Steps to make perfect Bread

12 Steps to make that Perfect Bread!

There is something amazing about a perfect loaf of bread. It is multi-cuisine. It is being used for any meal be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even desserts! A loaf of bread made at home, from scratch is an experience in itself. One of the many questions I am asked is ‘How to make Bread’?

Even though basic bread is a simple mix of flour, salt, sugar, water, and yeast. But the process of making it requires a bit of practice. Worry not! I’ll break down the process of making bread in simple terms for you.

Traditionally, there are 12 stages of making bread. Following these steps will make perfect loaves of bread, buns, and rolls! The stages are:

1. Scaling/ Measuring/ Mise-en-place (me-zohn plahs)

2. Mixing/ Kneading

3. Primary Fermentation/ First Fermentation/ Bulk Fermentation

4. Punching Down/ Knockback/ De-Gassing

5. Dividing/ Scaling

6. Rounding/ Pre-shape

7. Benching/ Resting/ Second Fermentation

8. Shaping/ Panning/ Moulding/ Make-up

9. Proofing/ Final Fermentation

10. Baking

11. Cooling

12. Storing

Let’s understand the importance of these steps in making bread.

1. Scaling/ Measuring/ Mise-en-Place

Mise en place means ‘everything in its place’. This is the first important step in making bread. Ensuring that you have everything measured out. Ingredients should be measured

–        As per formula/recipe

–        As per temperature

First Step of Bread Making
Mise-en-place for Burger Buns

Ingredients should be measured according to recipe and temperature because:-

–        Too much or too less of a particular ingredient can completely change the final outcome of the product

–        The temperature of ingredients going in the dough will also affect the outcome. For example, some recipes will call for frozen butter or warm water. Thus, it’s important to weigh them accordingly.

You can follow the checklist given below to ensure your mise en place is done.

Checklist for making bread
Mise-en-place Checklist

2. Mixing/ Kneading

This is the stage where the actual process of bread making starts. The process of mixing ingredients is done by kneading action. This is done with hands or an electric mixer.

Mixing of the dough is necessary because:-

1. It helps in the formation of gluten in the dough

2. It distributes yeast evenly in the dough. This further helps in giving dough volume

3. It combines all ingredients together and forms a smooth dough.

Second step of making bread
Mixing the ingredients

Mixing the ingredients is never based on time. If the recipe says to mix the dough for 10 minutes to form a smooth dough, it doesn’t mean that your dough will actually be ready in 10 minutes of mixing. This is because mixing time is based on:-

–        Type of Flour used

–        Method of mixing

–        Use of fat in the dough and salt

Hence, it is important to know the different stages a dough goes through when mixing.

Step 2 of Bread Making
Stages of Kneading the Bread

When making bread, any of the following methods is used. However, you must read the recipe to see what process is followed:

•        Straight Dough: In this, all ingredients are mixed together to form a dough. If using active yeast then it needs to be activated in water and then added to the dough. If using instant yeast then all ingredients are combined together.

•        Sponge Method: A pre-ferment/ polish or starter dough of yeast, water, and flour is made and given rest in the method. This is, then added to the remaining ingredients to form a dough.

One method to check if the dough is formed is the ‘Gluten Window Test or Window Pane Test’. Take a small piece of dough and roll it to form a round ball. Now, spread the dough using your fingers and stretch out the dough. If the dough smooths out without breaking or tearing easily, your dough is done.

Please note: dough made with whole-wheat flour might not stretch out easily because bran in the flour disrupts gluten strands.

3. Primary Fermentation/ First Fermentation/ Bulk Fermentation

In this stage of making bread, the dough is allowed to rest for sufficient time. During the mixing stage, the dough goes through a lot of friction. Hence, it is given resting time.

Third step in making bread
First proving of dough for Burger Buns

Fermentation time is different for the different techniques used in mixing. Different types of bread require different mixing technique, such as:

1.       Short Mix

2.       Improved Mix

3.       Intensive Mix

Third Step of making bread
Technique and Fermentation of different mix

Pre-Fermentation is a crucial step to obtain aerated bread loaf! To rest the dough, lightly grease the bowl with oil. As the dough ferments, it starts losing moisture. Hence, it is recommended to cover the dough with a cloth or cling wrap.

If the Short Mix and Improved Mix technique of mixing are used then, the dough should be folded in between fermentation. The number of folds according to technique has been given in the table above.

The time of first fermentation depends on the following:

•        Type of flour used

•        Quantity of yeast used in the dough

•        Temperature of dough

•        Presence of yeast food such as sugar, honey in the dough

•        Quantity/Size of the dough

Once the first fermentation is done, you will notice the following physical changes in the dough:

•        Increase in volume, which is due to the production of carbon-di-oxide

•        Increase in the yeast cells

•        Elasticity, softness, and extensibility in the dough

4. Punching Down/ Knockback/ De-Gassing

Not all doughs require total de-gassing. De-gassing or knockback means to punch the dough and release the trapped air inside the dough. Loaves of Bread with a tight crumb, dinner rolls, buns, etc, are de-gassed completely. Whereas, lean dough such as baguettes, Ciabatta, Sourdough are handled gently without releasing all gas in the dough.

To check whether the dough is ready for knockback, lightly press the dough with your finger. If the dough retains its shape quickly that means it is ready for punching down.

Fourth step in making bread
Knockback of Burger Bun dough after first proving

A knockback is done because:

•        It equalizes the temperature throughout the dough

•        It incorporates oxygen from the atmosphere into the dough. This helps in the mechanical development of gluten.

•        It reduces excess carbon-di-oxide present in the dough. Too much carbon-di-oxide in the dough will also kill the yeast.

5. Dividing/ Scaling

In this stage of making bread, we divide the bulk dough into smaller pieces. For example:  If we have to make 200 grams of the bread loaf and we have made 500 grams of dough, we will divide the dough into two equal halves.

Fifth step of making bread
Dividing the dough in equal portions with a scraper

When dividing the dough ensure that you weigh 12%-13% more than what is required. This is done to make up for bake-loss. Bake loss is the loss in weight of bread after baking. This means if you wanted to make a 200-grams loaf of bread, after bake-loss it would probably weigh 180-190 grams. That is why when dividing the dough, take about 24-25 grams extra.

Fifth stage of making bread
Guidelines when dividing yeasted dough

6. Rounding

After the dough is divided, it has an irregular shape. Rounding or pre-shaping the dough gives it a new smooth surface. It also helps in retain gas in the dough. Dividing and rounding the dough must be done without a longer time gap.

sixth stage of baking bread
Roughly shaped burger buns

Mostly, during rounding, bread is giving a round boule shape. But bakers usually prefer to pre-shape the dough closely to the shape of the final product. Thus, the rounding can be done in boule and oblong shape.

7. Rest/Benching

After scaling and rounding, the dough again starts to tear easily. That is why it is given a second rest of 5 to 20 minutes. This is called intermediate proofing or resting.

Seventh Stage of bread making
The burger buns are shaped and put for benching

This stage of bread making helps the dough restore its flexibility. The rounded dough can be kept covered on the working counter/bench. That’s why the term- Benching! 

8. Moulding/ Shaping/ Panning/ Make-up

In this stage, the dough is ready to be shaped as the final product.

Guidelines when making bread
Things to remember before final shaping

The process to do the shaping the intermediate proofed dough is as follows:

1. Sheeting: Flat the dough or de-gas it.

2. Curling: Give a cylindrical boule shape or the shape in which you want the bread.

3. Sealing: Seal the dough firmly so that all the gas is not eliminated.

4. Panning: a seam of the dough is placed at the bottom of the baking pan.

Eighth Step of making bread
The burger buns are shaped and placed on greased baking tray.

9. Final Proofing

The final proofing is done to relax the dough from molding and shaping. The yeast fermentation process also starts again to give volume to the bread. Proofing time for different mixing technique dough is as follows:

•        Short Mix: Up to 1 hour

•        Improved and Intensive mix: 1-2 hours

•        Sourdough starter or no commercial yeast dough: longer than 2 hours

Ninth step in making bread

Mostly, proofing chambers and proofing boxes are used. They have humidity which helps the dough retain moisture. But the dough can also be kept covered in a warm place. You can test the proofing of the dough by touch and sight:

•        It should have doubled in size

•        When you touch the dough and it springs back slowly it means the dough is ready for baking. If it doesn’t spring back, that means it’s over-proofed. If it’s still firm, it is under-proofed.

10. Baking

This is the stage of making bread which transforms our dough into a perfect product. The quality of the finished baked product is based on:

•        Duration of baking

•        Humidity and Temperature of the oven

Washes and toppings can also be applied to the bread in this stage. Few of the popular washes can be:

•        Water

•        Egg wash: slightly beaten egg

•        Milk wash

Different toppings which can be used when making breads
Some of the popular toppings and washes on a bread.

Very often you would see different designs on the bread. That is due to the scoring of bread. Scoring is a process of slashing the top of proofed bread with a razor blade. This is done just before the bread goes for baking. To score the proofed bread, use a sharp razor blade and make shallow cuts in the dough.

A proofed dough is delicate to handle. Be careful when placing the dough into the oven. Any jerk or tapping will release the air from the dough. Many times, steam is also injected into the oven. Steam is used in the first half of baking. Usually, hard-crusted bread is baked with steam. Steam has the following uses:

•        It helps in distributing heat in the oven, which also helps in oven spring

•        It keeps the crust soft in initial baking. This would help in the expansion of bread

Tenth stage of baking bread
The proved dough is ready to bake in the oven. A milk wash is applied to the buns just before baking.

11. Cooling

After baking, always remove the bread from the baking pan. Use cooling racks to cool the bread. If you want the crust of bread to be soft then lightly brush the crust with butter or oil. Do this, just after the bread is baked and out of the oven.

Eleventh Stage of making bread
Freshly baked buns out of the oven

Bread must be completely cooled before slicing because:

•        It makes slicing easier and cleaner

•        It helps in redistribution of moisture

•        There is the migration of moisture from the center of the bread to crusts. In this process, it softens the crust also.

12. Storing

After cooling, bread is ready for slicing, packing, and eating. If the bread will be consumed within 8-10 hours of cooling then it can stay on the cooling rack. The bread must be wrapped and frozen. Refrigeration speeds up bread staling.

Last stage of making bread
Buns are cooled completely and stored on a tray using a cling wrap

Follow these steps and start making bread!!!

Bread goes through 12 different stages of bread making. From simple ingredients forming into the dough to baking into a perfect loaf! Every step is important and necessary to achieve the perfect product. Hence, If you follow these steps of bread making, I am sure you will have perfect bread at home. Always!!

So, Happy Baking !!

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Chef that was indeed a simple and very well explained way to make bread. Its great following you and learning new recipes and baking tips. Keep them coming

     

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