Food

The Guide to Baking Bread at Home



The Guide to Baking Bread at Home

Bread is making a comeback. Long reviled for carbs and gluten, good bread (made with care, quality flour, and wild-fermented yeasts) is popping up everywhere,in restaurants, bakeries, farmer’s markets, and our Instagram feeds. Even in LA, arguably the most gluten-averse city of them all, deliciously crunchy baguettes, dense Danish ryes, and perfectly crumbed boules are suddenly all over town. And while being able to buy quality bread is a great thing, for many of us, there’s nothing quite like a homemade loaf.

From the intoxicating smell that fills your house as it cooks and the sensation of cutting through the perfect crust to the pure bliss of that warm, better-melting-on-top first bite, homemade bread really is worth the effort. It seems simple: Bread made with a sourdough starter requires just three humble ingredients (flour, water, and salt), but, mastering the technique takes skill and practice. Which is why we asked Andy Kadin, the man behind Bub and Grandma’s (some of the most sought-after bread in LA) for his thoughts on the subject. Below, he shares some seriously helpful bread-baking tips, why bread doesn’t deserve a bad rap, and offers up a list of tools to make things easier for anyone attempting to make a boule at home.

A Q&A with Andy Kadin:

Q

Walk us through the basic steps for making bread at home.

A

A full recipe I wrote for sourdough bread is something like 2,500 words, but I’ll try to condense it here for easier digestion. The basic course of action for homemade, naturally leavened bread starts with an active culture of sourdough. It must be fed two days prior to your bake, to get it all excited to feast on your flour/water mixture. That next morning, mix a portion of that excited leaven with your flour, water and salt together by hand. Over the course of the next couple hours and a series of gluten-strengthening folds, the dough goes through an initial fermentation process. The yeast and bacteria feed on the sugars from the wheat, and deposit carbon dioxide into the dough. After a roughly 3-hour bulk (or initial) fermentation, divide the dough into desired proportions and shape each into a round. Let the dough relax for 45 minutes and then, after a final shape, place it in banneton (baskets) to proof in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, preheat your oven to 525°F with a dutch oven or combo cooker inside. Once it reaches 525°, carefully remove the vessel from the oven. Flip your cold loaf out of the basket onto a square of lightly floured parchment paper and score it—use a razor blade to slice it across the top. This releases some of the tension you created during final shaping and allows the loaf to expand to its maximum possible size. Using the parchment paper as a sling, carefully lower the loaf into the preheated combo cooker/dutch oven, cover it and place it in the oven for 25 minutes. After the first 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 475°F, remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes, until the top looks golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.

Okay, that’s about 300 words. No one should bake bread from this, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the basics.

Q

What exactly is “wild-fermented yeast” and what makes it helpful in bread baking? Do most bakers prefer it to commercial?

A

Wild yeast is just that—yeast that exists around us, on us and inside of us. Bacteria is most often incorrectly lumped under this header and helps in this process, too. The engine behind sourdough bread, these bugs in the air feed on the sugars that are released from wheat when mixed with water. The more whole grain in your wheat, the higher the sugar content and the more amped up the bugs get. A byproduct of their digestion is carbon dioxide which gets trapped in bubbles within the dough. Those bubbles, if maintained properly, give the bread its distinctive tang and expand in the oven when exposed to heat, forcing the bread to rise.

I don’t know that I’d say bakers prefer wild yeast, it’s just one of the tools we use to get a desired product. Sourdough is the healthiest method for making bread, which is part of why it’s so popular right now. When you add commercial yeast into the mix, a lot of people will confuse how it makes them feel with a gluten intolerance. Eating yeasted breads may give you a little headache or make you feel groggy. The back of your throat might get a little scratchy. It’s not gluten that’s bothering you (unless you have Celiac); it’s commercial yeast. That said, we use commercial yeast in our baguette and ciabatta. It gives us a thin crispy crust and an open, light interior. I’m willing to exchange feeling a little drowsy for a few minutes after eating a really tremendous sandwich when the baguette it’s on matches how I hoped it would taste and feel.

Q

How do you feel about bringing bread back to an increasingly gluten-free city?

A

Trends are called trends because they come and go. I sympathize with folks who have Celiac or other gluten sensitivities, but that diagnosed population is very, very small. The real issue is bad bread—and marketers using fear to engineer new avenues for profit. An entire generation was raised on white-flour-rich, preservative-filled, commercial-yeast-heavy supermarket bread that magically stays “fresh” for two weeks on the shelf. That’s the stuff that generates headaches and grogginess; it’s what helped engineer the myth that this is all about wheat. So our work is to reintroduce people to real bread—long-fermented, 3-ingredient bread (flour, water, salt) made with larger percentages of fresh-milled whole grains—and to push for a diet based on moderation, not replacement.

Q

What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d gotten when you started baking bread?

A

Ugly bread still tastes good. Don’t beat yourself up if your home-baked bread doesn’t look like the art-directed, single-best-loaf-of-300 bread you see on Instagram. It’s posturing and it’s pointless. Also: While making bread every day in a commercial bakery is difficult, baking at home is even more so. As professionals,we’re able to isolate variables and fine-tune our process every day. Baking a perfect loaf of bread every two weeks with an only somewhat maintained leaven in a home kitchen rife with variables is damn near impossible. If you’ve succeeded, feel good about yourself. If not, don’t feel bad about yourself.

Q

What’s the most common mistake new bread bakers make?

A

They don’t pay attention to temperature. If your loaves are mixed to 90°, and you leave them bulking [rising] in direct sunlight next to a preheating oven in Phoenix, your fermentation time is going to be significantly faster than if you mix to 75° and monitor your temperature to keep it consistent throughout. Know the temperature of everything you use (water, flour, dough, leaven, etc.), at every stage of the process to ensure you don’t end up with a sad bread pancake.

Q

What’s your favorite thing to do with stale bread?

A

Stale bread is a rarity over here. If I’m not certain that we’re going to be able to eat the loaf in 3-4 days, I just slice it, put it in a plastic bag and freeze it. We can pull out slices to toast as needed and the stuff stays good for weeks

.

Get (Bread)-Baking—the 11 Essential Tools

Required Reading

  • <em>For the newbie:</em><br> My Bread, Jim Lahey

    For the newbie:
    My Bread, Jim Lahey

    Centered around the brilliant and now famous “no knead bread” recipe (which requires about five minutes of active time, zero kneading whatsoever, and results in a beautiful and delicious boule every time), this book is perfect for the beginner bread baker in search of a little practice and a lot of much-needed confidence.

    GET BOOK

  • <em>For the mid-level baker:</em><br>  Josey Baker Bread, Josey Baker

    For the mid-level baker:
    Josey Baker Bread, Josey Baker

    This book covers everything from entry-level recipes (which include helpful step-by-step instructions and photos) to more advanced, complex techniques, making it a great resource for someone who’s got a decent handle on the basics and is ready to take on more.

    GET BOOK

  • <em>For the pro:</em> <br> Tartine Book No. 3,<br> Chad Robertson

    For the pro:
    Tartine Book No. 3,
    Chad Robertson

    If you’re talking hydration levels and comparing starters (bread nerd alert!), you might be ready for this book. The third in series from SF’s legendary bakery, Tartine No. 3 is a deep-dive into baking with alternative flours.

    GET BOOK

Should You Ever Tire of Butter...

  • Tahini-tella

    Tahini-tella

    Our new favorite breakfast treat, this not-too-sweet, non-allergenic version of the classic hazelnut spread is totally addictive. Delicious on fresh fruit or swirled into overnight oats, it’s best simply spread on toast and finished with a big pinch of flaky sea salt. Just be sure to use a fresh container of tahini.

    GET RECIPE

  • Herbed Labneh Tartines

    Herbed Labneh Tartines

    Both labneh (thick and tangy strained whole milk yogurt) and wild fermented sourdough (bread that was made with wild fermented starter—you’ll have to find a place that bakes their own) are a great source of gut-supporting good bacteria. That makes this easy breakfast tartine extremely good for you in addition to being extremely delicious.

    GET RECIPE

  • Cultured Butternut Squash Dip with Pumpkin Oil

    Cultured Butternut Squash Dip with Pumpkin Oil

    We’re always looking for great dip recipes, and this unique pickled butternut squash one is a new favorite. Heads up: this makes a lot of dip, so feel free to halve or even quarter the recipe.

    GET RECIPE

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