Making Bread at home is fun and a source of great satisfaction. Although the recipe is quite simple and requires few ingredients, the final result is not the one we hoped.
Let’s see how to make bread at home!
MY FAVOR TECHNIQUES
There are 2 main methods for making bread:
THE DIRECT METHOD or 1-Dough
As the name suggests, this technique consists of kneading all the recipe ingredients (obviously following the suggested order) and letting the dough proof before baking. This method is surely the most rapid but also the one which guarantees a lower quality.
In this case, the fermentation is due to the fresh or dry yeast, and it is important to dose it in the right way to ensure a good-tasting and digestible bread.
THE INDIRECT METHOD or 2-Doughs
Use this method if you aim to make high-quality bread! Double dought is the most common technique used for sourdough-based products as well as many leavened doughs.
Following this method, the recipe is split into 2 steps: firstly, we prepare a pre-fermented dough. Once ripe (after 16-20hours), we can incorporate it into the final part of the recipe and all the other ingredients (such as salt and condiments).
Whiting the well-known pre-preferments we can find Biga and Poolish and I invite you to read my article to learn how to prepare them in the best way.
A better taste and flavor, better alveolation, and better digestibility are the main advantages of making bread with this method.
Flour plays a key role in making quality bread. Choosing the right flour can make a big difference. A high-quality Bread Flour is generally easy to shop for. Still, you can also opt for a medium/high strength flour with a protein content of 12-13%. In Europe, you can refer to the W index and focus the choice among flours with W around 280 (for a medium strength flour) or W320 for a strong flour.
In general, a flour of medium strength (W280 – 12.5% of proteins) is more suitable for the direct method or as a base for the second dough if you follow the indirect method.
In case you prefer to make bread using a Biga fermented for 24 hours, I recommend use a strong flour (W320 – 13% of proteins) to prepare the biga and then use a medium flour (W280) for the second dough.
WATER AND ITS TEMPERATURE
Water is the primary liquid used in the preparation of the bread. It structures gluten, together with flour’s proteins and the kneading machine’s mechanical action, and impacts the alveoli in the baked product. The higher the percentage of water in the dough, the higher is the alveolation in the baked product will be.
Be careful because a soft dough is more difficult to manage, and it tends to ferment much quicker with the risk that the dough becomes too acidic.
A critical parameter when making Bread is the dough’s final temperature, which must be around 25°C (77°F). For this, the water temperature is the main factor we can control this temperature.
In Italy, we use this empirical formula to calculate the temperature of water to use:
Water Temperature = 3xFinal Kneading Temperature -Flour Temperature – Ambient Temperature – Kneading Machine Heating (variable depending on the type of kneading machine used).
!!! This formula only works with °C. You can apply the formula with °C and covert the result to °F !!!
Let’s make an example to obtain the dough at 25°C with:
Room Temperature = 20°C
Flour Temperature = 19°C
Planetary Mixer Heating = 9°C (consider only 1 degree if you are kneading by hand)
The water temperature will be: 75 (25×3) – 19 -20 – 9 =27°C (81°F)
BREWER’S YEAST AND MOTHER YEAST
Fresh (or dry) Yeast is certainly the easiest and most convenient choice because it is ready-to-use and does not require any particular attention. On the contrary, Sourdough needs to be fed with at least 2 to 3 refreshments before being used in the recipe. To make bread with Sourdough, I refer you to my article “How much Sourdough to Use,” where I explain how to use this incredible ingredient in bread making.
If you want to use fresh yeast instead, then the correct amount to use depends, once again, on the preparation method you choose.
For biga or poolish, the yeast quantity is generally around 1% of the flour weight used for the biga and an additional 0.2% of the weight used on the final dough.
For example, if you want to use 1kg of flour to make bread (or pizza) with 20% of Biga, then you must consider:
- The flour needed to make the biga is 20% of 1Kg= 200gr.
- To make the final dough, we use the leftover flour (1kg of flour – 200gr used for the biga)= 800gr
On this quantity, we add 0.2% of fresh yeast: 0.2% of 800gr= 2gr (it would be 1.6, but for such small quantities like that, you can round off)
On the contrary, if you opt for a direct method (1-Dough), the Yeast quantity will be around 5% – 6% on the flour weight.
It is important not to exaggerate the quantity of yeast if we want to achieve a pleasing taste and a good digestibility in the bread. Moreover, a dough with an excessive quantity of yeast, almost paradoxically, will ferment slower!
Salt is an important ingredient that influences the taste, improves the dough structure, and takes control over yeast activity.
In Italy, the majority part of our bread is slated, except for some typical regional bread that doesn’t require salt(e.g., Pane Toscano or unsalted bread),
On average, the suitable quantity of salt to use in our bread is about 2% of the flour weight.
Among the other ingredients which are often added to bread, there are Sugar, Honey, or Malt. All these ingredients are sugars (of different nature). Their function is to improve fermentation and the coloration of the crust during baking.
In some regional bread, particularly soft, boiled potatoes are often used to keep the product moisture. In this case, boil the potatoes, peel them and mash them with a fork. Now you can add 200gr of pulp to 1kg of flour directly in the second dough.
HOW TO MAKE BREAD AT HOME: MAIN STEPS
Now that we know better the basic ingredients, let’s see how to make bread. We are going through the preparation with the Indirect Method, for example, by using the Biga.
PREPARATION OF BIGA OR FIRST DOUGH
The first step consists of preparing the Biga, a preferment that will have to ripe for at least 16/20 hours at 19°C (66°F) before being used. Obviously, the fermentation time can be extended to 24/48 hours if we opt for a Long-Fermented Biga (much more fragrant and more acidic, and difficult to work without temperature control). In my experience, a biga of 16 /20 hours represents an excellent compromise between aromas and ease of use.
For succeeding the Biga, have a look at my article about Biga and Poolish, but the essential points are:
- Don’t Over-Knead the dough and keep it quite rough.
- Pay close attention to the fermentation temperature (ideally 19°C, 66°F) and the final temperature of the biga, which has to be around 18°C / 20°C (64°F / 68°F). For this, you can calculate the correct water temperature using the formula seen before.
THE SECOND DOUGH
Once the pre-dough is ready, you can prepare the second (and final) dough mixing the flour, the ripe Biga, and the water until the dough will be homogeneous. It is important to add salt only once the dough is created to not interfere directly with yeast. The final temperature of the dough should be around 25°C (77°F).
Once the bread dough is ready, it must be left to rest at room temperature for about 45-60 minutes to allow the gluten to relax and make it easier to form the loaves.
CUTTING – FOLDING – SHAPING
After the bulk fermentation, you can divide the dough into many parts of the weight you prefer (for home preparation, I recommend not to exceed 600gr) and give the first folds to the dough to give it more strength.
To make a fold, you just need to give the dough a rectangular shape and close the edges of the dough towards the center and then close it like a book. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes more and finally form the loaf of the desired shape.
During the proofing period, you need to create an environment with a stable temperature of about 27°C – 30°C (80°F – 86°F). The easiest solution will be to let the dough rise into the oven (turned off). You can also place a pot of boiling water inside the oven to bring humidity and prevent the dough from forming a crust. Sometimes we read to keep the light on in the oven, but personally, I do not think it helps!
Proofing time obviously depends both on temperature and on the yeast quantity used.
To make sure the dough is well-proofed, you can induce a light pressure on the surface with your finger. If the dough immediately comes back to shape, then it is not ready yet. On the contrary, the proofing time is over, and the dough ready!
For good baking of the bread, I suggest using a static oven (without fan) and bake it at 200°C – 392°F (for a loaf of 600gr).
Additionally, to promote bread development and a shinier crust, you can create steam in the oven by either inserting a small pot of boiling water or sprinkle a little water on the baking sheet when you put the bread in the oven.
15minutes before the end of baking, remove the pot of water and leave the oven door slightly ajar using a ball of foil. This will allow the steam to escape and the bread to correctly dry.
Cooking time may vary according to the size of the loaves, but as a reference, consider about 40-45 minutes for a 500gr loaf and about 60 minutes for loaves of 1kg.
As you have seen, there are few factors to take into account if you want to prepare a tasty homemade bread: The right type of flour, an eye on the temperatures, and some time available. This latter is perhaps the real “secret ingredient” for succeeding in your recipes!
Now that you know something more about the bread, all you have to do is try some of my recipes and test what you have learned today! So, what are you waiting for? Grab the best flour you can find and get to work!