Breads Bread, Overnight, Sourdough, Sourdough baguette, TIPS

Master Breadmaking At Home With Pro Tips

CLICK HERE if you are interested by

Breadmaking videos by a French Professor in a High School for Future Bakers

subtitled by me.

 

Here is my recipe for an homemade Sourdough Baguette: click HERE.

overnight baguette

FOREWORD

In this article, I try and make a place where you can find the more pro tips possible to master breadmaking at your own home.

I bake bread at home everyday and last year I passed the breadmaking exam in France. I practiced from January 2019 to June 2019 at my own home, with nobody to teach me expect some videos I found at the time

The links to these videos -there are way more now- are at the end of this article if you are interested (I bet you are), I subtitled a bunch of them, they really are great to learn and to perfect one’s techniques.

I speak out of day to day experience, and tips that proved to work every time for me. Don’t be disappointed if everything doesn’t work the first time: we live in different places; have different ovens, different levels, but you can be sure you’ll improve yours 🙂

I hope you’ll find what you are looking for in this article!

 

Tip #1 Schedule your time
Before you start making bread, it’s really important that you organize the entire period you are going to ‘make’ bread. Even if you do it in your head, like me.
Bread takes time, some steps, so if you need a piece of paper to write all the steps with the (approximate) hours corresponding to the steps. In the piece of paper, I advise you to also note your activity during the proving/resting periods. That way you can really plan your day or few hours ahead and be confident you won’t be overwhelmed by the making.
Summary
Plan the steps of your bread making
Write it down if needed
Don’t forget to plan your activities alongside the resting/proving periods
Tip #2 Choose your leavening agent

Whichever recipe you choose, it may call for various leavening agents. More often, you’ll recipes calling for dry yeast or sourdough starter. These are quite the opposite ones, and the fresh yeast is somewhere in the middle. I personally advise always using fresh yeast if you don’t have your own sourdough starter, but of course you can use dry if you prefer and if it’s the only thing you have or available.

Dry Yeast

Instant yeast or Active dry yeast. The first one just need to be added alongside the dry ingredients in the recipe (make sure you don’t add the salt next to it or it would kill the yeast) and the second one needs to be activated

To activate the yeast, you need to put the amount you desire in some lukewarm liquid: some liquid you need for your recipe. Don’t add more liquid than the recipe calls for.

Remember that the dry yeast is 2x more concentrated than fresh yeast. Meaning if a recipe calls for 6 grams, you only need 3 grams of dry yeast. Check on the package for specifics conversions.

Fresh (or Cake) Yeast

I think it’s way better than dry yeast. Of course it’s just my personal opinion, but, if I don’t have an active sourdough starter, I’ll always choose fresh yeast. The flavor is more natural and it’s so easier to work with.

You can find fresh yeast in the cold sections of your supermarket. Fresh yeast is alive, so you also need to store it in the fridge, unlike dry yeast that you can store in your cupboard and that can last very long given the package is not opened.

Why cake yeast? Because this cube (42 gr generally) looks like a kind of cake 🙂

Sourdough starter

There are TONS of article about sourdough starter in the web. This one isn’t about sourdough starter, but pro tips. So, if you don’t know what sourdough starter is, you can look for articles in King Arthur’s flours website and come back here after. You should know that sourdough starter is a mix of flour and water and that you need to feed him every day.

BUT, here is my pro tip:

 

 

 

YOU DO NOT NEED A SOURDOUGH STARTER THAT HAS BEEN FED EVERY DAY!

Aha, that’s right! Well, of course your starter should more or less active. Meaning, sometimes I only feed mine out of 3 days (like now when we’re in quarantine and don’t have enough rye flour to feed it!) and use it approximately 24 hours after I fed him (yes him, he’s alive after all 🙂 )

Of course, you should see signs of activity like bubbles and a growing of your starter in your jar. If not, don’t use it as your only leavening agent and add 2 or 3 grams of fresh yeast.

You must know you can also use Poolish as a leavening agent, but I don’t have enough knowledge to give you pro tips about that.

 

Tip #3 Kneading 

  • Put the liquids first in your bowl for easy kneading 
  • Don’t pour all of your liquids at the beginning,
    hold back some just in case your dough is too dry.
  • Add your dry ingredients, DO NOT add salt next to the yeast or it will kill it.
  • Don’t add more flour during kneading; if you do you’ll see it at the end (your bread will look dull)
  • If you don’t let your dough prove overnight, make sure it reaches out 24°C (more likely 25°C if the dough has spelt or whole wheat or rye).
Tip #4 First Proof

On Day 1

If you choose to prove your dough on Day 1, hence right after you knead it, you should know a few things.

You need to make sure your bowl of dough is tightly covered with cling film or a clean towel that is large enough to cover any ‘hole’. The dough needs to be protected for any draught, otherwise, it could form kind of a ‘skin’ and it’s not good.

You also need to let it prove in a warm spot. It could be in your turn-off oven just to prevent any draught, or like my Grandma used to do…under a blanket 🙂

The dough should have enough time to prove, especially if it’s really cold in your home (like at my home) and it’s only 16°C sometimes. If so, make sure your dough is at 24°C at the end of kneading, and that you prove your dough about 90 minutes or more, if needed. More rising time means more flavor, you should know that.

Overnight

I much prefer the overnight option. You knead your dough, you don’t have to have the perfect windowpane test (except if you want a higher chance of having holes in the crumb, if you’re into that, I’m not), you don’t have to have the perfect temperature.
TIME WILL DO THAT FOR YOU!
Yes, time means flavor, means gluten network development, and time means activity in your dough.
I advise to stick the dough at least 12 hours, but not more than 16 hours. All you have to do is to put your dough in a really tightly covered bowl and to let it do its job overnight. That’s it.
Then you should pre-shape it and let it rest so it’s back at room temperature. That’s the next step.
Tip #5 Resting Time
What is resting time?
Resting time or simply the ‘rest’ is when you let the dough rest between the first and final proof. It’s also after the pre-shaping and the shaping. The resting time allows your dough to ‘relax’ and is easier to handle later when you shape your dough.
Make sure your dough is well covered with a clean towel (not a cling film (but I wouldn’t do that as the dough can stick to that) during the resting period.
How long should last that rest?
The rest should last between 5 and 20 minutes depending on your dough and how you feel it.
Tip #6 Shaping
As I said earlier, you need to pre-shape your dough before the resting period and before the shaping. Pre-shaping helps give more strength to a wet dough, and eases a stiff dough into the shape you want without tearing.
Here’s how to pre-shape and shape for the following three shapes.

Easy: the Boule

To pre-shape the boule, you need to have a rather ’round’ dough in your working surface.

Then, you should grab a bit of the dough and fold it in the middle.

Keep going with every bit of dough until it becomes hard to grab some dough and to fold it.

When it’s done, you should fold it over, smooth side up.

Now, try to work it with the ends of your fingers, by rolling it back and forth on your working surface.

Your working surface shouldn’t be too floured though: if it is, the dough can’t stick a bit and it will be difficult to shape a boule.

Let it rest, well, covered.

If you want a visual, CLICK HERE for a subtitled video.

 

To shape the boule, *turn the fold side down and then round the loaf by applying pressure between the bottom of the loaf and the board with your hands cupped, moving around the loaf to tighten and round it.* King Arthur’s flour advice, I couldn’t say it better.

 

Intermediate: the Bâtard

To pre-shape a bâtard, remove the dough out of the bowl, and degas it slightly while you shape kind of a round/square.
Fold the top of the dough and press it with your fingers, to ‘seal’ it.
You should have a kind of roll-out piece of dough at the bottom. That’s normal.
Turn the dough around and fold and seal the top dough (that was the kind of roll-out piece of dough before) like you did the other way around.
You need to fold once more that way: If you are right-handed, you need to create a ‘wave’ with your left hand and seal the dough with your right hand.
Make sure you don’t lengthen the dough too much.
Roll the dough back and forth but don’t lengthen it too much.
If you want to shorten the dough, like for the bâtard, you need to bring your hands closer together.
If you want a visual, CLICK HERE for a subtitled video.
Difficult: the Baguette
To pre-shape a baguette, you need to first degas your dough (out of the bowl). Next, you have to shape a rectangle with your hands. Roll the wide side until the end of the rectangle. Cover with a clean towel.

1) Turn the dough over seam side up, degas slightly.

2) Next, take the bottom edge and tuck it in about two thirds of the way up.

3) Fold over the top edge and press it down to create a seam.

4) Using the heel of your hand, seal the dough the length of the piece.

5) Start rolling with one hand in the center and work you way outward with both hands.

6) Create a baguette shape (pointy ends) and turn the seam ‘down’.

If you want a visual, CLICK HERE for a subtitled video.
Tip #7 Final Proof
Don’t uncover your bread during the final proof, if there is some draught a skin could form on top of it.
Let your bread enough but not too much. Yeah, that’s kind of not helpful, is it?
To know your bread has proved enough, you need to do the ‘mark test’.
How do I do this mark test?
Well, you need to press lightly your fingers in the dough. If the finger mark stays it means the dough has proven enough, maybe too much. If it disappears right away, it means the dough hasn’t proven enough.
The right mark is when it disappears but slowly, after a few seconds.

 

Tip #8 Before Baking

 

Oven

Preheat your oven 1 hour before baking to the maximum temperature (but no higher than 250°C). Getting an oven thermometer would be very helpful to ensure it reaches the right temperature.

Place the tray or pizza on which you’ll place the bread for baking in the oven when you start preheating the oven: it needs to be smoking hot! Don’t forget to handle with thick gloves please…

Steam

Also place some deep tray (oven safe of course) in the bottom of your oven. That way, 2 minutes before baking your bread, you’ll be able to boil some water and pour it in this tray to create steam right before you bake your bread. The steam helps your bread to rise, to open correctly and thus have beautiful open cuts. It also helps creating a beautiful color.

 

 

 

Scoring or Cutting or Slashing

Scoring your bread can be difficult at first. Especially if you don’t have a ‘lame’. A lame is like a razor blade but for the bread. But a razor blade will really look beautifully as well.

What’s important is how you do it. 

The following picture shows the result of two different scoring methods. Both are really beautiful, but the one to the left wasn’t slashed properly.

Why ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You need to hold your lame/razor blade almost parallel to the bread, not perpendicularly like most would do at the beginning.

The cuts need to overlap one another.

Also, slash quickly even if you’re not sure. If you go too slowly, the cuts won’t open properly during baking. Repeat the gesture in the air a few times before doing it if you’re not sure.

See the following picture for visuals: DO and DON’T

 

Tip #9 Perfect Baking
Don’t open the oven door before the 20 minutes mark! 
Don’t despair if you don’t see your beautiful scoring opening after 5 minutes…sometimes mine don’t, and when I come back (sometimes just 30 seconds later!) they do. If the scoring and conditions are near perfect, it will happen.
How to have a crustier crust
It’s a good idea to open the door after 20 minutes for a baguette (35 for a big bread or boule) to let the bread ‘dry out’ without burning it. It will then keep longer because it is baked through.
How to do to keep your bread longer 
Let the bread cool down on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes; water needs to come out of the bread so it can keep a longer shelf life and the bread will have a crustier crust.
You want an honeycombed bread? Here’s how.
If you want to have holes in your bread like on the following picture, you need to knead it util it reaches 24°C and until the gluten network is well formed. To make sure of that, you have to make a windowpane test: tear some dough and try to stretch it. The dough shouldn’t tear immediately and should look like a windowpane.
WANT SOME MORE BREAD RECIPES?
burger buns
Sourdough brioche
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