Five tips on how to make the perfect loaf of bread

It’s Bread Week in the Bake Off tent tonight, so it’s time to dive into the world of yeast and sourdough starters. 

Perhaps you attempted bread in lockdown without success? Or maybe you’re looking to give it a go for the first time?

Now is the perfect opportunity to get stuck in.

There are so many different varieties to choose from, too, from classic sourdough to soda bread and gluten-free options. So you’ll have plenty of avenues to explore.

But, as with any baked good, there are a few things to remember.

Luckily, baker Richard Bertinet has shared five tips to keep in mind for making the perfect loaf of bread at home.

1.  Start with the basics: a plain white bread dough 

It’s always better to start simple and hone your skills, before you try anything more challenging.  

Richard says: ‘Leave the sourdoughs for later, get the basics right and the more complicated bakes will seem less daunting.

‘It’s also great to start here as this is a good basis to build skills like kneading, intuitively getting to know when a dough is ready, and practising.’

2.  Use your head before your hands 

Take a second to speak out loud what you are going to do – this is a good mediative step to take before getting stuck in.

Richard adds: ‘Think things through before you put your hands in the dough.  

‘You are far less likely to make mistakes this way. Sometimes the steps can get muddled when you try and read them, and then act.’

3.  Don’t be scared of sticky dough

‘If you want a light dough you need to embrace the stickiness,’ says Richard. 

Essentially don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – that’s what baking is all about, after all.

He adds: ‘Do not alter the recipe by adding flour to your work surface. It can be tempting, but baking bread is a bit of a science, so precision and trusting the process is key.’

4.  Trust your instincts

It’s also vital to soak up your surroundings and listen to your gut if it’s telling you something.

‘If you are cold, you put a jumper on, if you are warm you remove a layer.  Your dough is similar. If the weather is cold use warmer water. If it’s really hot, use cooler water,’ adds Richard.

‘Taking your surroundings into consideration is really important. Bread is a living thing, so it is influenced by the environment. Too much heat – your dough dies with the yeast, for example.’

5.  Practise, practise, practise

You probably aren’t going to create a Bake Off-worthy loaf on the first attempt (and if you do, hats off to you) – so be prepared to get it wrong a few times.

Richard says: ‘There are no failures, just steps on your learning journey. Even a bad loaf is a step towards a great one.’

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