For most of my life, I assumed that baking bread was meant for professionals only – or at least for house cooks of extraordinary talent. As far as I knew, the process was long and complicated and easily confused, especially if you had as little bread-baking knowledge as I had.
What I found out last week when I decided to handle my hand baking bread for the first time is that it's a lot easier than I could believe. The truth is, you only need a few ingredients, a handful of tools that you probably already have, and a bit of know-how to make your entire kitchen smell like a boulangerie in no time.
You definitely do not need it To be a professional, to make bread, I would not recommend going in without doing any research. To help you discover your own breadmaking skills, I've created this guide ̵
The only ingredients you need to make bread are water, flour, salt and yeast.
You already have at least three of these ingredients in your pantry. Like me, you may need to go to the store to collect some yeast, which is an essential element in making bread because it causes it to rise. "Yeast makes the bread rise by consuming carbohydrates in flour and converting them into gas that becomes bubbles trapped in the protein structure of the dough", Zachary Golper, owner of Bakery Brooklyn Bien Cuit and of the James Beard Award nominees, tells SELBST.
Golper says you can also use a sourdough starter. The use of a sourdough starter is one step higher than the most basic bread making techniques, because the only way to get one is to make it yourself. You can buy sourdough starter kits online (like this one here ), and in some cases you can find them in health food stores. However, if you can not find one, you do not want to spend the money or commit yourself to keeping it alive (it takes about five days or more to get it right ) Yeast is absolutely good Alternative.
You should use a recipe to guide you through the right measurements.
It's easy to make things like smoothies and salad dressing. No Prescription, because they are more forgiving, but bread is another story – use a cup of too much flour, and the whole thing could be off. The amount of flour, yeast, water and salt varies depending on the type of bread. For example, it will be very different from ciabatta to bagel. To begin with, follow the measurements of the recipes to get the best results. I used this simple bread recipe from Leites Culinaria as a resource for flour, water, yeast, and salt measurements and thought that it came together seamlessly when I applied the tips from my expert sources  But you can experiment experimentally with the other ingredients you use.
Once you have made the base dough, you can add anything else you want for the taste. "Trying out new things often leads to great bread," says Golper. "You can always add a few nuts, dried fruits, olives, flavor oils, butters, honey, molasses, other sweeteners, seeds, soaked grains, or a combination of these products," he explains.
As far as equipment is concerned, you do not need a blender or a Dutch oven.
While searching for bread recipes for this piece, I noticed that many of them demand blenders and Dutch ovens – blenders make kneading easier and Dutch ovens provide a consistent temperature that can give your bread a crunchy, crisp texture. And since I do not have any of those in my kitchen (they collect dust in a storage unit), I asked the experts if I could do the work without them.
Golper told me that I absolutely do not need a blender. "Almost every big bread can be mixed by hand," he says. "You do not need an electric mixer to make amazing breads." In fact, this is because many bread recipes need little or no kneading (more on this in a nutshell).
And you also do not need a Dutch oven, Jordann Windschauer, CEO and founder of Base Culture tells SELF. She says you can use a loaf pan or a baking sheet. Even a casserole dish might work. I used a baking sheet and had no problems.
There is some equipment you need .
At least Golper says you need a big mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to mix the flour. A metal dough scraper can also be helpful in removing remaining, sticky dough from the worktops, and a plastic scraper can make it easier to handle the dough and remove it from the mixing bowl, but you can make bread without these tools.
You always have to give the dough time to get up, but you can cut it short when you need it.
"When yeast is used, it is a natural yeast pour," says Windschauer. Unlike other propellants such as baking soda and baking soda, yeast does not react immediately because it is a living organism rather than a chemical compound. When you fill in flour, salt and yeast with water, a fermentation process begins, explains Golper. "Water hydrates the flour, activates the proteins and allows the yeast to feed on the carbohydrates and create gas bubbles."
Golper says you just have to let the dough rise for a few hours at room temperature, and its volume doubles and be ready to bake. However, he says it will taste better if you leave it in the fridge for another 12 to 18 hours. That's because bread gets a lot of flavor from fermentation. The longer you let it ferment, the more flavor it will have.
I split my batch of dough in half, so I can use one right away and save the other one for the next day, to see if it really affected the taste. The conclusion: That has totally done it! This does not mean that the first loaf was bad, but that the bread-like taste was stronger and clearer in the second batch. So if you have the time to wait, you should wait, but if you do not, you will end up with edible bread.
Skip kneading and adopt the stretch-and-fold method.
Kneading dough helps to develop the gluten proteins in the bread, giving it its famous chewable texture. However, this is not always necessary, says Golper. For basic bread recipes, he explains that the hydrogenation of your ingredients will be enough to activate gluten development.
You do not have to knead, but there's another (simpler) technique that Golper says you should always do. The so-called stretch and fold sounds like it sounds: they repeatedly stretch the dough during the ascent process, which helps it expel carbon dioxide, strengthen the gluten proteins, and ultimately bring about a better ascent. To do this, pull your dough from one side and fold it as shown in the photos. Go all the way around so that the entire dough ball is evenly stretched.
Stretch and fold your dough about three times or once an hour during the first ascent. Then use the method one last time to bring it to the desired shape before putting it in the oven.
The dough becomes sticky when you work with it, so keep flour handy.
If you do not hold your hands and flour the flour top well, the dough will stick to both. Keep flour close at hand so you can grab it easily. And if you notice that your dough is becoming too sticky again, add one or two spatters.
Preheat your oven and the pan you are using.
Golper always recommends preheating which pan you use before adding the dough and putting it in the oven. If it is not preheated, the temperature of the entire oven is lowered by the cold temperature of the pan, which can negatively affect the way your bread is baked.
Regarding the heat you should use, Golper says that 425 degrees F are suitable for most bread recipes. One-pound loaves only take about 25 to 30 minutes, and 2-pound loaves take between 35 and 40 minutes. He says that you know it's done, "when the loaf sounds hollow, when it knocks on the finger or the knuckles."
Before putting the loaf in the oven, wipe the dough with flour and cut it into a decorative piece on the top flare.
Let cool and enjoy as you like!
Remove the bread from the oven when it is crispy and brown, and let it rest until it has cooled. Eat it while it is still warm, because there is nothing better than hot, freshly baked bread.