Baking Tips

Essential Ingredients and Techniques

Flour is the main ingredients of most bread, accounting for about three-quarters of the finished loaf. The flour you choose will give your bread its individual character. The choice of flour affects not only the quality of the baked bread but also the bread baking process , Flour will absorb more, or less, liquid depending on the variety of wheat that it was made from, the place were it was harvested, and the way in which it was milled. Such variables are compounded by the humidity in the air – on a damp day, flour will adsorb less liquid than on a dry day. The quantities of liquid given in the recipe can never be more than guidelines. Our mixing technique suggests that you hold back a proportion of liquid and add as needed. The method acts as a safeguard against overly wet dough and the consequent need to add extra flour; which upsets the balance among flour, salt and yeast. If you require a little more liquid than stated in the recipe, do not hesitate to add it; your aim is to produce dough conforming to the consistency specified in the recipe, be it firm, soft or wet. Observing; and understanding the condition of your dough, and what it requires, is the key to successful bread baking.


The Importance of Temperature

A warm kitchen is a perfect place for making bread. Ideally, ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing – except the yeast, which should be dissolved at body temperature, 98.6 F (37 C). A summer heat wave or a cool pantry must be brought in to the equation, and you may find it necessary to use cooler or warmer water to correct the balance – bear in mind that yeast is killed by temperatures over 130 F (54 C).

Choose a draft free spot to rise your bread during cold weather include a warm bathroom, an oven with the pilot light on, and a position near, but not too close to, a radiator, an open fire, or a stove. Choose a glass or plastic bowl for rising dough; metal conducts heat too efficiently, and you may find the dough rising unevenly and drying on the side closest to a nearby heat source. Use temperature to control the baking timetable. Decrease the water temperature and leave the dough in a cool spot in order to slow down the rising process to fit in with your schedule; the refrigerator is ideal for all-day or overnight rising. Remember to allow several hours for the dough to return to room temperature.

The Joys of Baking Bread

Bread making works miracles on all levels. The slow, rhythmic kneading is therapeutic, opening up the lungs and rib cage and releasing stresses and strains with gentle efficacy. Watch as the warmth and pressure of your hands bring the yeast to life and transform a few common place ingredients into a growing dough. Everyone loves the smell of bread being made. The yeasty fragrance of the rising dough permeates the kitchen, only to be superseded by the delicious aroma of the bread baking. Enjoy the process of bread making as well as the results.


Successful Bread Making

The golden rule for measuring all baking ingredients is to choose one system and use it for the entire recipe. Both no metric and metric measurements are given in this book, and it is important that you do not mix these up.

All spoon measurements are level: 1 teaspoon equals 1/6 fl oz (5ml) 1 tablespoon equals ½ fl oz (15 ml). All eggs used in this book are large unless otherwise specified. Unsalted butter should always be used for bread making unless otherwise specified.

Make sure that all ingredients used are at room temperature; be sure to take eggs, butter and milk out of refrigerator in sufficient time.


How to begin

Precise proportions and accurate quantities of leavening, water and flour form the foundation on which all good bread is based the rising agent, or leaven, is the key to transforming simple ingredients into a risen bread. In this book, yeast, in dry or cake form, is the most commonly used leaven. Yeast is a living organism that feeds on the sugar and starch present in flour to live and grow. The yeast produces carbon dioxide as it grows; this gas causes the bread dough to rise. Once activated in water, yeast will live for 15 minutes before it must be added to flour, the food source it requires to stay alive.


Measuring the Ingredients

Accuracy is crucial, when making bread. Measure all the ingredients carefully before you begin. Follow the measurements through out the recipe. With flour and other dry ingredients, level the top. For metric, use a clearly marked scale to weigh dry ingredients. With liquid ingredients, put a measuring cup on a flat surface and bend down so that the measure mark is eye level.


Preparing the Yeast

Both dry and cake yeast must be dissolved in lukewarm water to activate. This should be done just before adding the yeast to the flour. Avoid using metal bowls or utensils to prepare the yeast. Metal can impart an unpleasant after taste to a yeast mixture.


  1. Sprinkle dry yeast granules into a small bowl containing lukewarm water; let it dissolve for 5 minutes.


  1. Once the yeast has dissolved; stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. The yeast mixture is now ready to be added to the flour.


Preparing Instant Yeast

To use instant yeast: sprinkle the yeast directly onto the flour. The yeast will activate once the liquid has been added. The standard method of mixing dough must be followed, since the sponge method cannot be used with instant yeast.


Water Temperature

The ideal temperature for preparing yeast is 98 degrees F. (37C) the easiest method for achieving this is to mix two-thirds cold tap water with one-third boiling water. Lukewarm water should be comfortable to the touch, not too hot, but not cool. An instant-read thermometer is a fail-safe method for checking the water temperature


As a living organism, yeast is very sensitive to temperature. The temperature of the liquid you use to dissolve the yeast and to make the dough is crucial: too hot, and the yeast is killed; too cool, and its growth is inhibited.


Cool water can be helpful when conditions in the kitchen are extremely warm and you wish to slow down the rising process. Adding cool water to the yeast will inhibit the rate of fermentation, allowing the bread to rise at a normal rate when the room temperature is above normal.

Using a Starter

Starters offer an alternative method of preparing the yeast before mixing the bread dough. A portion of the yeast is prepared and then left to ferment for between two hours and five days, which results in finished bread with an open, airy texture and a superior flavor. Breads made with a starter require planning because additional time is needed to allow the starter to ferment. Once the starter has fermented, it is ready for the mixing step. The main difference between the main starters methods described here is time; the ingredients are the same-flour, water and yeast.


Making a Starter

Any bread can be made with a starter. Simply mix some of the flour, water and yeast together into a thick batter, and let it ferment at room temperature. The proportions of ingredients and the timing depend on the recipe. The timing varies from two hours for French poolish to thirty six hours for a fully matured Italian biga


  1. In a nonmetallic bowl, combine the amount of flour, water and prepared yeast specified in the recipe. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a thick, yet pliable batter.


  1. Cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let the starter ferment at room temperature for the amount of time specified in the recipe. The mixture will begin to bubble and have a mild yeasty fragrance.


  1. The starter is now ready to be mixed with the remaining ingredients. Add the starter and dissolved yeast to the well formed in the flour. Mix the ingredients as directed in the recipe.

Creating and Feeding a Sourdough Starter

A traditional sourdough starter is made with a flour and water paste that is left to ferment by wild airborne yeast. Here some yeast is added to encourage the fermentation process. Once established, a sourdough starter can be kept indefinitely in the refrigerator. The longer a starter is kept, the better the flavor of the baked bread. If you do not make bread regularly, it is important to “feed” the starter every two weeks. To do this stir, discard half and replace with an equal amount of flour and water.


  1. In a large glass jar, sprinkle or crumble the yeast into the water; let it dissolve for 5 minutes. Stir in the amount of flour specified in the recipe. Cover the jar with a towel and ferment at room temperature for at least 48 hours and up to 5 days. The starter will become a loose, frothy batter. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


  1. After using a portion of the starter, replace it with an equal amount of flour and water to keep it active for the next time you make bread. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup (250ml) starter, after removing this amount stir in 1 cup (125g) starter flour and ½ cup (125ml) water back into the jar. Ferment at room temperature for 12-24 hours before refrigerating.


Old-Dough Method

A piece of “old dough” can also be used as a leavening agent. Instead of making flour and dissolve yeast batter; simply incorporate a piece of dough saved from a previous batch of plain bread into your new batch. Old dough can be made from scratch and kept wrapped in the refrigerator for up to two days before using or freezing. Alternatively, when making a plain bread remove a walnut-size piece of dough after the rising period. Wrap the dough loosely in waxed paper and foil, allowing room for it to expand. Then refrigerate overnight, and then let rest at room temperature for a minimum of two hours. Wrapped properly old dough will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months Old dough recipe


The primary objective of mixing is to combine the basic ingredients into a soft pliable consistency ready for kneading. The quantity of liquid required will often vary, depending on the type of flour used as well as the level of humidity and temperature on the day of bread making. A little less or a little more liquid than the recipe states may be required. Add extra liquid 1 Tablespoon at a time; it is better to err on the side of too soft than too dry. Take note of the consistency of the dough described in each recipe, and add a period of fermentation (specified in the recipe) in mixing. This results in bread with a lighter crumb and a less yeasty flavor.


  1. In a bowl, combine the flours and salt. Use wooden spoon to form a well. Add the dissolved yeast and any starter


  1. Using a wooden spoon, draw in the flour from the sides of the bowl, a little at a time, to combine with the dissolved yeast in the well.


  1. Gradually pour in half of the remaining liquid while mixing in the flour from the sides of the bowl. As the water is added, the texture of the combined ingredients will change from a crumbly mixture to a shaggy sticky mass that will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Add the rest of the water; as needed to achieve the consistency specified in the recipe. The dough should remain soft and not too dry before it is transferred to a floured surface to knead.


Sponge Method

  1. In a bowl, combine the flours and salt. Use wooden spoon to form a well. Add the dissolved yeast and any starter, and then draw enough of the flour from the sides of the bowl into the liquid to form a soft paste when mixed thoroughly.


  1. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave for 20 minutes, or longer of specified in the recipe, until the paste is frothy and expanded slightly in size.


  1. Gradually pour in half of the remaining liquid while mixing in the flour from the sides of the bowl. As the water is added, the texture of the combined ingredients will change from a crumbly mixture to a shaggy sticky mass that will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Add the rest of the water; as needed to achieve the consistency specified in the recipe. The dough should remain soft and not too dry before it is transferred to a floured surface to knead.


Kneading the Dough

Essential for open-textured, full flavored bread, kneading performs a crucial function in preparing the dough to rise. First, it completes the mixing process by distributing the activated yeast through out the dough. Continued kneading then allows the flours proteins to develop into gluten, which gives dough the ability to stretch and expand. Starches are broken down to feed the yeast, which creates bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles cause the dough to rise.


  1. Shape the dough to begin kneading by folding one half over the other, bringing the top half towards you. Keep a little additional flour on the side to lightly dust the dough as you knead should it become difficult to handle. Use extra flour sparingly.


  1. Use the heel of your working hand to gently push the dough away from you, use your other hand to rotate the dough slightly toward you. Guiding the dough slowly around in a circle.


  1. Repeat these kneading actions; gently folding, pushing, and rotating the dough continuously for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough achieves a firm touch, a silky smooth surface, and an elastic texture. Take time to work the dough slowly and firmly, but do not use excessive force. The dough will gradually become more elastic and easier to knead. Shape the dough into a ball for rising.



Proofing is referred to as the final rise. Shaped dough is left to rise until doubled in size (unless otherwise specified in the recipe) on a prepared baking sheet or in a pan just before baking. Proofing is best done in a warm, draft-free place. In an exceptionally cold kitchen, a low oven or one heated with just the pilot light is a good option. Preheat the oven for baking halfway through the proofing time; remove the bread while the oven preheats. Avoid over proofing by testing for doneness; press on the dough lightly with your finger tip. The shaped dough is ready to bake when it feels spongy rather than firm and the indentation made with your finger tip springs back slowly. It is best to put bread in the oven a little early. Do not let shaped dough spread or deflate; over-proofing can cause the dough to collapse when it is touched or slashed, or when it is placed in a hot oven.



Adding the finishing touches to your bread is usually done before proofing. Glazes can affect the finished taste and texture of the crust as well as the appearance. A glaze is applied before or after baking, depending on the glaze and the effect desired. Some glazes can be brushed on both before and after baking. When applying a glaze before baking. Be careful not to “glue” the loaf to the rim of the loaf pan or the baking sheet. This is not only will make it difficult to remove the loaf from the pan. But can prevent the loaf from expanding fully in the pan.


Preparing an egg wash

  1. A basic egg wash will give a shiny, golden look to a crust. It can also be used as an adhesive to be applied before any of the toppings are added.

To prepare: Beat together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water or milk, and a pinch of salt.


  1. Use a clean, soft pastry brush to gently apply the egg wash to shaped and proofed dough before baking. For an extra golden sheen, allow the first egg wash coating to dry, and then apply a second layer of glaze immediately before baking.


Types of Glazes-Before and After Baking


Egg Wash

For a shiny, golden-brown crust, brush the dough with the egg wash before baking.



For a golden crust, brush the dough with milk before baking. For a slightly sweeter glaze, dissolve a little sugar in warm milk.


Salted Water

For a light shine and a crisp baked crust, brush the dough with lightly salted water immediately before baking.



For a soft, sweet, sticky crust, brush baked still warm bread with honey. Alternatively try molasses or corn syrup.


Olive Oil

For both added flavor and shine, brush the dough with olive oil immediately before and after baking.



For a chewy crust, brush the dough with a mixture of cornstarch and water that has been cooked until translucent and then cooled.


Soy Powder and Water

Make a vegan version of egg wash by using a mixture of soy powder and water.


Glazing after Baking

Transfer the loaf or rolls to a wire cooling rack, and then apply the prepared glaze using a soft pastry brush while the bread is still warm. Glazes are applied after baking to add flavor to the bread and to soften the texture of the crust.



Toppings offer many ways to finish bread before baking. If a flavoring has been used to make the dough, then the loaf may be topped with the same ingredients, providing a clue to the hidden flavor inside. Toppings can also be used to complement bread or simply to add a decorative touch. Toppings can be applied at different times; before proofing, the dough can be rolled in the topping; after proofing. The dough must be handled more gently by sprinkling the topping over the dough or using a sieve to create a light dusting.

Methods of Toppings


Before Proofing: Sprinkled seeds or other fine toppings onto a surface. Gently press the shaped dough into the topping before placing on a prepared baking sheet to proof.


After Proofing: Sprinkle coarse toppings, like chopped nuts or grated cheese over the glazed dough, after proofing stage or immediately before baking.


Before and after Proofing: Use a fine mesh sieve to lightly dust the shaped dough with flour before and after proofing. This will give the crust a dusty golden finish.


Types of Toppings-Before and after Baking


Cracked Wheat

For a crunchy crust, gently press the shaped dough into a bowl of cracked wheat before placing on a baking sheet to proof.


Bran Flakes

To add texture and fiber, glaze the shaped dough with an egg wash and sprinkle over the top after proofing


Rolled Oats

To decorate, glaze dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with rolled oats after proofing.


White Flour

To create a dusty, golden finish, sift a light dusting of flour over the shaped dough both before proofing and before baking.


Granulated Sugar

For a sweet crackly crust, glaze the dough with an egg wash and sift sugar lightly over dough after proofing.



For added spice and color sprinkle the shaped dough with paprika or another ground spice after proofing.


Coarse Salt

For a salty crispy crust, glaze the dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt after proofing.


Grated Cheese

For a tangy and cheesy crust, glaze the shaped dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with grated cheese after proofing.


Fine Cornmeal

For color and a crisp texture, glaze the shaped dough with water only and sprinkle with fine cornmeal after proofing.


Poppy Seeds

For a crunchy texture, glaze the shaped dough with an egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds after proofing.


Sunflower Seeds

Arrange sunflower seeds over the top for a flavorful decoration. Gently press them into the shaped dough before proofing.


Fresh Herbs

Use fresh herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, to add flavor and color. Press them into the shaped dough after proofing.


Preparing for Baking

Slashing a loaf before baking has both a functional and a decorative purpose. Cuts made through the surface of the dough allow the bread to rise and expand as it bakes without tearing or cracking along the sides or bottom. The deeper the slashes, the more the bread will open when bakes, giving the baked loaf a maximum area of crust. It is best to cut the slashes using an extremely sharp blade and firm strokes. If you hesitate as you slash, the dough will stick to the blade and tear. The use of steam in the oven before and during baking produces moist heat that helps create a glazed, crisp crust on the loaf.


Slashing the Loaf

Using a Blade: A razor-sharp blade is the best tool for making clean; perfect slashes: It is worth investing in a scalpel that allows you to safely hold the blade. Use decisive strokes to make the slashes clean and crisp. Keep the slashes equal in depth and length.


Slashing a Pan Loaf: A long slash, about ½ inch (1cm) deep, will allow a pan loaf to rise and open evenly when baked, without breaking open at the sides. With a firm, steady hand, plunge the blade into the surface of the dough and draw it quickly along the length of the load.


Using Scissors: Sharp: scissors are a helpful and effective tool for making decorative slashes. Hold a pair of scissors almost horizontally to cut a Baguette into the pain d Epi variation. Cut about three-quarters of the way through the dough the dough, leaving about 2in (5cm) between each cut. Gently place the flaps to alternate sides.


Applying Steam to the Oven

Steam plays an important role in many bread recipes, especially those that require a crisp, crusty exterior. It is introduced into the oven before and sometimes during baking. The moisture in the air surrounding the bread in the oven affects both its texture and its appearance. Moisture helps soften the crust during the initial stages of baking. This allows the dough to rise fully and a thin, crisp crust to form. Moisture also helps caramelize; the natural sugars in the bread, resulting in a rich, golden brown crust.


Using a Sprayer: Apply steam using a water sprayer; after placing the loaf; in the preheated oven. Mist the oven walls eight to ten times, and then repeat the process after 2 minutes and again after 2 minutes more. Shut the door rapidly each time to minimize any heat loss from the oven. Be careful to spray only the sides of the oven. Heating coils and oven fan.


Using Ice Cubes: Apply steam by placing a wide dish filled with ice cubes on the bottom rack or floor of the oven while the oven preheats. Place the loaf in the oven before the ice cubes have completely melted. When the ice cubes have melted, carefully remove the dish from the oven. This should occur within the first 15-20 minutes of the breads baking time.


Using Ceramic Tiles: Line the bottom rack with unglazed ceramic tiles, leaving 2 in (5cm) of air space all the way around the tiles and the oven wall allowing for air circulation. The tiles will produce a steady, radiating heat as well as help retain a maximum amount of moisture in the oven. When tiles are used in combination with the applied steam methods shown, and the bread is baked directly on the tiled surface, it will form the crispest crust of the three methods.


Baking and Cooling

Baking is the culmination of the bread making process when all your hard work and patience are rewarded. For a successful finished loaf, follow these simple guidelines; use a good thermometer to regulate the temperature of the oven; preheat to the correct temperature before placing the bread in the oven to bake; be sure of the exact baking time before beginning; and always used a kitchen timer to keep track of the time. An important key to proficient baking lies in knowing you oven and being able to control its temperature closely – each one is slightly different and has its own peculiarities


  1. When the bread is placed in the hot oven, the heat turns the moisture in the dough to steam, causing the loaf to rise rapidly in the first 20 minutes of baking. The heat then penetrates the bread. Killing the active yeast cells and allowing the exterior crust to form.


  1. As the exterior crust forms, the natural sugars in the dough caramelize, creating a golden color. The baking time is specified in each recipe. High humidity, however; can sometimes extend the required baking time and must be taken into consideration on the day of baking.


Testing for Doneness

Understanding bread is a common mistake of the novice baker. Bread is indigestible when it has been undercooked, so it is important to test for doneness. Well baked bread should be golden brown, not too pale or too dark in color. The texture and feel of the bread should be firm to the touch without seeming hard. The beat test; however, is to listen to the sound of the baked loaf when tapped on the underside. It should sounds lightly hollow when it has been properly baked.


Cooling: It is important to allow a freshly baked loaf to cool on a wire rack. As the loaf cools, steam from the middle works its way towards the crust, causing it to soften. Cooling baked bread on aware rack prevents the bottom crust from becoming damp and soggy.


Slicing: When slicing bread, use a Sharpe serrated bread knife and a clean bread board. Bread should be left to cool slightly before slicing. Use a steady, sawing motion across the top of the bread to prevent the weight of the knife from crushing the loaf or tearing the crust.