneading Techniques
What are the differences between different types of yeast?
Bread Baking Tips
Yeast is a fungus similar to that of others that we are all used to, such as mushrooms. Yeast is the active ingredient used in baking to give the bake it's rise.
Yeast can be found in three basic forms
1) Fast action powdered yeast, which is available in little sachets or packets from most supermarkets.
2) Dried yeast, this you have to rehydrate with water and sugar, leave for 50 minutes to bubble before you can use it. Waste of time and nonsense, don't use this.
3) Fresh yeast, (fast action yeast is the dried form of this).
Things to know
When using, fast action yeast is concentrated, so you have to use a third less than fresh yeast if the only fresh yeast is used in the recipe.
Of these three types, I would always recommend fast acting yeast. It lasts longer, you can keep it in your cupboard for years.
Photo published under Public Domain Licence.
More loaf of bread recipe baking basics tips
Other important factors for baking bread are room temperature, the temperature of ingredients before baking, and even moving the bake. A little tap might just be what is needed to burst the air bubbles to get your desired effect, or unintentionally could deflate your bake to the effect of deflating a car tyre.
A pastry Scraper is an excellent tool to help you shape, cut and manipulate your bread dough and other baking doughs
This very popular brand receives 5 star reviews for almost all of it's products. This Oxo Good grips pastry scraper is ideal for kneading bread on a flat surface.
Are flat breads easy to make?
Yes, see Paul Hollywood's flat bread tuturial below
Paul Hollywood 'Stilton and Grape' Flat Breads
500 g Strong Flour
10 g salt
10 gr Fast Action Yeast
30 g Softened Butter
310 ml water
Stilton and grapes to taste
Preparation and cooking
Follow the instructions on the video below
Paul Hollywood's Grape and Stilton Flatbread
100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood - The best loaf of bread recipe and 99 others
Paul Hollywoods Bread Baking Book 100 Great Breads. Yes I am a great fan and would recommend his work to anyone.
Bake Off Debate
What do you think about baking your own bread?
That's basic bread baking and flat breads covered for now.
Keep checking back as new Recipes, ingredients, hints and tips will be added.