Baking your own bread - a beginner's guide

There is nothing quite like the aroma of freshly baked bread emanating from the kitchen but, with sliced white often the easiest option, it is a pleasure we Brits rarely experience in our own homes these days.

baking bread beginner's guide

Top related searches:
  1. Breadmakers
  2. Bread rolls
  3. Bread equipment
  4. Bread recipes
  5. Bread flour
  6. Sourdough bread
  7. Breadmaker
  8. Bread white
  9. Bread recipe
  10. Bread kneading

Baking your own bread might seem like a daunting task but with given a little time, it's actually a simple and satisfying process. If you're new to the world of breadmaking, here's how to get started.

Equipment and ingredients
Just as the process itself is simple, so too are the things you need for your first loaf.

Baking is a scientific process and therefore does require precision, so a set of weighing scales, measuring spoons and a measuring jug are essential. Other than that, a mixing bowl is needed and a loaf tin, although a simple round loaf requires only a baking tray.

For a basic white loaf, you will need 500g of strong white bread flour, 1.5 level teaspoons of salt, 2 level teaspoons of dried yeast, 1 level teaspoon of caster sugar and 325ml of room temperature water.

The process

To make a start on your loaf, the dry ingredients first need to be sifted into the mixing bowl. If you can get easy blend, fast action dried yeast it can be added straight into the dry mix, but simple dried yeast will need to be blended with tepid water before it is added.

With your dry ingredients mixed, make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix all the ingredients, either by hand or with a spoon, until a dough begins to form.

Then comes the fun part. Lightly flour a work surface and start kneading your dough. Kneading is essential in order to stretch the gluten in the flour and distribute the yeast for an even rise.

Press the heel of your hand into the dough and push away from your body before folding the dough back on itself. Turn and repeat the process for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. A quick tip to see whether you're ready to prove the bread is to press a finger into the dough - if it springs back instantly, the mixture is ready for the next step.

Return the springy dough to a bowl, cover with a clean, damp tea towel or cling film to prevent drying, and leave somewhere warm. After about an hour, the dough should have doubled in size - use the finger trick again, but this time the indentation should remain as this signals that the dough has risen properly.

All that is needed then is to 'knock back' the dough, removing the air. Knead as before but for just a couple of minutes.

A pre-heated oven is a must for the bread to rise properly and, though different recipes may vary, gas mark 6 or 200C is generally a good temperature.

When your loaf has risen and the top is a golden colour, check the bread by tapping the bottom of the loaf. A hollow sound means your bread can be removed from the oven and allowed to cool before enjoying with lashings of real butter.

Remember, if you're short of time, a packet bread mix will only need water added, while a breadmaking machine, though expensive, will do all the hard work for you.

Once you've mastered the basic white loaf, you will no doubt be keen to try other recipes. From soda bread to sourdough, brioche to baguettes, there are a huge variety of bread types to try - and once you've had the home-baked bread, you may find that packet sliced white just doesn't quite hit the spot.

Are you bread-baking mad? What's your top tip for the perfect loaf? Leave your comments below...