Posted by: edibleplanet | October 10, 2011

My Master Bread Recipe

I’ve been doing a lot of playing around with bread recipes, trying to get to something I would be happy to pay for in a bakery or farmer’s market. I am a big fan of bread and homemade bread is supposed to be better than bread you buy. In my case this hasn’t always been true. I wouldn’t have paid for my own home-made bread (well, not twice anyway) and I had never managed to crack the proper texture that you get from good bread. My bread was always dense and ‘cakey’. Also, I never managed to crack the flavour either. My bread had a strong yeasty flavour – it tasted of ‘home-made’. How on earth do you get to the amazing bouncy, soft ‘breadyness’ of a good professional loaf?

Well, I think I have finally cracked it. These are the important things:

  1. Measure everything by weight – this eliminates all the random variations that you inevitably get when you measure by volume. Especially true if you are sharing recipes with people.
  2. Make sure your bread rises properly in the first instance. You need to get at least a doubling in volume before you proceed. If it doesn’t happen after an hour then I suggest doubling the yeast next time, or buying some different yeast.  Bakels yeast is brilliant.
  3. A long second rising is essential. Don’t rush this step. the dough needs AT LEAST an hour. A long second rising is the secret to the right texture. It gives the dough longer to sit and develop gluten, the yeast also carries on kneading the bread from the inside and you trap lots of lovely bubbles of gas. All these things are good!
  4. The oven must be hot. At least 220 degrees C. When the bread is first put in the oven it rises very quickly before it ‘sets’ into it’s final shape. The hotter the oven, the faster the initial rising and the lighter your bread. It’s a process called ‘oven spring’.
  5. Add some steam. Spray the oven with a bit of water, or place a roasting pan of water underneath the bread in the oven. The water causes little bubbles to form on the surface of the dough which crack and split when we bite into them making the crust crunchy, but not thick and dry.
  6. Bake until the centre of the loaf is at 100 degrees C – when it reaches that the bread is done. No guesswork with ‘hollow sounding’ bread.

Here is my master recipe. Everything is done by weight so it’s easy to scale up or down. It’s quite a wet, sticky dough.

Makes 1 loaf:

375g flour
6g salt
4g yeast
190g – 215g warm water (you may need to adjust this up and down a bit depending on humidity and how dry your flour is. Go with the smaller amount and add more as you need it to get a smooth but quite sticky dough)

  • Mix all the ingredients together. I use the dough hook on my mixer, but you can also use a bread maker on dough setting, or good old-fashioned muscle.
  • Knead until smooth. Kneading is the ‘star’ step that everyone associates with bread making, but it’s not as important as the items above. As long as you get the dough smooth and less sticky than it was then you’ll be grand.
  • Leave the dough to rise until it has more than doubled. Usually about 45min–1 hour.
  • Punch it down to knock some of the gas out of it. Or put it back in the mixer and put it on minimum speed for 30 seconds or so.
  • Line a basket or bowl with a tea towel or some other rough material. Cover the material with flour. Shape your loaf and place it rough side up in the basket or bowl. The bottom of the basket will be the top of your loaf. Fold the excess material over the loaf and leave to rise for as long as you can. At LEAST an hour, but even longer is better.
  • When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 220-230 degrees C.
  • Gently turn out your loaf onto a baking sheet. At this stage you don’t want to knock the gas out of it. Gently peel the tea towel off the dough. Note the lovely dusting of flour on the top. It’s not there to make the bread look artisan like they do in the supermarket. It served a real purpose.
  • Feel smug for a few seconds over your amazing, but completely honest artisan bread.
  • Put the bread in the oven. Work fast so you don’t lose the heat.
  • Watch the bread closely and note how fast it rises. Once it doesn’t appear to be rising any more, add a tray of water to the shelf beneath the bread. This is for the crust development.
  • Bake the bread, turning down the oven if it appears to be browning too fast, until it has an internal temperature of 100 degrees (or sounds hollow when you tap it).
  • Let it cool on a rack before eating
This recipe makes perfect bread. When I haven’t had perfect bread it’s usually because I rushed the second rising. I’d love to know if anyone tries this and whether you have success or failure with this technique.
–Karl
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Responses

  1. Wow. It looks like a great list of secrets to making that perfect loaf. Everyone says bread making is an art so there is bound to be mistakes. But if you were determined and decided to make a loaf every day for the next year, I am sure you would become a bread making god. I hope to get back into bread making soon. I know there are different recipes, some that don’t require kneading. I’m sure I’ll find one that fits my routine.


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