Having success with bread making is all about confidence. That comes with practice and knowledge. Knowing a few top tips can really help.
Hop over to our Facebook group Bread Made Easy for lots of top tips on bread making. You can also get advice from fellow bread heads or show us your successful bakes (and your disasters if you like). It’s a celebration of all things about making bread at home, so please do join the conversation.
I regularly post my top tips on the FB page to help you, but for those of you that don’t use Facebook I will post them here for you too so you don’t miss out. Also, if you haven’t already signed up to our newsletter and got your free copy of my eBook that gives you my top tips for making better bread then you can do that now too.
Top Tips for successful bread making
Getting the best out of your oven:
Place a solid shelf or baking stone into your oven to heat up. This helps boost the temperature of the oven, maintain the temperature when you open the door and helps your loaf achieve oven spring.
Preheat your oven to 240C, gas mark 9, 475F and then turn down to 220C, gas mark 7, 425F when you put your loaf in. This helps the oven be as hot as it can be and retain the heat when you open the oven door.
Buy an oven thermometer. Every oven is different and it really helps you to understand your oven if you can accurately judge the temperature.
Steam your oven when you put your loaf in to help the loaf achieve oven spring. You can use a plant mister to mist the sides and the floor of the oven (avoid the light and glass door) or you can pour a cup of hot water into a roasting tray on the floor of the oven. You can fill that roasting tray with old nuts and bolts or gas BBQ lava rocks for maximum impact.
Use a dutch oven instead of steaming your oven. A dutch oven is usually a cast iron casserole dish that you place your loaf inside, pop the lid on and bake the loaf covered for 15-20 minutes and remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes. This encloses the steam that the loaf releases as it bakes, allows an even oven spring of the bread and bakes a beautifully caramel coloured loaf.
NB: I have included links to items that you can purchase from Amazon in the post. If you buy using this link I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
You can get started with bread making with just a few essential items of equipment. You might find that you have these in your kitchen already. If you would prefer to watch my video on this subject you will find it at the bottom of this article.
Essential equipment for making bread
As a minimum you will need:
A set of scales to weigh your ingredients. I recommend electronic scales rather than a balance scale as you can weigh as little as 1g on the electronic scale. But if all you have are balance scales then you can use a teaspoon to judge your salt and yeast. 1level teaspoon = 5g. Electronic scales are between £10-15. After using several brands I find that Salter are the most reliable.
A bowl. I use a plastic bowl that costs just a couple of pound from the supermarket. I use these because they are lightweight and transparent which makes seeing how well the dough is fermenting really easy. You can use any large bowl that you may already have.
A baking tray. Again I use baking trays that cost very little from the supermarket. If you can afford to I suggest getting a really good heavy base tray that you can preheat in the oven. This will improve your oven’s ability to retain heat as you open the door to load your loaf and a loaf will benefit from having a hot surface underneath it even if it is in a tin.
Those are your three essential items for making a good loaf.
Non-essential equipment but great to have
Additional items that come in handy include:
Really good oven gloves. I think that these might be more suited to the essential list if you want to prevent yourself from having baker’s arms. You can always tell a cook or baker from the burn scars running up their forearms. I use Matfer’s baker mitts, which are fantastic except you can’t wash them easily and they are an expensive purchase. I recently bought myself a pair of BHQ oven gloves which are doing a good job, but don’t come as far up my arm so I just have to make sure that I am being careful. I am notorious for catching my upper arm on the shelf above or the oven walls.
Loaf tin. If you want a sandwich loaf then you will need one of these. Buy a heavy one if you can and oil it before each use. Try not to wash it if you can avoid it, just wipe it with kitchen towel after each use. This will help season it, even it advertises itself as non-stick. Don’t use any tools to get a stuck loaf out. If a loaf gets stuck, place it upside down on cooling rack and with luck as it begins to cool it will retract and come out easily.
Spray mister. When you put your loaf in the oven you will need to steam the oven so that the crust stays most whilst the trapped carbon dioxide expands and causes the loaf to have oven spring. I find that spraying the oven walls and sides (avoiding the light and glass door) does a great job of this whilst avoiding potential burns through handling hot water and steam bursts. You should be able to pick one up from a DIY store or supermarket for a couple of pound. I recently bought a pressurised mister that I pump before use that works really well and produces plenty of steam
A plastic scraper. I didn’t have one of these until I got to the age of 40. Now I look back on all those wasted years… but seriously, these are fantastic tools to have in the kitchen. They will get the stickiest of doughs out of bowls, they will help you to shape your bread, they clear down a sticky side in no time. You can use them to get the hardened bits of dough out of unwashed bowls or off the side of your sink. They are great for spreading the icing on a cake. They will help when grouting the bathroom. They clear the ice off the car windscreen. Get one quick and then lament all of the years you spent without one.
A sharp knife or baker’s razor. This should probably also be the essential equipment because if you are baking a loaf without popping it into a loaf tin you will need to slash or score your loaf so that when it has oven spring it bursts where you want it to burst rather than at its weakest point. A baker’s razor is a bit of an investment but if you are a regular bread maker you will be glad of it. I use a Mure & Peyrot Bordelaise which has a safety cap. An important feature for me as I don’t want any razor related accidents.
A bread knife. Once you have achieved the perfect loaf you don’t want to ruin it by cutting into it with a blunt knife and squashing your loaf in the process. I have a Wusthof, which is a great knife that Rich bought me for my birthday as it is quite an investment. I also have my eye on an Opinel for a future Christmas present, which is a bit more reasonably priced but still an investment.
A temperature probe is also a very handy device to have in the kitchen generally. For bread, it helps to confirm that your loaf is cooked. If it looks a good colour, sounds hollow when you knock it and it reaches 90 degrees Centigrade then you can be sure your loaf is cooked.
An apron. You will get dough all over you, it is inevitable. Treat yourself to one of mine, hand stamped by own fair hand.
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