How to write your own bread recipe

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 to hand. When it came to opening my bakery I needed my own signature breads. 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 went down the route of making them.

This article also explains how to improve existing bread recipes to make it them a more unique.

How to create a new bread recipe?

A new recipe starts from a commonly used ratio of ingredients in the bakers percentage format. The ingredients are swapped and amounts are adapted per the recipe makers requirements. Test bakes are then conducted, tweaked, until the desired taste and texture is reached. Sometimes this happens quickly, sometimes it never quite hit’s 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 to be so you can select the tools, methods and ingredients.

Once you have finalised your intentions, you create a basic recipe in a spreadsheet. For this we use baker’s percentages.

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 were 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’s 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 = 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 used up in hours, I’ll opt for a baguette or ciabatta style bread.

For novelty bread, I’ll go for something more elaborate. 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.

This of course has 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 over proof simply because the ovens are full!

Things to consider which change the timing

The use of an autolyse will reduce the mixing time. Using a preferment levain adds maturated flour to the dough. This reduces the bulk fermentation time. 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 is 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 (rarely) I’ll copy the ingredient ratios from another author. But, commonly, there are four templates I tend to fall back on.

For straight doughs

Flour 100%,water 60% salt 2%, sugar 2%

Prefermented dough

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.

Enriched doughs

Flour 100%, whole milk 40%, butter 15%, yeast 2.2%, sugar 15%, egg 25%, salt 2%

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.

Making a homemade bun glaze

Selecting the ingredients

Once you’ve decided a baker’s percentage to base your recipe from, you’ll need to consider which ingredients you use. I often revert to the country that the bread originated from 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 the production time lowers costs.

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 ingredients for animal-free dough improvers will make your bread suitable for vegetarians. Using dairy free ingredients will make it available for vegans.

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 a sourdough bread or a type of bread that’s going to have an overnight rise 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. And 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 under developed.

Bulk fermentation time

When deciding on the bulk fermentation we should also consider the length of time it will rise the second time as well. The following will impact this:

  • 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!

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 doughStraight dough with autolyseDough with preferment
Long kneaded – short bulkLow yeast artisan methodNo knead cold bulk fermentation
Slow kneading534843
Fast kneading545830
Bulk fermentation90509040180600*
Bench rest202020153030
* 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 more 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 really open cuts. But it might also be necessary if the bread has a lot of fat or sweeteners in it. In this case the dough will get very sticky. So much so, that it will be impossible to cut 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 it’s first go, making 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 adjust the recipe for next time.

Inspecting the bread

After it’s cooled, cut through the bread. Here you can 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 likely have an impact on both texture and flavour.

If you need any help here, you can see my how to improve your bread page for some common bread fixes.

Perfecting a new recipe

Now it’s a case of bake, review, and bake again until you get it right.

This stage can take a few attempts. My pain campaillou recipe took a couple of years to perfect. Whereas, I mastered the three seeded bread (with polish) on the first attempt and have never changed it!

Keep trying until you master it! But try not to get stressed about it if you can’t get it exactly as you wanted. It’s likely that others will think it’s amazing.

Then share your bread with the world!

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