Introduction: My Ultimate Bread - Learn the Secrets of "slow Baking"

Picture of My Ultimate Bread - Learn the Secrets of "slow Baking"

A complete HOWTO on baking bread that tastes better, than most breads money can buy.

Step 1: Preliminary Thoughts

Picture of Preliminary Thoughts

This is my 3rd instructable about baking bread.
Baking bread means more to me, than just preparing something to eat. As soon as you smell the bread baking in the oven, you know what i mean. Last year, i baked twice a week, give or take.
Most of the time, i prepare a "poolish" preferment Friday morning or around lunch time. At night, before i go to bed i add the remaining ingredients, and let it knead by my bread maker. The next morning, i preheat the oven, then maybe go to bed again until the oven reaches the temperature. This way, even a full time employed guy like me can do it without interfering with my other hobbies, or money gathering activities (like working ;-).

Many people tell me they tried to bake bread, after reading a recipe. Then their bread turns out dense like a stone. It's really not that hard to bake bread with a yeast leavened dough, if you have a basic knowledge.

1. Yeast works in a temperature range from about 5 to 35 deg. C or 41 to 95 deg. F. (At the lower end, the activity is almost stopped and it works very slow but you can raise the temp. to speed it up. At the upper end, it works very fast, but if you overshoot this temp. you could kill your yeast.)
Professional bakers normally try to reach a dough temp. of around 28 C or 83 F after kneading. (The temp. is reached by adjusting the water temp., the temp. of the flour can change from seasonal storage temperatures. Kneading causes friction and heats up the dough some more.)
This may sound awfully complicated, but if you take tepid water, all will be ok. (If you don't have 200lb of flour to knead, your bowl temp. has more impact on the rising time.)

2. Yeast doesn't like fats or salt. But then, i don't like bread without salt. The yeast tolerates some salt, but i wouldn't add it to a preferment. If you make a dough with lots of fat, add it after you mixed the flour, yeast and water or milk. Take more yeast.(As directed on the yeast pack will be enough.) Normally, i only take a quarter or even less than the amount suggested on the yeast package. But i give it more time to work.

After you master the white wheat flour bread, making whole wheat and breads with other grains are easy to adapt. I would suggest you use 25-50% white wheat flour in any of these breads. This makes sure, you get a good rise.
If you use coarsly milled or crushed grains or other dry, hard ingredients, you need to soak them. With the following method, you can soak them in the preferment.

Step 2: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients

For a plain white bread, you don't need fancy ingredients. It's just flour, water, salt and yeast.
The most important ingredient is the flour of course. It's differently named in different countries and this can confuse things a little bit.
A gluten-rich flour is a good thing to start with. Gluten is a wheat-protein and we need it for the gas holding capability of a dough. It's essential for a nice rise.
So if you find a flour with a protein content of around 11%, you should be ok. I normally buy my flour at a local mill, but once i didn't have any of it, i went to the supermarket and bought plain white flour. The result was also very good.
I would stay away from "bread mixes", since they normally have obscure additives you really don't need if you follow these procedures.

I use a digital kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. I will add volumetric measures later, stepped up or down, so you won't need 3.731 cups of flour...

Bakers state their ingredients in bakers percentage in their receipes. This way it's easy to step a receipe up or down.

This makes two batards.(thick short baguettes)

500g white flour 100%
350ml or 350g tepid water 70% (unchlorinated, and not too soft)
15g salt 3%
1g active dry yeast 0.2%

Conversion utility:

4 cups bread flour  (560g)
13 fl.oz. water           (384ml)
3   tsp    salt              (15g)
1/6  of a  1/4 oz yeast packet

Depending on the moisture content and the type of flour, you may need to adjust the amount of water a little bit. You can add some flour, if your dough gets too moist. If you always need to add more flour, reduce the water a little bit.

Step 3: Preferment

Picture of Preferment

A preferment is a part of the final dough. It is made in advance and it adds considerable flavour and texture to the bread. For this bread, i make a so called "Poolish". Well it's a bit too liquid for a traditional "poolish" but for the simplicity of it, i add all the water to the preferment.

Put half of the flour in a big enough bowl, sprinkle the yeast over it and pour in the water. Then stir/mix it until you have everything evenly distributed. It should be of batter-like consistency. Leave it covered at room temperature. Don't use a absolutely tight container, or it might explode from CO2 pressure.

I normally make the preferment 12-24 hours before my intended time of baking.

There are other yeast preferments or starters like the biga, which is a very dry preferment.
Then there is the whole world of sourdoughs.
Sourdoughs are a combination of  lactic and acetic bacteria and a acid tolerant yeast. You need the acidity for the development of the gas holding capability in a 100% rye bread. But sourdoughs also make wonderful wheat breads. There are very good instructables available on this topic, but maybe i'll do one more...

Step 4: Kneading the Dough

Picture of Kneading the Dough

4-6 hours before i intend to bake, i add the other half of the flour and the salt. You can mix it with your hands or take your mixer with the kneading hooks.
After incorporating all the ingredients, the dough needs to be kneaded properly. When you do it by hand, it will take around 10-15 minutes. Using a hand mixer with kneading hooks or a KitchenAid or Kenwood type of machine, it it takes around 5-7 minutes.
When you overdo the kneading, the dough will go from springy to slack pretty quickly and you need to start over with a new dough. It is very unlikely to overknead it manually, with a machine, it can happen easily.
As you can see on the pictures, i use a bread maker to mix, ferment the preferment, add the remaining ingredients, knead and ferment again. This way i only need one container with integrated mixing and kneading hook and it is covered while fermenting. The only task i don't use the bread maker, is for baking.

Step 5: Forming the Bread and Final Rest

Picture of Forming the Bread and Final Rest

4-6 hours after kneading (you can prolong this time in the fridge), the dough looks like on the first picture. It has risen nicely and aromas, flavours and texture had time to develop.

If you wait for much longer, the "yeast-food" gets depleted eventually. But with such minute amounts of yeast used, the schedule is quite forgiving.

Compared with insanely high amounts of yeast in many bread recipes, which double in size in 45 minutes, this is really slow baking.
Although it may sound tempting to save some time, the resulting bread smells of raw flour and yeast and has a texture like cardboard. 
Give slow baking a try, you won't be disappointed. It has been done this way for centuries and good bakers still do it.

Forming the bread:
I like free formed breads, because of the crunchy crust and the plain sight of it. And you don't need to clean a form afterwards ;-)
To form a bread, you can't just push and shove it into the desired form. It would flow to a blob during the final rise.
Here we use our good protein friend gluten again. This protein makes the dough springy.

First i flour the working surface, then i take the dough out of the kneading bowl and flour the dough from the top, so it won't stick.
Use only so much flour, that it doesn't stick, because the flour you add here is not incorporated into the dough.
Next, i flatten it and try to make a sqare area of dough. While flattening, you also drive out large bubbles. This is also called degassing. Without degassing, you get really large holes into your bread.
Then i divide the dough into 2 rectangulars. I put one out of the way and take the other one with a short side towards me.
Then i think of three sections on the long side and fold it from the far side towards me. In the end i have a "roll" with 3 layers and i push down the seam.
Then i flatten that "roll" again, but only so wide, that i can give it one more fold and push down the seam again.
When you do that you will realize how springy the dogh got by folding it. This is the work of the gluten protein. If your dough is very slack, you can give it another fold. If you overdo it, the dough can rip.
Finally i put them on a cookie sheet with the seams down for the final rise. Cover it with cling wrap and let it rise for 60-90 minutes.(or overnight in the fridge) The time of the final rise can be adapted to the environmental temperature and also how dense the crumb should be. During the final rise, you also have to preheat your oven.

Step 6: Scoring and Baking

Picture of Scoring and Baking

Baking the proofed loaves the right way needs a bit more consideration, than only shoving them into the oven.
First, use a baking / pizza stone of a sort. You could use unglazed spanish tiles, but you can get gaps when they're not aligned nicely or when you move them while shoving the loaves onto them. This helps to heat up the loaves quickly from the bottom. This is important for a good oven spring. It also gives more thermal mass into the oven, so the temperature doesn't fall so much, when you open the door or shove the cold dough in. But you need to be aware, that it also takes longer to preheat.

As a next thing, you should have a steam saturated environment during the spring phase of baking. This keeps the surface elastic, since the steam condenses on the cold dough surface and keeps it from drying out too early. There is more than one way to achieve this.

1. Put a heavy skillet on the oven floor, before you preheat the oven. Just before you put the loaves into the oven, add a cup of boiling water into the skillet.
2. Spray the oven walls and the oven floor with a water sprayer, when you put the loaves in. Repeat it after a minute.
3. Buy a oven with integrated steam generator ;-)
4. Use a very small oven, like my small electric one. Sprinkle some water on the cookie sheet and on the loaves. The environment gets moist enough this way.

As you can see on the photos, i scored/slashed the loaves differently for you to see. Slash them with a very sharp blade about half an inch deep.

Sprinkle the the loaves with water, i do it by hand with tap water. But you could also take a water sprayer or a brush.

When the oven has reached the temperature and is steam saturated, i shove in the loaves on the sheet with the cookie tray. Then i let the sheet with the loaves fall on the baking stone by quickly pulling out the tray. Work quickly in order to keep the heat and the steam in the oven.

Start baking rather hot 275C / 530 F(if your oven can't get that high, take the maximum), then after about 3-5 minutes (when you see the first brown spots on the forming crust) reduce the temperature to 180C / 355F for the rest of the bake. It will take a while for the oven temp to fall, but that's ok.
If you have a oven with a convection function, use it. It helps to heat up the loaves quickly for a nice oven spring and in a even browning of the loaves. If you don't have a convection feature, i'd raise the temp to around 190C / 375F in the second baking phase. And maybe you have to turn the loaves for even browning. Every oven behaves a little different, so you probably need to make some temp adjustments to get optimal results.
Breads of this size need about 35 minutes to bake. The baking time needs to be adjusted for thicker and thinner breads. If your bread gets too dark too early, reduce the temperature in the second baking phase and/or turn down the heat earlier.
If you want a very thick crust, vent the steam by quickly opening and closing the oven door when you turn down the heat. You can repeat it after a coule of minutes.(Stand away from the oven, as hot steam can scald you!)

Final thoughts:
Many things about preferments, long fermentation times and baking are almost universal in making good to outstanding breads.
It takes me a maximum of 15 minutes of actual working to make a delicious plain wheat bread.(cleaning of the equipment included.) The time it takes from start to finish varies from 6 hours(with some shortcuts) to 24 hours with retarding, but it's not much work actually.

Happy baking

Step 7: Books, Links and Stuff

Picture of Books, Links and Stuff

Here some very good books about baking bread.(Not ordered after preference...)

Bread by Jeffrey Hamelmann

The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

They have written more books about bread and also a wonderful pizza book.

A very nice site in german

My other bread related instructables

My entry in the pizza contest

Some photos with comments.


bitsandbots (author)2015-05-28

Thank you for sharing - this is a helpful reference!!

t.rohner (author)bitsandbots2015-05-29

I'm glad, it helps.

At the moment, i try to copy a sourdough bread, i had two weeks ago at the "Auenerhof" (gourmet restaurant) above Sarnthein, South Tirol, Italy. A wonderful dark crusty bread, that they smoked during the last 10 minutes in the oven. To die for...

cyndi.bird.7 (author)2015-01-11

I have a really nasty allergy to wheat so I'm attempting to use oat flour to make bread. Any advice?

t.rohner (author)cyndi.bird.72015-01-11

Hi Cyndi

I can't help you with oat flour. Frankly, i have never seen it. Oat flakes yes, but not flour.

I bake mainly with wheat, but also with rye and spelt. Maybe oat behaves similar to rye, then you'd need to sour the dough. This is normally done by a sourdough, but just for a rising test, you could use vinegar or citric acid.

Have you tried your allergy against a wheat sourdough or long fermented yeast bread? I heard, that allergenes are broken down this way, making it less prone for allergic reaktions. This is only hearsay, but it sounds somewhat plausible to me.

Maybe you find out more about baking with oat on the web.

PhilippeG1 (author)2015-01-05

Le paradoxe c'est de trouver quelqu'un qui s'y connaît en électronique et publie une aussi bonne recette de pain sans jamais publier sur son domaine de compétences initiale, comme quoi le plus important n'est peut-être pas la vie sociale et professionnelle mais ce que l'on fait par passion à côté pour décompresser.

t.rohner (author)PhilippeG12015-01-08

Salut Philippe

Je vais ecrire en anglais... because my french is not as good, as it used to be. Especially in writing.

I do the electronics stuff all my working life, so it's mostly just what needs to be done to get a paycheck at the end of the month. If i build something for me, i just do it and don't regard it as noteworthy enough to write a instructable about. I'm still fascinated about all the new stuff that comes out. (components, microcontrollers and single board computers with cool development suites) When i started, there were only bare microprocessors. All the peripherial modules needed to be added seperately. (stuff like counters, timers, DAC, ADC, serial ports, digital I/O, RAM, ROM, clock generator and so on) There were also no compilers, not even assemblers available at a reasonable price for me. My first code was "hand-assembled"... Today, it's open source and mostly free.

When i do other things like baking or brewing, i really like it, when i can do it successfully. I feel more of a achievement ;-) Maybe that's why i feel the urge to publish it. Also because a lot of the baking books aren't worth the paper and my first attempts at baking failed to produce the results i was looking for.

At the moment, i have a idea for a solar heat generator, that could be used for baking and brewing. It's still at it's very beginning... I first thought about it, because a friend of mine wants to distill essential oils in Bali. You need a lot of energy to evaporate that amount of water. My idea uses many (heliostatic controlled) mirrors to concentrate the sun in one spot. The idea isn't new, so my thought circle around how to do it cheaply while still reliably. I will need around 20 sqm of mirrors, so it will be 80 mirrors with 50x50cm. Ideas are wellcome ;-)

leapdog (author)2012-05-17

Hi Just found this website. I too am passionate about my own bread.
Been making my own bread for a couple of years. Very satisfying but, like golf, it can also be very frustrating. (I never play in the rain because you just get your balls wet).
You do exactly the same thing each time, but sometimes get different results. This can just be due to the batch of flour which sometimes absorbs the water less or more.
I've got the brown whole grain breads sorted now. I am lucky because the French baker across the road lets me buy his special flour mix from him, plus a little powdered malt. So 500g flour, 350g water (70%), 12.5g salt, 5g yeast, 10g malt powder.
Like you I make a poolish first using 25% of the flour and water, all the yeast and a pinch of brown sugar (just a little feed). Once the poolish has at least doubled, I make the dough. I prewarm the flour, in a prewarmed bowl, mix in ground sea salt and malt, then adding the rest of the warm bottled water, (don't like tap water, never sure what's in it!) and once that is smooth, I mix in the poolish.
( I am now making a big poolish which I intend to keep and feed all the time. I will pass this on to my grandchildren.
A very good friend in Portugal has a poolish which was originally started by her great great great grandmother a very very long time ago.
She used to keep it in her husband's trousers for some reason.
I don't know if her husband was in the trousers at the same time!)
Needless to say, their Rye bread is amazing, and they pour boiling water, YES BOILING water in to make their dough).
As you say, yeast and salt don't like each other so I keep them apart as long as I can.
If I am feeling energetic I knead it myself for 15 minutes, or in the Kenwood with the dough hook for 25 minutes, stopping and scraping down half way through. Then pop it in an lightly oiled bag in the fridge over night letting the flavours build.
Next day I put it on a lightly floured board and squash it out into a rectangle and then roll one way, then squash out and roll the other way, 4 times. Form it into the shape I want and let it rise again on baking paper (which makes it easier to move without disturbing the shape), until doubled or more.
Oven preheated to 275c, (the temp drops sharply when I open the door and I'm aiming for 240c), I pour cold water onto a tray at the bottom of the oven to generate the steam, slash the risen dough and in she goes.
I get great results with my brown breads, pizzas, arab flat breads, brioches, all that stuff. The Brioche Mousseline is an old Escoffier recipe. Fantastic!
BUT, can I get my baguettes and Boules like the ones they sell across the road? Can I hell! Really frustrating.
I use the same method as above, with just Type 65 white flour, salt, water, yeast, same proportions. It is OK, but it just isn't the same.
Somehow their baguettes are slightly moist and soft inside with that brilliant light golden crunchy crust. Maybe it is cooked hotter and for a shorter time. I am experimenting with the baguettes, 275c for 20 mins to see what happens.
Anyway, it keeps me of the streets and it's all good clean fun!
Thank you and Happy Baking

t.rohner (author)leapdog2012-05-17


Interesting baking methods.
They are somewhat different, but as long as they are successful, no need to change anything.

What you write about the "portugese" poolish makes me think.
I wouldn't call it a poolish anymore. This goes more in the direction of a sourdough. (pate fermentee)
When you bake with large amounts of rye, the dough needs to be soured in order to rise. This is because rye has almost no gluten.
By using boiling water, there will be some gelatinization of the rye starch. While cooling down, there is amylase activity. This will convert some of the gelatinized starch to yeast digestible sugars.
I guess they only add the "poolish" after the dough cooled down to around body temperature.
This way, the yeast and the bacteria in this "poolish" have readily available food for a nice rise.

Regarding your baguette problem, look up "Danielle Forestier, Julia Child" video.
I tried to add the links here, but they don't seem to stay valid for long.
But you find it on Youtube as well.

One thing that is not clear to me in your comment:
Do you use a pizza stone of some sort? If not, try it.
Danielle Forestier also stresses its importance in household ovens.

leapdog (author)t.rohner2012-05-18

Hello, No I don't have a pizza stone but it is on my list, as are zillions of other bits of kit, like building my own smoker, building my own wood fired oven, buying a Kenwood Cooking Chef, the list goes on and on, and on!
I did look at the Forestier Childs method a few weeks ago, but I didn't try it just because it is far removed from what my French baker across the road does, and it is his baguette or Boule I am trying to copy.
Portugal their Rye (Farine de Seigle) bread has the flour and salt warmed and then boiling water mixed in quickly. It's a bit like porridge. It cools down quickly and the starter is then added. They make several kilos at the same time in a deep wooden tray stirring and turning with their arms deep in it. Wonderful.
This goes on for ages, and then finally it is covered with a floured cloth and left for at least 10 hours, (wrapped in the husbands trousers!) Don't ask!.
It becomes a sort of wobbly jelly which is divided into 1 kilo loaves, kneaded and shaped again and left to rise. Then it is baked in the glowing embers of a large communal oven. It is truly a defining moment if, like me, you are just a simple chap trying to produce a half decent tasting piece of bread to put on the table. They have been doing this for centuries.
Yesterday's Pain au Grain was the business! A monster, and lovely and moist inside. Moments like that make me believe, just for a moment, that I actually might be doing something right. (I am lucky my baker sells me his special mix, but he will not tell me what is in it. Maybe I'll have to get it analysed at a lab. Naughty, I know, but a chap has to do what a chap has to do.)
Almost a shame to spread anything on it other than Brittany butter on it really, but my lady brought up a jar of my Sept 2010 Blackberry jam. Couldn't resist!
No wonder that baking and foraging is an obsession for some of us.

t.rohner (author)leapdog2012-11-19


Here a couple of pictures of traditional farmhouse baking in southern Tirol.

It was a couple of years ago in the "Pustertal" valley.

Some interesting sights of a water driven mill.
(My lady was even able to get some rye flour, although they didn't sell it officially...)

Then at a farm the big oven, the dough and finally the bread.

HeBeGB (author)2012-02-07

I would just like to say i have been trying to make my own bred for month’s now, with no success! I used your method about three weeks ago. Perfect bread every time. i have not bought a loaf from the shop since.
The only problem i have is it gets eaten to fast by my wife and two kids, i have nearly got a batch on the go all the time. One day White bread, the next whole-wheat.
5***** The best bread yet, if you are having trouble making bread that will not rise, is to heavy, or tastes to yeasty I urge you to try this recipe.

Thank you t.rohner .

diy_bloke (author)HeBeGB2012-11-03

i can vouch for that as well. The recipe is great and the main additional thing i learned from it that leaving your dough out for a long period gives great results

t.rohner (author)HeBeGB2012-02-09

OMG i'm flattered ;-)

I'm happy to share my insights. (I took me quite a while to figure it out...)
Everyone who takes the effort to bake her or his own bread should be rewarded with a decent (if not outstanding) result.

culti (author)2012-09-19

Thanks very much for this recipe, I tried it a few times and I am very satisfied with it.
I am now using three basic recipes:
1 - classic, kneeding, rising, degassing, forming baking
2 - artisan, 75% water, large supply in the fridge and using bits of it every day
3 - this recipe, which I do not store in the fridge, start at high temperature, and than reduce.

I must say that number three has yielded the best bread until now.

I find though, that I have to add a lot more water than you indicate. for 1 kg of flour, I add 850 ml of water, so that would be 85%.

I do live in a tropical area, with a constan 32-34 degr. Centigrade in the house, so rising here is never a problem.
Thanks again.

t.rohner (author)culti2012-09-19

As indicated in the text, the water holding capability of the flour may vary.

I go to the maximum water content, but still want a workable dough.
It is soft and tacky, but still workable with some flour.
If it's too moist, it also flows wide in the final rest.

With 85% water, i get a "FlowDough". I sometimes do it, but then i omit the degassing and the final rest.
I let it "flow" out onto a watered surface, divide it and form it somehow with watered hands. Then i instantly shove it into my 300° C preheated oven. (With a pizza stone of course.)

culti (author)t.rohner2012-09-20

I did not realize that it would vary so much.
Anyhow, even with the 85% I get reasonably solid dough, that I can shape with a gluten harness around it. I let it sit for 5-10 minutes and bake it. Tasted terrific.
The best recipe I've seen sofar.

diy_bloke (author)2012-09-08

tasted great, perhaps needed a pinch more salt, but as I am mainly eating cheese on my bread that isn't really so important :-) Thanks for recipe and description

t.rohner (author)diy_bloke2012-09-09

Strange, many recipes i've seen only use 2% salt. (20g on a kg flour)

So my recipe with 3% should be on the saltier side.
I use 3.2% (32g per kg) most of the time.

If you use even more, you probably reach the point where the salt starts to inhibit the yeast.

You write about dutch flour in one comment. Do you live in the Netherlands?

diy_bloke (author)t.rohner2012-09-09

saying a bit more about the Dutch flour: I have had continuous disappointing results with it. Initially I thought it was because of protein content, but I now doubt that is the case as it is generally 11-12% here. Yet, I have had better results with foreign bought 'all purpose' flour than with Dutch 'all purpose' or even 'bread flour'

I have made fantastic bread with Asian bought AP flour and the next day with dutch flour it was disappointing.
This included 'Artisan' bread (according to the no kneed, leave it in the fridge method) and other recipes that had fermenting times of only 4-6 hrs.

Your recipe actually is the first with wich I have a satisfying result with Dutch cheap flour, so that is very promising. Maybe that just needs long fermentation time at higher temperatures (instead of the fridge).

I am not a believer in buying specialised expensive flour. If I can buy a decent bread for say 1,20 euro, I am not gonna sppend that on glour alone and then still have to bake that :-)

diy_bloke (author)t.rohner2012-09-09

Correct. I live in the Netherlands.
The salt issue might be caused because I did not weigh the salt but used the teaspoon conversion and generally dutch teaspoons are smaller than the standardized size i think.
No problem though as cheese here is quite salty :-)

Nevertheless, great recipe. But I added some yeast from another source (Singaporean) after I had initially put in some newly bought instant yeast (German Source) that seemed to do nothing.

I baked in two batches: the first two loafes had a crispy crust, the last two a somewhat chewier crust

This might well become my standard recipe for baguette

diy_bloke (author)2012-09-08

Ok, my first two breads done (2 more to go in)
good smell, nice structure. The only 'problem' I had was that the loaf sagged a bit while in its final 60 min rise so it became flatter and wider when it went in th eoven. Maybe yet still a bit less water next time

diy_bloke (author)2012-09-07

As I remarked before, I have tried to bake bread of and on for years and the result was basically crap. Smelly tasteless breads, and with smelly I do not mean the nice fresh baked bread smell, but a stale yeasty stench. It did not matter what recipe I used and in a breadmaker the result was not much better.
I also tried the 'Artisan bread in 5 min a day' method an dthogh that was a bit better, I was faced with an unshapable batter, rather than a usable dough as some of the video's showed.

Then I recently laid my hands on this (e)book:

Artisan Breads From Baguettes to Focaccia and Brioche
Eric Treuille &Ursula Ferrigno

I read it and for the first time I started to understand what dough actually was. As I always distrusted the dutch flour and sometimes I had instant yeast that did not evoke one bubble, I had someone bring some yeast and flour from Asia and I used that to make a 'Stromboli' bread (recipe from that book). For th efirst time since I started making bread, I had the feeling that I had a dough in my hands that was alive and not just a mixture of flour and water.

The bread turned out fantastic and ever since my breads have turned out pretty good, still I am no fan of the dutch flour even if it has 11-13% of protein which i presume is mostly gluten. If I use a foreign flour, the result is usually pretty good, with a dutch flour it is unpredictable so I guess that the flour is a critical factor.

Anyway, I keep on trying and currently waiting for the 1st fermentation of this here recipe

One thing I know though, leaving yr dough to rise for a long period, definitely greatly enhances the taste

diy_bloke (author)2012-09-07

looks promising. I have had the same 'dense bread problem' and found that the type of flour makes a difference but also the raising time. Let mine rais a minimum of 1 day. I am gonna try this recipe though.
Just one question: What is 70% water?? I understand 350 gram, but what about the %es Same for 100% flour (yeah I presume I need pure flour) 3% salt and 0.2% yeast???

do I need 1g of something that only contains 0.2% of yeast?? what is the other 99.8% in that mixture
do I need 15 g of some magical concoction containing 3% salt? What is the other 97% of that 15 gram?

I am completely baffled

t.rohner (author)diy_bloke2012-09-07

It's called bakers percentage.

Where the flour is 100% by weight
The other ingredients are a percentage of the flour weight.


If you have 1kg(1000g) of flour and 700ml (700g) of water, that's 70% water in the recipe.
3% salt makes 30g in the recipe above, or 15g in a 500g flour recipe.

This is a nice example, how handy the metric system can be ;-))

This lets you step up or down recipes very easily.
Professional bakers can add up all ingredients and they will know how many loaves of a defined weight they can sell.

It also makes it very easy to judge a recipe by the water content.

diy_bloke (author)t.rohner2012-09-07

ah, I see. Never thought of it that way, i just multiply by whatever amount I want t make, but thanks for explaining :-)

I am making a 1 kg dough (as that is what is in the pack) so I just double :-)

valkgurl (author)2012-05-27

For the person who wrote a few rather "flamy" comments: the "first" breads were probably NOT yeasted as we think of it today. When the Israelites had to leave and take their chances they could NOT take any of the bread raising "starters" with them--thus Matzoh. Even today in the Middle East it is common to find flat raised breads that can be cooked quickly with whatever fuel is available. In the Egyptian sites you speak of I would suspect--if you actually did some research outside of Wiki---that there are people who will tell you that there were either "starters" saved or some form of capturing the yeast from the wild--maybe even from that OTHER great Egyptian industry---beer brewing.

I have read that if you work in a kitchen where such things as bread, cheese and beer have been worked with (made) for a loooong time that the yeasts and "cultures" can be found in all the nooks and crannies and floating around waiting to settle on anything--if it is friendly---like a dough mix---or raw milk--they will start to grow. The flavor of course is dependent on the type; temperature and other factors but I would think that if you started a basic poolish or sponge with JUST flour and water it would be possible to capture enough organisms to make a decent bread.

One of the more interesting things I have seen in my travels was a GIANT basket with two trees for the sides. I mean GIANT--something like 6 FEET long by 4 FEET wide. And several FEET deep. This is at the house museum in Burke NY where the Father of the Little House series was raised. This enourmous thing was intended to be carried by either men or horses and was to gather HOPS. Hops when dried are extremely light but puffy--thus the size needed and also the fact that the weaving was fairly airy. Once upon a time hops growing areas had these--has anyone ELSE ever seen one of these? Knowing how much work goes into even a single hand woven basket I was blown away! And where oh where are the hop farms of Upstate NY today? Crickets. Hmmmm--some clever person wanting to tap into the "Locavore" scene might do worse than plant some hops and do some REAL "Homebrew".

Maybe Sam Adams can come up here and revive the local farm scene---basket would make a killer commercial!

Thank you OP for these amazing 'ibles. Your English is astonishing and your instructions clear and easy to follow---and you are amazingly patient with us!

t.rohner (author)valkgurl2012-05-28

Hello there

Regarding the hop basket, i have never heard about such a thing.
I live very close to some very famous hop growing regions. (Tettnang is some 40 miles away, Hallertau some 180 miles.)

The old way, how hops got harvested around here, was to cut the vines at the top, rip them down and load them on a cart.
Then it was transported to the farm, where the cones were picked by the children of the region. (I know this, because a friend of mine told this firsthand. She also told, that they were payed "by the basket" they filled. But these baskets were much smaller, than the one you described.)
Then the cones got dried on airy floors.

Nowadays, there are harvesters that rip, pick and transport the hops.
Then they get dried in kilns.
No more hop-picking parties, as my friend described them.

thomas5267 (author)2011-12-31

OMGWTF! The bread taste much better than those 90 minutes cardboard allbeit a bit too salty. This is my first comment on Instructables and it is such a honor to leave my first comment on such a awesome one! But I have a problem, my bread cannot be formed and become very sloppy and I have kneaded it for 15 minutes. The product is, as I mentioned, very tasty but look like a mess. I am worried that if I add less water I will get a better looking but not as tasty results. What should I do?
Also, does halving the yeast and doubling the fermentation time makes better bread? At last, happy new year and I wish everyone bakes better bread this year!

t.rohner (author)thomas52672012-01-13


The salt amount is a question of preference of course.
I like it around 3%. (15g salt for 500g of flour)
But many recipes use 2%. (10g for 500g flour)

As i wrote, your flour may be different in water holding capability and/or gluten content.
Just reduce the water a bit. It will still be tasty and gives a more uniform crumb.
Maybe prolong the final rise by 30 minutes.

In my experience, 24 hours from mixing of the preferment until baking is ideal. I did longer and shorter fermentations to test.
You can try it, but i don't think it will enhance much.

You probably culture some lactic bacteria, if you add very little yeast. If you deliberately want to do this, give sourdough a try.
I recommend to use a tried and true culture, instead of starting your own culture.
Or you can do both and compare them.
I'm very happy with this one:

omabirdie (author)2011-12-08

I really like this bread making process and my results have been amazing. I refrigerated mine overnight and next morning rolled it out  formed it into loaves-and let it raise . It took all day to raise. I just loved to see that the loaves were actually rising with only that little amount of yeast. The loaves were so light and the taste was worth the time...I guess the only "real" time envolved was the time to mix, knead , the waiting for it to ferment then forming , rise &bake This process worked into my schedule ..It made two very nice size loaves..... Have made it twice now I want to try with whole wheat. I will have to check to see if you have a whole wheat recipe.
Thank you

t.rohner (author)omabirdie2011-12-08

As i wrote, it's about the same, if you use whole wheat.
The main difference will be, that some of the "chaff" will cut the bubbles and therefore hinder the raising of the loaves. Be prepared for a denser loaf.
It's also important to put the "chaff" into the preferment to get it rehydrated. I would recommend to use 25-33% of a nice white strong gluten flour.
I also like to add some "bread spices" sometimes. It's not very common here in Switzerland, but i live close to Austria, so i can get it easily... It's a mix made of fennel, coriander, caraway and anise. It's a hit with home smoked salmon...

omabirdie (author)t.rohner2011-12-11

tried the whole wheat . Used half whole wheat the rest bread flour ,vital wheat gluten and some wheat berries that I coarsely ground then added to the preferment. I did not have all the 'bread spices' you mentioned(no fennel) but uses the ones I did have. turned out very tasty nice long rise and is good plain or toasted. I think the toasting brings out the aroma of the spices. Will keep on expermenting. Just a personal question how did you end up in Switzerland? I have cousins their also. They are their because of their employment. My father bought a business from a Rohner in Iowa....That is probably more years ago than you are. I do genealogy and always interested in names. We did not have the home smoked salmon to go along with the bread but we did have some home made peach preserves on toast. GREAT )

t.rohner (author)omabirdie2011-12-12

From you profile picture, i gather you bake your bread in a bread maker or in a form.
I would suggest to try a "free" formed loaf on a pizza stone. The toasted aromas come out very nice in a thick crust.

To your personal question:

I didn't end up in Switzerland, i was always here. (except some longer trips to different parts of the world)

Rohner is a common family name in my area.
When i remember correctly, the name comes from tree stumps, that were left standing, after clear cutting the forest for settling. (Maybe my predecessors were just to lazy to uproot them...)

aristide202 (author)2011-07-23

I asked several bakers about the relation betwwen flour quality, gluten content , dough and final result. The better the flour the better the bread . Recently milled flour is the best option and at least 15% of manitoba high gluten flour is required. I tried and it's true for certain.
Manitoba it's not a brand name, it's a commercial variety name you find on flour bags in europe.

t.rohner (author)aristide2022011-09-14

A optimal flour composition is nice to have, but it's not make or break.
Fleshly milled flour makes sense of course. That's why i go to the local miller to get it.
For a pro baker, there may be other considerations, like machinability.
A baker takes of course the best / most economical product available.

As i wrote in the instructable, i can make a very good bread with different flours. I don't even know, if one of them is "high gluten". I think i interview the miller, next time.
The information on the supermarket flour is very limited here. (I never read manitoba on a flour package...)

I also read the wonderful webpage from Jeff Varasano and he comes to the same conclusion.
It's not so much the flour, it's the dough making procedure.
Although he's writing about pizza dough, it applies to bread dough as well.

See for yourself:

I made my last two pizza doughs this way, the last one even with sourdough. It rocks.

nightlife31 (author)2011-08-17

Great instructable!

I like the idea of doing some work the day before, and only minor actions on the baking day, so you can have great bread for breakfast.

To make it clear for myself. you do the following, right?
1: make polish in the morning of day 0 and let it ferment all day at room temperature (RT)
2: add the ingredients in the evening, mix it and leave it for overnight fermentation at RT
3: in the morning of day 1, you form the bread and let it rise for 60-90 min (again RT) while heating up the oven
4: then bake it

If the above method works perfectly, I will be happy. However, I am afraid that the overnight fermentation at RT is too warm/too long. The fridge is however not an option I discovered. I tried the rising step (nr 3) in the fridge overnight, but that was unsuccesfull. The dough didn't rise at all, and it took too long for the bread the get bake to RT again.

Do you have any knowledge on the fermentation/rising time at different temperatures? I could make a simple rising cabinet with a set temperature from and old minifridge and temp controller that I have.

Kind regards, Rutger

t.rohner (author)nightlife312011-08-19

I just found this.
I looks quite scientific... i haven't read all and it has a second part...

nightlife31 (author)t.rohner2011-08-19

Thanks, that looks very good. I'll dive into it.
Was planning to start a poolish this morning, but only thought of it when I was already on my way to work :(

t.rohner (author)nightlife312011-08-20

Oh yes, i plan to run 3 doughs today...
1. a bread dough
2. a pizza dough
3. a Zopf dough. (as in one of my other instructables) It's quite a while i made the last one.

Last weekend, i wasn't able to bake. I was in southern Tirol (Italy) with my better half, to enjoy, eat and drink the local treats... This is really a part of the world to see. We drove home up the Vinschgau. They grow 1'000'000'000 kilogramms of apples each year. Just wow.
Luckily, it's quite close to my place... i used to go there for skiing only, for the last couple years. But it's worth a trip in every season.
I started cold smoking fish and meat last year.(better late, than never)
If you ever tried a real farmers bacon there, you know what heaven should look like. I had the best ever, ever, ever "Carbonara Spaghetti" there. With lightly fried "local bacon" sticks. It really ripped my socks off and i ate very good carbonara before... It was in a restaurant, famous for their fish dishes...

I already fired up my pizza oven, giving it time to slowly heat up for dinner. Now i go shopping for some Taleggio cheese and then make a tomato sauce.

t.rohner (author)nightlife312011-08-19

Hello Rutger

The overnight fermentation in your step 2 can lead to overrising, if the time is long enough or the temperature is too high or too much yeast in the dough.

These are the 3 variables you can play with.

For me, it's normally not a problem to make the dough at 1 am. and form it at 7 am., that gives 6 hours of main fermentation at around 20° Celsius.

If the dough gets a little bit overrisen, that's not a problem. It just takes a little longer to rise after forming. If it's too overrisen, the yeast food(sugars from flour) is depleted and it wont rise after forming or it takes too long.

Sometimes, if i need to retard things a bit, i put it in the basement at 10-15°
So your idea with a electric cooler can make sense. (most of these units are too small around here, but i'd use a insulated foambox and install the cover of the cooler with the peltier cooling element.)

A friend of mine is professional artisanal baker. He adjusts the amount of yeast, depending on the time of year.(temperature)
If you want to play with the yeast amount, you will need a pretty precise scale. I bought one at Fry's, while in California. I bought it mainly to weigh spices for sausage making.. It goes down to 0.1g or 100mg.
In bread making, i just shake some yeast out of the packet. So this is quite variable here.

I have such a minifridge in the car. It's a bit of a luxury model for around 100$. It has temperature control from 4-60° Celsius and a digital display for setting and reading the actual temperature.
Peltier elements can be reversed, meaning they can transport heat energy in both directions.
That way, my box can cool and heat.
This makes it interesting for sourdough fermentations. Here you need temperatures quite above room temperature.

I certainly see it possible, that you can adjust the time of the bulk fermentation to your needs with such a cooler and temp controller.

I don't have real scientific data like a fermentation temp vs. time curve. But maybe this helps a little bit.
Within the range of temperatures in which yeast works, every one degree F rise in temperature increases the rate of yeast fermentation by 3-5%. The temperature range for optimum yeast fermentation is between 75°F-85°F.
So from 40°F in a fridge to 80°F, it seems to be fairly linear. (although 3-5% is a pretty wide swing...)

With this data, you should be able to make some experiments.

Let me know, how it works. Maybe you can make a "fermentingbox" instructable...

sunshiine (author)2011-07-11

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of baking bread. I will refer to this the next time I make bread!

Grouchy1 (author)2011-06-26

Most digital scales here can read out in both ounces and grams, and since weight is more accurate than volume, I'm happy to see the gram and ml measures.

mdeblasi1 (author)2011-04-14

I did not find the answer to this question, pardon me if it is here.

I have been baking bread for some years now and it has always had a tendency toward heaviness. I started with "no kneed" bread, then moved on to some kneeding. Now I have a kitchen-aid mixer &  use a poolish in it.  I am getting rocks for loaves. It's dishartening, but you said above: The time of the final rise can be adapted to the environmental temperature and also how dense the crumb should be. 

As for the mixer, I only use it for a few minutes on the lowest setting, then I take it out and kneed by hand a few minutes more.  I turn on the oven and when it is preheated, put the loaf directly in.  Am I I kneeding too much, am I giving too little of a 2nd rise?  What do you & / or my fellow bakers think.
Thank you for your help

t.rohner (author)mdeblasi12011-04-18

Hello Marya

from the second paragraph, i gather you omit the 1st or bulk fermentation. So after kneading, you heat the oven and put the loaf in, as soon as the oven is hot?

This would give the dough a total rising / fermentation time of 30 minutes (with my electric oven with pizza stone).

This is definitely much too short.

-First, after kneading, give it time to double in volume. This is the 1st or bulk fermentation. (Depending on the amount of yeast and temperature 1.5-6 hours)

-Then degas and form it.

-Then give it a final rise between 45 and 90 minutes. (you can now heat up the oven, so it has reached the temp. when your loaves are ready)

-Slash the loaves, sprinkle with water and shove them in.

As for kneading too little or too much, try a small(1lb) test batch. Then start the machine and note the time, when the dough starts to seperate from the bowl.
Give it one more minute and stop the machine and take the dough in your hands to feel it.
Then put it back and start the machine and timer again, until the dough gets slack, sticky and glossy.
Now you know the time margin, between kneading and overkneading.

Depending on the machine and speed, optimal kneading time will be around 5-8 minutes.
Overkneading starts after 10-15 minutes.(with my Kenwood)
There is not much you can do with a overkneaded dough, it lacks its gas holding capability and won't rise nicely.
It also looses some of its water holding capabilities, that's why it's glossy.

Give it to your compost and start over.
But now you know the optimum kneading time.

Watch this:

mdeblasi1 (author)t.rohner2011-04-18

Here's what I do. 1 I make the poolish, 2 I let it refrigerate over night. 3 I take it out and let bubbles form. 4 I add flour and kitchen aid it. I let it rise a couple hours (while I forget it and remember it again) I form the loaf and then as soon as the oven is hot I put it in.
I figure it's probably rising too much after the dough is formed and not enough after the loaf is formed.
I made a loaf just yesterday and kneaded by hand, because I was afraid to beat it up, then I forgot it as usual, I made the loaf, forgot it again and a couple of hours later, baked it. It was lighter, but not perfect.
I'm going to have to remember what I am doing to begin with.

t.rohner (author)mdeblasi12011-04-18

most of the actual mobile phones have a countdown timer nowadays...
Since i carry it with me most of the time, my Android model helps me with that.
By the way, i wouldn't refrigerate the poolish. Maybe the final dough, or the formed loaves.
If you let the dough overrise, there may be not enough yeast food left for the rising of the formed loaves. (or it takes a lot of time)
By the way, most of the people i know, make their doughs too dry. It has to be tacky to the touch.

mdeblasi1 (author)t.rohner2011-04-19

Ooooo, I totally missed your point about leaving the poolish unrefrigerated for 12 to 24 hours!?!?
As per your advice, I downloaded an android stopwatch / timer app. this morning.

godfish (author)2011-01-11

I've been trying to make bread I can eat for about 5 years, all I've ever been able to do with the finished product is throw at stray cats and loud neighbors.

This method was no different, I got more very hard and salty bricks to chuck at cats. What can I be doing wrong? I'm mixing up another batch to try again, maybe I should use less salt? To me the salty taste was worse then being hard.

ggrenier (author)godfish2011-01-23

I have baked my own bread for close to 20 years and have never succeeded until I understood that yeast is the key to success or failure. Learn the fundamentals of yeast and you will never have inedible bread.

Good luck.

godfish (author)ggrenier2011-01-27

Thx guys for the info, where would in find info on yeast? A book or Internet site? I really want to master this, this is something everyone should know and do. Someday I would like to be able to make soft, great bread..

I let the dough rise for 90 mins, and some times the top does bubble up then fall, am I letting it go to long? And what if you only let it rise once? Be four baking.

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