If you’ve mastered making other people’s recipes, some curious and soon to be professionals want to write their own recipe. So how easy is it, and what are the steps to write your own bread recipe? I spent years following other people’s recipes, making slight tweaks to make them work better with the ingredients I had at hand. When it came to opening my bakery I needed my own signature range of bread. I wanted to be able to say that my bread was unique. Whilst I went down this route, I subconsciously developed a strategy for making my own recipes. Here’s how I created my own bread recipes and you can make your own, or personalise existing bread recipes.
How to create a new bread recipe?
A new recipe starts from a ratio of ingredients displayed in the baker’s percentage format. The ingredients are swapped and amounts are adapted per the recipe maker’s requirements. Test bakes are then conducted and tweaked until the desired taste and texture are reached. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes it never quite hits perfection. But that’s the fun of it!
The basics of bread recipe creation
It starts by determining the flavours and the style of bread you want to make. If you are aiming to make a traditional bread you should decide how authentic you want it and select the tools, methods and ingredients based on your discussion. Once your intentions are finalised, create a basic recipe using a spreadsheet. For this, we use baker’s percentages and here’s how I go about it.
How to start creating your own recipe
Starting with the origins
I first start thinking about the authenticity of the recipe. If it’s going to be my version of a classic bread, I think first about how it was traditionally created? What tools would they use? What ingredients were in that region at the time? If I’m planning something new and exciting I’ll skip this. Instead, I’ll think about what recipe this is closest to.
The purpose of the recipe
The next step is to think “what do I want to get out of the bread?” Typical thoughts are the inclusion of key ingredients such as seeds, nuts or fruit. But I’ll also consider how I want the texture, and whether I want it light and refreshing or deep and meaningful. I’ll use this information to decide on the ingredients and methods I will use. Here are the golden rules that I use in my thought process:
Open crumb = Wet + high dough maturity
Light flavour = Low dough maturity
Rustic Italian = Medium dough maturity + olive oil + possibly sweeteners
Rustic French = High dough maturity
Soft crumb = Use eggs + fats + sweeteners
Sweet, less bready flavour = High in sweeteners
Golden/dark crust = Sweeteners + fat + high dough maturity
You should also consider what shape you would like your bread. This is where I’ll consider its purpose. If it’s for sandwiches and toast I’ll go for a tin. For a sandwich bread that’s going to get eaten in a few hours, I’ll opt for a smaller sized loaf or roll, such as baguette or ciabatta style. For novelty bread, I’ll go for something more elaborate proofing shape. For rustic style multi-use bread, I may opt for a free-standing rise.
Making the recipe fit the schedule
Making bread is often a slow process. But you should also design your recipe to fit around your existing routine. It requires a bit of forward-thinking at this point. You have more implications if you have a busy baking routine and need to fit this loaf in around it. There’s nothing worse than seeing your bread overproof because the ovens are full!
Things to consider which change timing
The use of an autolyse will reduce the mixing time. Using a preferment levain adds maturate flour to the dough to reduce the bulk fermentation duration. In the case of quick bread, consider incorporating dough improving agents. These will compensate for a lack of organic development.
Placing the dough in the fridge overnight to bulk or final rise is also a great way to manage your workload. It will depend on the amount of dough you are going to make plus the space available in the refrigerator if this solution works best for you.
Starting with a base recipe
To get started on the actual recipe, I’ll use a base recipe or baker’s percentage template. I may opt to start with a similar recipe I already use, or I’ll copy the ingredient ratios from another author. Most likely though, there are four templates I tend to use:
For straight doughs
Flour 100%,water 65% salt 2%, sugar 2%
Biga: Flour 35%, water 30%, yeast 0.1%
Dough: Flour 65%, water 40%*, yeast 1%, salt 2%
Starter 30%, flour 100%, water 65%, salt 2.7%
*The starter is half water, half flour which is taken into consideration when calculating the percentage of salt and water.
The hydration of the dough is going to be a critical factor. As flours vary in their ability to absorb water, there is always a bit of testing involved. You can use the dough hydration article to help you.
Selecting the ingredients
Once you’ve decided on a baker’s percentage to base your recipe on, you’ll need to consider which ingredients you will use. I often revert to the country where the bread originated when selecting the flour. It’s a great way to make it more authentic. When it comes to the other ingredients, there are a few other factors to consider, cost and accessibility to diets.
Keeping costs down
If you’re selling your bread you might want to see if you can lower the cost of production to improve your profits. Trading ingredients for cheaper alternatives, increasing the water content and accelerating production time lowers the production cost.
Allergy and diet controls
Making your bread suitable for vegetarians and vegans expands your appeal. This is likely to be even more important in the next few years. Replacing some ingredients with animal-free dough versions will make your bread suitable for vegetarians. Using dairy-free ingredients makes it suitable for vegans and dairy allergy sufferers.
Achieving the perfect mixing time and first rise
The amount of mixing is dependent on the required amount of dough maturity that’s required. For example, when intending to have a short bulk fermentation period, a longer, more intense mix is used. But if I’m making sourdough bread or a type of bread that’s going to have a long overnight rise, perhaps in the fridge, I’ll reduce the mixing time.
What I don’t want is the dough to be overdeveloped by the time it comes to shaping. Whilst of course, I want to avoid it being underdeveloped.
Basic mixing time
Unless I know the timings I need, I’ll start with kneading for 5 minutes at a slow speed, followed by 5 minutes fast. This won’t reach the windowpane stage, but then again it won’t be underdeveloped. I’ll be looking for 50-75% gluten development which will then mature during bulk fermentation.
Bulk fermentation time
When deciding on the length of bulk fermentation you should also consider the length of time it will rise the second time as well. The following has an impact:
The levain used
The amount of levain used
The temperature of the dough and the room
The amount of mixing the dough
It’s not an exact science, so it’s important that you know how to read dough before you start attempting to write your own bread recipe! See my guide on bulk fermentation to understand how to do this.
Here’s a table that you may find helpful. It shows how mixing, bulk fermentation and final proofing impact the timings of the dough.
Straight dough with autolyse
Dough with preferment
Long kneaded – short bulk
Low yeast artisan method
No knead cold bulk fermentation
* 8 hours fridge fermentation with 2 hours at ambient temperature.
The proof level
Perfecting the final proof on a new recipe often takes a few attempts! A ¾ proof (or less) encourages more rips in the dough which can look attractive and often a higher oven spring. Though under proofing is more likely to lead to an uneven crumb or tunnelling. As you approach a fuller proof, the dough has more risk of over-proofing. Yet, if perfected, a more even crumb is likely to be achieved.
Scoring and baking the bake
I tend to switch and change my scoring design at home. You can experiment with a few bread scoring patterns and decide which one you like. Alternatively, if you have a design in mind, you can focus on perfecting the angle and depth of your cuts.
In most instances, you’ll be cutting right before you bake. But occasionally you might want to score the dough straight after shaping. Scoring at this point can entitle the bread to more open cuts but a less prolific oven spring. This might be necessary if the bread has a lot of fat or sweeteners in it as the dough can become very sticky and impossible to score after proofing.
Putting it together
Now you’ve got your plan for your bread recipe. It’s time to give it a go in a trial run!
Here you’ll give your recipe its first attempt and make adjustments on the fly. Need more water, add it. Need to shorten the first rise, do it. Wish you’d added more yeast, make a note of it! Whatever changes you make, or wish you’d made, remember to write down what you do and adjust the recipe for next time.
Inspecting the bread
After the bread has been baked and cooled, cut through it and inspect the properties of the crust and crumb. You should also taste it!
What you are looking for is if the texture is correct, if not, the most likely solution is changing the method. If it’s the flavour you are not happy with, look to tweak the baker’s percentage of the ingredients. You can also change or add ingredients to the recipe. This will have an impact on both texture and flavour.
Now it’s a case of bake, review, and bake again until you get it right. What I would suggest is that you only try to change one or two aspects each time. Making several adaptations can be too hard to see the impact and if it doesn’t turn out better it gets tempting to give up.
Keep trying until you master it! You might have success using a different flour, or combination of flours. Try not to get stressed if you can’t get it exactly as you wanted as it’s likely that others will think it’s amazing! Share it with others and see what they think. What type of bread are you palling to make? Let me know in the comments also, if you have any questions.
If you’ve enjoyed this article and wish to treat me to a coffee, you can by following the link below – Thanks x
Thank you so much for your swift response. Like I mentioned in my previous comments, I am an aspiring baker and reading your articles has helped me greatly. I get better with the skill every time I try and guess what? I am writing my recipe already! Yay! I would definitely mention you in my success story when I eventually open my bakery.
Once again, thank you so much Gareth, for your articles. I look forward to reading more from you.
If I may ask, can I share pictures of my baking with you?
That’s fantastic Mariam! Writing your own recipes is so rewarding! Sure I’d love to learn more about your journey, you can share some pictures on Instagram (just click on my name on the left), or email me email@example.com