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All about making Bread 12 May 2006

Posted by cath in bread, freeze-friendly, general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients.

InformationWith easy to use, dried yeast sachets, everyone can make great bread at home. The only other things you’ll need are: a quality stoneground strong bread flour (White, Wholewheat, Granary or a mixture), salt, sugar, butter or oil and water. You can add seeds, nuts, curry pastes, dried fruits, herbs, anything you like really to the basic dough.

Loaf of Bread

Homemade, Stoneground White Bread with Pumpkin and Sesame Seeds

At the moment I’m using a very good bread machine (Panasonic, Sd-253) – although, you may be surprised that I don’t cook my bread in the machine. I use the dough only programs. Bread looks much better and gets a lovely crispy crust if you bake it in a bread tin the oven – no matter how you make the dough.

Making Bread Dough…
If you want to make your own bread dough, there are several options:

  1. You can knead it by hand – this is actually not hard to do as you have to be rough with bread so as long as you give it a good 15 minutes of stretching, folding, turning, thumping, squishing, rolling and whatever else you like, it should be fairly happy.
  2. You can use a dough tool or hook in a food processor – simply add the dough mix, along with water at room-temperature (this is crucial) to the processor and letting it knead the bread for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Use a bread machine – in this case you are best to follow the instructions in the guide book. Some machines offer a dough-only option, so you can set them up to make the dough for you whilst you’re at work. The machines include resting periods, kneading and the dough can be left in the machine to rise slowly after the program has finished.

Of course, in the bread machine, you can just let the bread bake as well. However, adding the extra prooving and maturing time, and turning the bread out to bake in the oven produces a far superior result.

The longer prooving time gives a better texture and you may be surprised at the weight and substantial feel of the resulting loaf.

Tip # 1: Let dough rise slowly, you can proove bread dough at room temperature, or even in the fridge overnight.

Preparing for baking…
Once you’re satisfied with the prooving, it’s time to knock the dough back – this just means to pummel and throw it about a little to remove all the air bubbles, then kneading again a little. It only takes about 5 minutes and if using a machine to make the dough, that’s all the hard work there is!

You then simply shape the bread into a fat sausage, put it in the bread tin and dust with seeds (optional) and a bit of flour.

Leave the bread to rise and fit into the tin – usually you want it to double in size. The rate at which this happens depends on the temperature, but leaving it for a few hours at room temperature in the kitchen is usually sufficient.

Pre-heat the oven to a very hot temperature, 210 deg C on my extra hot fan oven seems to do the trick (up to 230 deg C in an electric oven). Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.

It should be brown, cripy, and fall out of the tin when ready. To check it’s cooked through, tap the base – it should sound hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tip # 2: Put a tray of water in the base of the oven to improve the loaf crust during baking.

A timetable for making bread…
Option 1: Start making this bread in the morning, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. Get on with the day’s activities. In the afternoon/evening turn out the risen dough onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack overnight. Perfect for eating in the morning.

Option 2: Start making this bread in the afternoon/evening, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. In a few hours, the dough will be ready. Turn out into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight. Remove the risen dough first thing in the morning and allow to warm up a little. Turn out onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting. The bread should be ready to eat by lunchtime.

Other options: The bread can be left to rise for longer in the fridge – for example overnight and the next day. Make sure you use a large bowl to allow the bread plenty of room to expand.

Storing Bread…

Homemade bread does not keep fresh for long periods like store-bought sliced loaves. Wholemeal breads tend to go stale quicker than white breads as well. Best to store them in a bread bin. I also use a cotton bread bag to store bread inside the bin. The crust will soften after storage, which is why leaving it out overnight to cool keeps the crust crisp. Once cut into, bread will quickly stale.

Freezing bread is a good option. Freezing a whole loaf is a good idea if you eat a lot of bread. Freezing slices is better if you only need the odd bit. The slices defrost quickly or can even be toasted straight from the freezer.

Another option is to refresh your bread from the tin. Wrap in foil and place in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes to recrisp the crust and improve the texture of bread that has softened and begun to stale. Of course, slightly stale bread toasts well. Also use up stale bread by processing to crumbs and storing in the freezer – can be used in many recipes.

Recommended Flours

Wholemeal Flourspacer.gifGranary Flour

Tip # 3: Look out for stoneground bread flours from local mills, the flour is much more nutritious and produces high quality, nutty flavoured bread.

How much bread to make?

One 400g (weight of flour in dough) loaf makes a medium loaf easily makes 4, two-slice sandwiches, and several slices of toast or some breadcrumbs.

I usually make 1 loaf on Monday for lunchtime sandwiches Tuesday/Wednesday and possibly Thursday. Then to for a change, I’ll buy a loaf from the market on a Saturday morning (usually Sourdough as that’s a challenge I have still to face in breadmaking!)

You can make larger loaves, just the same method – maybe adding a little extra cooking time for a very large loaf.

Alternatively, make a large batch of dough and use it to make 1 loaf and a number of small rolls (shape, allow to proove again and bake for around 10 minutes in the oven). The extra dough for the rolls can also be kept in the freezer until required before prooving and baking. Similarly, made dough for loaves can be frozen until required.

Tip # 4: Cold and frozen dough will take much longer to proove. It needs to warm up to room temperature first before it really starts to increase in size. This just means a longer wait, which is why you may prefer to bake and then freeze any extra bread for use another day. If you are using frozen dough, take it out of the freezer in plenty of time – defrosting it and bringing it up to room temperature may take up to 24hrs.

Warning: Once you’ve started making bread, nothing you can buy in the supermarkets will ever be good enough again! However, you can get good quality baked bread from small bakeries, farmers markets and health food shops as well, so you don’t have to bake all the time!


1. mac - 21 May 2006

mmmm – lovely

2. Peggy - 26 September 2006

How long can you freeze bread?

3. cath - 27 September 2006

I think the length of time you can keep frozen food mainly depends on the number of stars your freezer has. If you have a modern 4 star freezer then up to 6 months would be a good rule of thumb for an uncut loaf of bread, or uncooked dough. As long as you keep your freezer cold (-18 degC) and wrap things properly, in theory it could keep for longer than that.
I recommend that you store your bread in a freezer bag with as little air as possible. Uncut loaves will keep better as they are less likely to dry out – but they will stale quickly once they are defrosted. You can crisp up the crust by wrapping the defrosted bread in foil and giving it 10 minutes or so in a hot oven.
Alternatively, if you slice a loaf (or half a loaf) and wrap it up well, it should keep in the freezer for a few months without drying too much and is easy to toast slices straight from the freezer.
Hope that helps!

4. mania - 1 August 2007

I want to make cinnabon as i have guests staying over. I have a bread machine. Can i make the dough 5 days before n freeze it and take it out the night before and in the morning fill in the cinnabon and sugar and bake it?
thanks for any help

5. cath - 3 August 2007

Hi mania, I’ve never tried making cinnabon but it sounds like that would work. It might be easier to handle the dough and fill it before freezing it though. I have had good results baking bread that’s shaped and ready – directly from the freezer, although the cooking time needs to be increased.
Hope you find that some help!

6. Rob, UK - 1 November 2007

I have been trying (and failing so far) to produce rolls using our breadmaker. They just aren’t rising as much as I want them to. To try and increase the rise I’ve tried reducing the salt in the dough as that inhibits the actions of the yeast (or so I read somewhere :-/ ) I’ve tried keeping a room at 25c to keep the rising action at it’s best. I often find that they start to rise, but then suddenly ‘sink’, which just seems weird to me. Any suggestions?

7. cath - 1 November 2007

Hi Rob, tough question there…I guess you have no problem making loaves using the same ingredients in your breadmaker? If so, it seems a bit strange that rolls are not working…Hmm!

Anyway, here are a few things to think about:
– For starters, make sure you are using a good, fresh strong bread flour. Flour does tend to deteriorate in humid conditions, so watch where you store it and perhaps try another brand or batch.
– I agree that too much salt is supposed to effect rising – but as long as you measure all your ingredients carefully, this should not be a big problem.
– If you are using easy bake yeast – make sure it’s not past the sell by date, or if it’s been open a long time, try a fresh batch. Take care not to use too much yeast though, as this could also contribute to the problem, the gluten may not be able to hold the rise – best advice here is again to measure everything carefully.
– Breadmaking, like cake making, is chemistry and this type of cookery requires the correct quantities and proportions. The ingredient reactions need to be controlled in order to get the desired effect.

However, if none of these basics are causing the problem then it might be worth reducing the amount of liquid in the dough by a fraction (try 290 ml instead of 300ml for example). This will make a very slightly stiffer dough, hopefully one that can hold the rise better.

To be honest I’m not sure that making your room hotter will really help here (25 deg – wow – hope you haven’t got the heating on full blast?). Dough will prove at much lower temperatures, it just takes longer…if you want to test this theory, stick your dough in a bowl in the fridge and watch – it will still rise, albeit rather slowly (over a day or two), and this gives it a nice sourdough quality as well.

I don’t know if any of these ideas will help – but keep in touch and lets try to find out!!!
Thanks for your question, and good luck with the rolls.

8. Rob, UK - 7 November 2007

Thanks for taking the time to answer my daft question! With your answer and a bit of thought and research I’ve finally cracked the problem.

Firstly, the 25c to rise business… the machine does that bit for me. By the time I get the dough out of the machine, it’s already had it’s first rise, where the warmer temperature assists it.

Secondly, I was using exactly the same recipes which were in the book which came with the machine. Those are all designed for the machine to bake. That’s not a good idea if you will be taking the dough out and shaping it by hand. The recipes in the book use a tiny proportion of yeast and salt to most normal breads.

To give an example, my Kenwood BM250 suggests 1 teaspoon of dried yeast with 350g flour. By my reckoning we get about 3 teaspoons of yeast from a 6g sachet. The bread I have just pulled from the oven and tasted (mmmmm) used 275g flour with 6g yeast, so nearly 3 times as much.

The reason being is that it doesn’t get ‘punched down’ by the machine followed by a second rise. I guess there is only so much that poor little paddle can do, eh?

It’s also very frustrating because all over the web there are recipes for dough that are measured in these bizarre measurements called ‘cups’. That really doesn’t help does it? Apart from me not knowing what volume a cup represents, a cup of sieved flour will weigh less than a cup of unsieved.

In case anyone is interested, this is the recipe I’ve just used, and it’s lovely.

275g White Flour
6g (a sachet) of dried yeast
3g salt (not table salt as that’s got various additives, grind some rock-salt in a pestle and mortar)
175ml warm water.
A small squeeze of honey, to make the bread taste fresh for a little longer.

Bung it on ‘program 8’ (Kenwood BM250) for an hour and a half then divide and shape. Leave to rise again for about 40mins and then bake at 205c for about 20mins, or until golden brown.

Then, when people come to dinner, smugly announce that you baked the bread rolls they are having with their soup!


9. cath - 13 November 2007

Hi Rob! Thanks for your reply.
I am very interested to hear that your bread machine uses less yeast than traditional recipes. I feel some experiments brewing up – so thanks for that info…plus your tip about honey – something I will definitely try.

I love that bakers smugness! I think it’s a trait common amongst people I know who have tried making their own bread. Bread is totally enhanced by being freshly made at home – the smell, taste, the feeling of rustic charm etc. it is very satisfying, you can hardly help but be smug – one to teach the kids…

Have you tried making fresh naan bread or pitta breads etc. to go with curry, tagines etc. These types of bread are really quick and so easy to make and again have awed many guests at my table (cue more smugness!). I’ve adapted some recipes from my books and I hope to post some on the site soon.

Anyway, thanks for your comments and suggestions, enjoy the baking!

10. June - 8 July 2008

the only bread I have ever made has been with a bread machine and so far I have had no complaints. I would like to try it free hand some day but 15 minutes of stretching and beating and all the good stuff sounds like a lot of work. I say all of you hand doers get an A for effort!

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