We’re in the midst of a bread baking golden age. It seems everyone is getting down with the dough, especially since Covid, and turning more and more to baking their own bread rather than whipping it off supermarket shelves.
Whilst the process of making bread can be very therapeutic and rewarding when all goes to plan, it can quickly turn into the most frustrating waste of time and ingredients when things go awry. If you’re starting out or simply need a hand navigating the huge amount of information out there: read on for some bread-making myths.
Everyone on Instagram is cracking out loaves, so how hard could it be? Granted, there are so many variables and different steps where the process could go amiss. The yeast, the water temperature, the temperature of your kitchen, the first rise, the second rise, over proofing, under proofing, the list goes on!
But bread baking needn’t be hard; start with a simple recipe such as a Crusty Bloomer on our School of Baking recipes section and practice. You’ll soon get to a point where you’ll be baking a decent loaf of bread in an afternoon and putting it on the table for dinner. If you are completely new to the bread club, don’t start with sourdough straight off. It’s a high hydration dough and can be tricky to handle if you are not used to it.
Yes, it can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never worked with yeast before. But trust this power-house of an ingredient and give it the time it needs to grow your inert dough into beautiful loaves.
At the end of the day, it’s just learning how to get the best results out of 4 simple ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt and following a series of steps, some easier to master than others, separated by blocks of time. And for sourdough you have to start somewhere, as did every baker out there. As long as you have a good starter, you’re half way there.
If they could do it in Ancient Egypt without the myriad of information we have at our floured fingertips, you can do it today in your home kitchen.
The process takes time, yes, but the hands on bit does not. Even if you are making a more complicated bread like sourdough, the time you are actually doing something to the dough is around 30 minutes and it’s even less for a standard loaf made with commercial yeast.
The fermentation is the part that elongates the bread-making process time. Recipes often advise to wait until your dough has doubled in size but this can take anything up to one to three hours and can be hard to judge. Factors like the temperature of your kitchen and the freshness of your yeast, along with humidity and water temperature, can all affect the proofing time of your bread dough.
In a toasty kitchen, your dough may proof in as little as an hour. When the temperatures dips, it can take much longer—upwards of two or even three hours. You’ll know it’s done when it has a full, puffed appearance. Poke the dough and see if the shape of your indentation holds without filling back in completely.
The actual time that you spend tending to your bread is minutes compared to the hours of the entire process. Check it out...
- Weighing ingredients & mixing them (5 minutes)
- Initial knead (5 – 10 minutes depending on your dough)
- 1st stretch & fold if applicable (2-3 minutes)
- 2nd stretch & fold if applicable (2-3 minutes)
- 3rd stretch and fold if applicable (1-2 minutes)
- Pre-shape and shaping your loaf (5- 7 minutes)
- Scoring and putting your loaf in the oven (3 minutes)
- Getting your loaf out of the oven and checking it’s baked and putting it onto a cooling tray (2 minutes)
Often homebakers new to bread making want to see quick results and seeing as yeast is the magic ingredient that makes bread rise, it can be tempting to add more. It’s actually better to add less yeast as this promotes the most gains in flavour whilst a slower fermentation time enhances the structure of the gluten.
When too much yeast is added to the dough, the activity of gas and ethanol increase rapidly to create a gassy dough that’s hard to work with! Adding too much yeast forces your dough to rise quickly. The dough structure will not be properly developed, yet, despite it rising to the expected proofing height, the gluten structure is often not developed enough.
Common traits of bread where too much yeast has been added include:
- Uncontrollably large oven spring rise
- Uneven crumb structure/holes throughout the crumb
- Risk of dough collapsing when scoring or baking
- Taste is diminished through lack of fermentation activity
- The flavour and smell of yeast is overpowering
- Dough rises too fast and is tricky to handle
- A separated crust or ‘lifted crust’ that lifts the crust away from the rest of the bread
For a standard loaf using 550 grams of flour, the amount of yeast used is typically 11 grams of fresh yeast, 5 grams of active yeast or 4 grams of instant yeast. When it comes to dried yeast, this works out the same as 1¼ teaspoon.
So there we have it: making bread needn’t be hard nor keep you in the kitchen for hours and just go easy on your yeast. For more helpful information about getting your knuckles dusty for the first time, head on over to our School of Baking.