I’m going to do it, I’m going to give away the secret to baking amazing bread. All us professional bakers keep this quiet, but the time has come, you all need to know this. It will save you money on expensive bread courses at pointless cookery schools. There is one thing and one thing only that will take you from keen home baker, to someone who bakes bread at home that’s equal to anything you can buy in any bakery anywhere in the world.
It’s practice, a shit tonne of practice. I mean day in day out baking all the time. That is the only real key to good bread, you need to bake a lot of bread and often. That’s how all us bakers do it, we’ve literally fucked up so many loaves, that eventually you get some good ones out of the oven given enough time and practice.
So my advice would be get yourself a good bread book ie Jose Baker, Chad Robertson, Dan Lepard etc. Stick clear of the likes of Paul Hollywood and other TV cooks/bakers/food writers. Get a book by a long standing well regarded baker, or just a good recipe from online if it’s by a respected bakery/baker. It doesn’t have to be sourdough, it could be ciabatta or baguettes or bagels, anything you like.
Once you’ve got a recipe, get the ingredients, they don’t have to be anything fancy, just standard bread flours from your supermarket and normal table salt. It’s important that you use the same flour though, always the same, don’t try Tesco bread flour one week and Mathews Cotswold the next. Whatever you use keep it the same, this will help with consistency.
Next, bake the bread again and again and again, honestly if you can, bake it every day for a month. This sounds ridiculous, but really it’s the only way to learn and understand the loaf you’re trying to bake. Don’t change anything, don’t add any other ingredients, you need to understand this one dough. You need to get the feel for it, the taste of it and smell of it. You can only do this through repetition.
Yes I’ve read books and websites, and asked other bakers questions, but the only reason we bake good bread at Baltic Bakehouse is because of huge amounts of practice. Not to go too Malcom Gladwell on you, but literally thousands and thousands of loaves day in day out.
Once you’ve done a months worth of baking, try a few tweaks, maybe increasing water, or bulk time or whatever you want to. Once you really understand the base loaf you’re working on, I mean really deeply understand it, that’s when the doors open to all maner of possible variations.
You can bake some of the best bread in the world, spend a few pounds on a good book, buy some flour and get to work. BAKE, EAT, REPEAT!
*A shout out to Dan Lepard, we've had a few conversations on twitter about this, and that's what made me write the blog. Also go buy his books they're great.