A Complete Guide On How To Make Bakery-Style Bread At Home

Baking bread from scratch offers numerous benefits, making it a rewarding and fulfilling culinary endeavour. By mastering the art of homemade bread, you can savour the unmatched taste, texture, and aroma that come with bakery-quality loaves. This process allows you to control the ingredients, ensuring freshness and avoiding preservatives commonly found in store-bought bread. With the right techniques and tips, you can create artisanal breads that rival those from professional bakeries, transforming your kitchen into a fragrant haven of warmth and comfort.

Understanding the Basics

Understanding the basics of bread baking is essential for achieving bakery-quality loaves at home. The history of bread baking dates back thousands of years, starting with simple flatbreads and evolving into the diverse bread varieties we enjoy today. The science behind bread-making involves the interaction of key ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Flour provides structure through gluten formation, while water hydrates the flour and activates gluten development. Yeast acts as a leavening agent, consuming sugars and releasing carbon dioxide, causing the dough to rise. Salt enhances flavour, controls yeast activity, and strengthens gluten. Mastering the balance and understanding the roles of these ingredients is crucial for creating delicious and well-textured bread.

Selecting the Right Flour

Selecting the right flour is a crucial step in baking bread from scratch. Understanding the different types of flour and their characteristics is essential for achieving bakery-quality results. Common types include all-purpose, bread flour, whole wheat, and specialty flours like rye or spelt. All-purpose flour is versatile, but bread flour, with its higher protein content, is ideal for bread-making as it promotes gluten development, resulting in a desirable chewy texture. Whole wheat flour adds depth and nutrition, but it requires more water and longer mixing times. 

Gluten development is vital for bread structure, and higher protein content contributes to stronger gluten formation. By considering the specific requirements of your bread recipe and understanding protein content and gluten development, you can choose the ideal flour that will yield the best results in terms of flavour, texture, and rise.

Yeast and Leavening Agents

Understanding yeast and leavening agents is essential for successful bread baking. There are different types of yeast commonly used: active dry, instant, and fresh yeast. Active dry yeast needs to be activated in warm water before use, while instant yeast can be added directly to the dough. Fresh yeast, also known as cake yeast, is perishable and requires refrigeration. Each type has its specific usage and requirements.

Activating and proofing yeast is a crucial step to ensure optimal results. Yeast needs warm water and a source of food, usually sugar, to activate and produce carbon dioxide gas, which helps the dough rise. Proofing, or allowing the dough to rise after yeast is added, allows for flavour development and improved texture.

Additionally, there are alternatives to yeast that can be used as leavening agents. Sourdough starter, a fermented mixture of flour and water, creates a naturally leavened bread with unique flavour and texture. Poolish and preferment are pre-ferments that enhance flavour and can be used in combination with yeast or as standalone leavening agents.

Proper Dough Preparation

Proper dough preparation is essential for achieving bakery-quality bread. Accurate measurement of ingredients is crucial to maintain consistency and balance in the dough. Use precise measuring tools, such as a kitchen scale or measuring cups, to ensure accuracy.

Mixing techniques play a significant role in developing gluten and achieving the desired texture. Hand-kneading allows for tactile control and a deeper connection with the dough. A stand mixer with a dough hook provides convenience and consistent results, especially for large batches. Bread machines offer convenience by automating the mixing and kneading process.

To achieve the right consistency and texture, start with a slightly sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Avoid adding too much flour, as it can result in a dense loaf. Adjust the dough by gradually incorporating small amounts of flour or water as needed. Proper hydration promotes gluten development and a light, airy crumb.

Fermentation and Proofing

Fermentation is a crucial step in bread-making that greatly impacts the flavor, texture, and overall quality of the final loaf. During fermentation, yeast consumes sugars and produces carbon dioxide, creating bubbles that leaven the dough and develop its structure. This process also allows for the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, resulting in improved flavour and easier digestion.

Controlling temperature and humidity during proofing is essential for optimal results. A warm, draft-free environment is ideal for encouraging yeast activity and proper rise. Maintaining consistent temperature and humidity helps achieve a predictable fermentation process, preventing over proofing or under proofing.

Shaping and Final Proofing

Shaping and final proofing are critical steps in bread-making that significantly influence the appearance, rise, and texture of the finished loaves. Different bread types, such as boule (round loaf), baguette, or traditional loaf, require specific shaping techniques to achieve their characteristic shapes and structures. Shaping involves stretching, folding, and tucking the dough to create tension and develop an even crumb.

Properly proofing the shaped dough is vital for optimal rise and texture. The dough needs a warm, draft-free environment with the right humidity to encourage yeast activity and fermentation. This allows the dough to rise gradually, developing complex flavours and a light, airy crumb.

Scoring the dough before baking serves multiple purposes. It controls the expansion of the bread during baking, directing the rise and preventing it from bursting in unpredictable ways. Additionally, scoring creates a visually appealing crust by creating patterns or slashes, allowing for controlled expansion and the release of steam during baking.

Recipe for The Perfect Homemade Bread


500g bread flour

10g salt

7g instant yeast

350ml warm water


Activate the yeast: In a small bowl, combine the warm water and instant yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is foamy and activated.

Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread flour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the activated yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until a shaggy dough forms.

Knead the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Add small amounts of flour if necessary to prevent sticking, but avoid adding too much.

First proofing: Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

Shape the dough: Once the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release any air bubbles. Transfer it to a floured surface and shape it according to your desired bread type (boule, loaf, etc.). Ensure the surface is smooth and taut.

Second proofing: Place the shaped dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a greased bread pan. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has noticeably increased in size.

Preheat the oven: About 20 minutes before the proofing is complete, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Place an empty oven-safe pan on the bottom rack.

Score the dough: Just before baking, use a sharp knife or bread scoring tool to make shallow cuts or slashes on the surface of the dough. This will help control expansion and create an attractive crust.

Baking: Place the bread in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Pour a cup of hot water into the empty pan on the bottom rack to create steam. This will help develop a crisp crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cooling: Once baked, remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.