Introduction to bread

Introduction to bread
Introduction to bread

So after nearly two years of baking blogging, I’m finally getting stuck into bread and this will be my focus for the next few months.

Even though I’ve only baked bread 3-4 times in my life, I’ve always taken great interest in it – watching TV programs like Paul Hollywood’s Bread and of course Great British Bake Off.

So I have a pretty good base understanding, but am looking to really dig deeper and get some hands on experience.

Where to start???

Well, firstly I wanted to flag another book that’s going to be helping me on this journey – James Morton’s Brilliant Bread. You might recognise him from Great British Bake Off a few years ago where he came runner up to John Whaites.

James Morton's Brilliant Bread
James Morton’s Brilliant Bread

I was given this book two years ago and love his simple, no-nonsense approach. He’s so enthusiastic about bread that he just cuts all the crap and talk in lay terms which really appeals to me.

So, to start off let’s look at the core ingredients of bread:

  • Yeast – we all know that yeast makes bread rise, but I’m fascinated by the fact that yeast is a living organism that feeds (on flour and water), breathes (air) and grows. Just keep it away from salt because it will kill the yeast pretty quickly.
  • Flour – you should ideally go for strong flour wherever possible, because it will help the gluten develop more easily. To take a step back, unlike when making tart doughs where you handle flour as little as possible to keep the dough short, with bread you want to gluten well-developed which is essentially where kneading comes into play. I’ll get into using wholemeal flour and rye later down the track.
  • Water – the quantity of water you use will affect the texture of the bread but more on that later. Also ensure the water is always tepid or at the temperature that you are resting the dough in.
  • Salt – used as a flavour enhancer and preservative in bread, but as pointed out above keep it away from your yeast!

Now that we know what goes in bread, how do you prepare it?

Michel Suas talks about 10 steps to bread making:

  1. Pre-fermentation (optional)
  2. Mixing
  3. First fermentation (aka first prove)
  4. Dividing
  5. Pre-shaping
  6. Resting (aka second prove)
  7. Shaping
  8. Final proofing
  9. Baking
  10. Cooking

James Morton’s process is a bit simpler:

  1. Weigh
  2. Mix
  3. Knead
  4. Rest
  5. Shape
  6. Prove
  7. Score
  8. Bake

It makes it sound like a very long, onerous process but as James points out you are not required in the kitchen very much. Most of the long stages are when the bread is resting, which means you can go out and focus on other things.

Enough background, it’s time to get baking!

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