Busby's Bakery School

Learn To Make Bread At Home



The bread baking basics page where new home bakers use to learn to make bread.

Treat this page as a hubspot and work through the articles and activities. As you progress, you will learn all of the basics in how to make bread.

Bread baking is one of the most rewarding things you can do at home. It's cheap to make, rewarding and has a never ending list of styles and techniques that can take you in other directions. It's the perfect hobby but for some people it quickly becomes more than a weekend activity.

Many home bakers quickly progress from baking bread as gifts for friends and neighbours to selling bread to restaurants, online or at local markets.

The possibilities are endless in bread baking, but before we get carried away I've put together a list of activities and simple recipes to help you get started. 

Who is Busby?

I'm a bread baker with 10+ years of experience in baking bread, at home and commercially. I love baking bread and despite trying to focus on other careers, it always gets me back!

In my career I've trained a lot of bakers with hands on training plus thousands more online on this website and youtube. I'm here to help and I really take pride in your results, bread baking is the biggest thing in my life I hope you enjoy it too.

Who is Busby?

I'm a bread baker with 10+ years of experience in baking bread, at home and commercially. I love baking bread and despite trying to focus on other careers, it always gets me back!

In my career I've trained a lot of bakers with hands on training plus thousands more online on this website and youtube. I'm here to help and I really take pride in your results, bread baking is the biggest thing in my life I hope you enjoy it too.

How to use bread basics

The overall answer is, it's up to you. For those that are brand new to bread making (congratulations btw) it is probably best to start from the beginning and work through the exercises.

If you have already got some experience in bread baking you may find it best to skim over some of the lessons and articles, focussing on the skills that you are struggling with.

Every one picks up bread baking at a different pace so don't worry if you struggle in some areas. No, I really do mean this, many of the best bakers take a long time to get to grips with it, myself included. Sometimes it's easy to over think or add an extra step that isn't really needed. It's all part of the bread baking experience and the lessons where it goes wrong will make you a better baker in the future.

This is a step by step guide in learning how to make a few basic breads. Though if you do get stuck with a certain topic take a look at the further reading articles at the bottom of the page or try the troubleshooting section found on the main menu.

I learnt SO MUCH from watching Gareth, my bread baking transformed from an amateur brick looking thing to professional bread that I can't stop showing off to my friends on Instagram. Thanks!

Learn To Make Bread At Home FREE Course 1

Mike Doe

Home baker

The stages of bread making

First off let's look at what happens at each stage of the process. You'll probably find it useful to understand what happens and dispel any myths about bread baking that you might have learnt from others.

There are 15 stages of bread segmented into 4 core areas: 

We start with creating a dough, which moves to dough fermentation, before the bread is baked and finally cooled.


This article explains all of the 15 stages of bread making:

June 29, 2018

The​ 15 stages of bread making by a professional baker

Read to discover all the stages of bread making and learn how different bread recipes work by changing the stages to create different textures, flavour and colours in bread. This is the best place to start for a new bread maker and for someone who wants to recap on the basics of baking bread.

Bulk fermentation

One of the interesting points in the 15 stages is the bulk fermentation stage. Bulk fermentation is likely a stage you have not of heard of before. It's often called a first proof and is important to creating structure and maturing the dough.

Changing the time and temperature of the bulk fermentation creates differences in flavour and structure which can be used to create different types of bread, using the same ingredients.

There's more on fermentation later, actually understanding fermentation is a topic that bread bakers are continually understanding. There's lots of articles that explain the science of fermentation throughout this course and in the knowledge area.

The next thing we are going to share is together is the basic equipment you need to make bread

The equipment required for baking bread

When you start baking bread it's easy to get lost with all the equipment you think you need, though to bake bread you only really need these basic tools:

Clicking on the item takes you to amazon where you can purchase the item I recommend. I'll earn a small commision if you purchase which helps me continue to keep this website going.

Though the bread tin isn't essential, it's the best way to start baking bread, it is much more forgiving when the dough handling isn't perfect. You don't need an wood fired oven like the one shown though if you are serious about baking bread you may like to get one at some point!

A convection oven that preferably has bottom heat only setting works fine.

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Baking Shopping list

There are few other bits that will help you make really fantastic bread. Though they aren't essential, you will want to pick these items up as you continue through your baking journey. They either make bread baking easier or vastly improve the quality of the bread. 

Clicking on the item takes you to amazon where you can purchase the item I recommend. I'll earn a small commission on every purchase which helps me continue to keep this website going.

To get your bread to spring up in the oven you will need to add steam to the oven, one of the best ways if you don't have a steam oven is with a water mister.

Click here to see the water mister I recommend

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A baking stone helps retain and distribute the heat so the bottom of your bread is evenly baked and also assists in the oven spring.

Click here to see the baking stone I recommend

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Most sourdough and many artisan breads are proofed in a banneton or proofing basket. They support the dough as it rises into a round or rectangular shape. They are fairly inexpensive and a good one will last for years.

Click here to see the banneton I recommend

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A plastic dough scraper is a fairly simple device. Really it's just a piece of flexible plastic. But a proper dough scraper has the right amount of flexibility for mixing dough and cleaning bowls.

Click here to see the dough scraper I recommend

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Similar to the plastic dough scraper a divider is an amazing tool, it becomes an extension of your arm when baking large amounts. Use it for dividing dough, lifting dough and cleaning the workbench or mixing bowl.

Click here to see the dough divider I recommend

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Though it is not essential to make bread, a decent dough mixer is going to save you time and make bread baking a little easier. Owners of dough mixers tend to make more bread as it is easier and less time consuming.

Click here to see the dough mixer I recommend

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The ingredients needed to make bread

Before I share the first recipe, I'm just going to mention the ingredients you need to make bread. Strictly speaking there are only four ingredients needed to make bread, flour, water, salt and a levain (typically yeast).

We can add others which give additional flavours or enhance the dough, though for a basic loaf we don't need to. 

Good quality ingredients,

using good technique, 

make great bread

Flour

Learn to bake bread at home

There are two key components to flour used in bread baking, the starch which creates sugars which combine with the levain to raise the bread and the protein which digests into gluten which creates the air pockets needed to retain the gas created from the yeast. Bread flour should have a high amount to protien to be able to create bread that retains the gas, otherwise it can be dense and not enjoyable.

Bread flour usually contains around 11-13% protein, you can check this on the label. Although the amount of protein is easy to discover, the quality of them is not described. Cheap quality flour bought form a supermarket (including some of the branded stuff) contains a lot of broken protein. This is not great for making quality bread so I recommend you try and buy online from a mill.


Water

Learn to make bread at home

There's a lot said about water in forums and facebook groups and it can get confusing on what to believe if you've tried to research before. I have tried bottled water and it makes zero difference in the breads quality to using tap water. 

Think of it like this, do some of the most popular bakeries in the world boil the water for 20 minutes and leave it to cool overnight? Do they ship in hundreds of bottles each week? 

Much as it's a nice idea, romantic maybe to use expensive water but they wouldn't have space to fit them in the bakery. 

So tap water is fine, providing it is safe to drink.


Salt

Learn to bake bread

For true artisan purposes it is best to use sea, rock or kosher salt. Table and fine salt contains anti caking agents which prevent it clumping together. Which is in effect adding another ingredient to the bread, that will change the breads make up. You can use table salt if it's the only type you have at hand, I do occasionally. 

Most of the minerals in the salt disappear when baking so using expensive brands of salt makes little difference in my experiments. Some brands of salt need to be whisked into the water before kneading commences to help it dissolve. Try without before but if you feel the salt after kneading, give it a whisk next time before you start.


Levain

Yeast to make bread

A levain makes bread dough rise, without it you would have a flat bread. The most common levains in bread baking are yeast and sourdough.

Levain can also be spelt as leaven, it's just a cultural difference in spelling.

There are 3 types of yeast used in home baking, dried active, instant and fresh. I prefer to use fresh yeast as it can be put straight into the dough, dried active can be used but needs to be whisked into the water first to dissolve. 

I prefer not to use instant yeast as it contains quite a few other bread improvers and ingredients which change how the dough functions and diminishes its flavour.

Busby's sourdough

Sourdough is made with just adding flour and water and absorbing natural airborne yeasts. It works slower than yeast which can be good for adding flavour to the bread. You can change the recipes technique to increase or decrease the "tang" flavour from the lactic acid.

First Bread Recipe

Here's the first recipe, it's a basic white dough that can be used for many types of bread. In this case we are going to use a bread tin to make a farmhouse style loaf.

Using this recipe, you can make bloomers, sandwich tin/pullman, soft rolls, crusty rolls or even a not so authentic (but still delicious) baguette.

The recipe shows a video lesson and both a written recipe for hand kneading or using a dough mixer.

You should start your bread baking journey with kneading by hand if you are able to do so. 

Feeling the dough gives you an advantage so that you know what it should look and behave like at different stages.

Basic white dough for beginners recipe 

... How did you get on?

How did your first bread come out? Were you pleased with your bread? What do you think you can do better next time?

Take a moment to write down how you found your experience.

Follow to recap the dough kneading techniques used

Click here for an insight into using water to create steam in the oven

Understanding dough fermentation

Now we have a basic understanding in what happens when we make a loaf of bread and given it a go, we can now move on to understand dough fermentation in a bit more detail.

Fermentation covers the majority of the 15 steps of bread making.

It starts when the moment the levain, flour and water come into contact and ends during the oven.

Understanding a little more about dough fermentation helps us to bake different types of bread:

June 29, 2018

Dough fermentation basics

Here you will learn what is actually happening when you bake bread. Dough fermentation is the most fascinating stage of bread baking, it determines the crumb and crust and has a large effect on the flavour of the bread. Learn how bakers use kneading, bulk fermentation and proofing to change the qualities in the dough.

How salt impacts the dough

Next, we are going to do another recipe, a saltless flat bread. 

I like showing this to people early in their baking journey as they are simple to make and they taste amazing.

Making these flatbreads shows how the dough completely changes without the addition of salt. It feels less strong, as if it is "tacky".

Try it and you will see for yourself, plus they are really nice with some thin slithers of parma ham and cheese!


A cheeky Tuscan flat bread made without salt recipe

- Yes, salt is one of the 4 essential ingredients in bread making, it's true.

 

Salt not only adds flavour, it creates structure (or elasticity) in the dough, helping it to retain its shape. Following a recipe the does not use salt highlights the difference its inclusion makes to the dough.


(If you want another look at how to do a stretch and fold, take a look at the further reading section for a link to the short video lesson)


Let's look at the ingredients in bread making in a little more depth and touch base on a few additional ingredients that are often used in bread baking.


Using fats and sweeteners in bread

Fats

Fats lubricate the gluten making it softer. They also increase the rate of caramelisation which gives darker colour to the bread crust. If you have ever looked into making pizza dough you may have seen strong arguments for and against adding olive oil to the dough.

If using a high heat emitting pizza oven that operates above 450C (850F), the pizza dough cooks and caramelised quickly whilst leaving the dough soft and light without a requirement for adding extra fat.

When baking in home ovens which can't reach those temperatures it is a good idea to add some olive oil to help darken the crust before it hardens.

The same can be said for using any fats in other breads. 

Fats to bake bread

Adding fat infuses the dough with it's flavour which can be quite pleasant when used correctly. The common fats in home baking are vegetable (rape) oil, olive oil and butter though some breads that generally heritage from north of Britain use lard.

Commercial bread often uses trans and hydrogenated fats which work with dough improvers to affect change on the dough structure and retain approval from vegetarians and vegans.

Adding more fat than 5% of the flours weight hinders the production of gluten when kneading. For breads that require a high fat content, it is best to add fats near the end of mixing if we can. 


Sweeteners

Types of sugar used in bread making

Ingredients such as sugar, honey and artificial sweeteners are often added to bread. Artisan breads do not usually include sweeteners as bakers can extract sweet flavours from the flour by manipulating the doughs fermentation (more on this later).

Sugars work similarly to fats to lower the caramelisation temperature of the dough which helps reduce the bake time of soft breads. They also offer a sweet flavour to the bread.

Like with fats, if the bread contains an amount of sweetener that is over 5% of the flour weight, it makes gluten development harder. So like with fats we often add it them to the dough near the end of mixing.


Dough improvers

We don't tend to use dough improvers in artisan baking as they are designed to be used for short fermentation periods. The most common ones that can be used are ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and active malt flour.

There are a few others such as soya or bean flour, emulsifiers, vinegar and enzymes. These are used in the production of commercial bread and rearly for home use.

Dough improvers used in baking bread

Ascorbic acid speeds to the oxygenation of the dough which means bakers skip the bulk fermentation stage and go straight from bowl to moulding to final proofing. It is great where speed is important and is also makes handling of the dough much easier.

The downside is that it destroys the flavour profile of the flour and further additives should be added to make the taste appealing. Some flour and dried yeasts come with ascorbic acid already included, unless you are baking short fermented breads it is best to avoid those brands. 

Adding malt flour to bread dough in small quantities creates a nice malty flavour which is desirable in some breads, especially combined with bran and unmilled flour to make a malted style bread. It increases the amount of enzyme activity which is handy for short fermented breads like croissants.

It helps to lower the ph value of the bread and generally improves it. There is no need to add malt flour so I would only experiment with it once you have mastered the basics in bread baking.

​Further reading: How dough improvers change bread dough

Following on from the article we are going to use fat and sugar to soften the bread crumb in the next bread. 

But before this, let's look at what happens in the oven when bread bakes. 

Oven spring occurs where the levain rapidly produces gas in the warmth, pushing the bread up. This is the reason bread bakers often create steam to the oven.

The next article explains oven spring in more detail and how using or not adding steam changes the breads characteristics:

June 29, 2018

How oven spring works

Oven spring makes the bread rise in the oven during the first 10 minutes of baking, adding steam helps to get the maximum amount of oven spring. This article explains why oven spring is important and why sometimes we don't want to add steam in some breads.

Techniques to make deliciously soft bread

The next recipe we are going to tackle is for a basic soft roll. The recipe uses fat and sweetener which help to give it the soft texture that we want in a soft roll.

We are also not going to add any steam to the oven which is going to make the rolls dense. The method followed for soft rolls is to make them fast, this helps them stay soft.

You will learn how to shape dough into balls. It's a bit of a challenge, but don't worry practice makes perfect and it's great fun too!

Extra soft bread roll recipe including how to shape roll shapes

If you are enjoying this guide, please take a moment to follow Busby's Bakery on social media by clicking on the links. If you think other bread bakers can benefit from this site, please share the page with them. It just takes a second and it really helps my motivation to keep writing more articles.

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Sourdough

A sourdough culture is a natural alternative to yeast. A sourdough levain gives the bread the benefit of the flavour and natural dough improving properties of fermented flour.

It creates flavorful bread that can have a distinctive "twang" of lactic acid running through it, though this flavour can be reduced by manipulating the fermentation stage.

Busby's sourdough

Sourdough is one of the oldest forms of cookery that remains today. It's made a massive resurgence over the past couple of decades and is now extremely popular with home bakers.

Sourdough bread is made from a sourdough culture with replaces the need for yeast, although some bakers use a hybrid combination of yeast and sourdough to speed the process up.

Bakers often call a sourdough culture a sourdough starter, or sometimes it can just be referred to as a starter or sometimes just a sourdough. 

A sourdough comes under the preferement label of levains, more on these in the next course.

Making a sourdough culture is really simple, it's just a combination of flour, water and time.

 

Here's an article on how to get started with sourdough and how to make your first sourdough recipe:

June 29, 2018

All you need to know about starting with sourdough

Oven spring makes the bread rise in the oven during the first 10 minutes of baking, adding steam helps to get the maximum amount of oven spring. This article explains why oven spring is important and why sometimes we don't want to add steam in some breads.

After giving the simple sourdough recipe a go, you might want to try a pain de campagne. This bread is a french rye sourdough bread using white and wholemeal flour.

To make a rye sourdough either take a bit of your normal sourdough culture and feed it with rye flour for 5 days.

If you don't want a trace of white flour in your rye sourdough you should make a new starter. Repeat the same process as you made the standard sourdough using rye flour.

You can use a rye sourdough in any type of bread, here is a great use for one:

​Pain de campagne, made using a rye sourdough recipe

Got to the end?

That's it, if you've followed all the steps above then you have finished the learn to bake bread at home course. Well Done!!

If you liked this guide on learning bread baking, please help me out by sharing the link with other bread bakers. It really helps me grow my site.

Well done!!


There is the further reading column below which has links to more information on the bread baking topics we have covered. In the further reading section you should find techniques you can use to resolve issues you may experience.


Keep practicing.


I realise your bread might not have been perfect first time so at this point I really want to encourage you to practice the same breads again and again.

Perhaps try different flour brands to see if you notice the difference and really try and improve your bread baking skills each time you bake.


Once you feel you've gained enough insight form these recipes, it's time to move to the next course in bread making!



Click here to go to the artisan bread baking skills page

Learn To Make Bread At Home FREE Course 30