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.
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!
Plan the steps of your bread makingWrite it down if neededDon’t forget to plan your activities alongside the resting/proving periods
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.
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 🙂
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).
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.
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
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’.
To know your bread has proved enough, you need to do the ‘mark test’.
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…
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.
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
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.