Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bread Baking Basics

Don't be scared. This one is definitely not going to be a series like my 'Cake Decorating Basics Series'. There are two reasons why I am writing this. First, I am away from my kitchen so I can't really make something and post about it.  Secondly, some people asked questions about the ingredients that I have used in baking bread. This is basically a collection of many links related to bread baking in one place. See, my years of research is helping you to learn everything you need to learn in less than a day or shall I say less than an hour?
Some people are intimidated with the term 'baking'. But there are others who bake cakes, cookies, pies but are scared of using 'yeast'. Don't be. Yeast is probably the easiest to handle and is not too much of work at all.

What is bread? Flour, warm water, yeast, some salt, some sugar to help yeast grow. Mix them, knead them, let them raise, shape it and bake them. That's it. There is nothing special about it. Are there fancy  things you can do with it? Oh, yes. The bread dough can be made into so many things. Fritters, flat breads, rolls, buns, stuffed bread, bread stick etc. Bagels, pretzels are also kind of bread dough though they are treated differently. Then you have doughnuts. They use yeast too but are deep fried. The list of the baked stuff that use yeast is pretty long. There are english muffins which are yeast dough cooked on the griddle. There are crumpets which are similar to english muffins, but are baked in the oven. Naans, kulchas they use yeast too.

Science of baking yeast bread is very simple. Yeast is bacteria. A good one. We have yogurt culture which is a bacteria too. Yeast is inactive until it comes in contact with liquid. Then, it starts growing. Sugar is food for yeast. When they grow the gas they release makes pockets in the dough to make it spongy. When you bake it, it grows some more initially before dying leaving all the air pockets in tact. This is my understanding of how this works, I could be wrong. If I am, I apologize for misleading you.

Confused about the different kinds of flour in each recipe? What to use? Bread flour, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cake flour? What is Vital wheat gluten? Why is it used? All these questions have answers that can be found here.

There are cake yeasts (that are blocks rather than powder), there are regular yeast and fast acting or breadmachine yeast. Are they same? Yes and No. Read this article to know more. This article gives you details about different types of yeast and how to convert a recipe to use what you have on hand.

Want to know all about proofing the yeast, handling the dough, here is another article to refer to.
Many people asked questions about 'Sourdough' starter. It is nothing but a mixture of water and flour in equal weights mixed together and fed on a regular basis. If the starter was never added any yeast, it gets fermented by bacteria in the air and that is called 'Wild Starter'. All you need to know about how to start your own 'Starter' is here.

If there are any particular questions, let me know and I'll try to answer them. I am not claiming to be an expert mind you. I just have been baking bread for some years now and I have experimented to some extent.

Happy Baking!! Pin It


  1. You have become our teacher. Teaching us all the basics. I like ur cake decoration basics the most. Thanks dear. u rock!

  2. Champa, thank you very much for all these links in one place. I for one will sure be using them often and will also bother with my question whenever I plan to bake :)

    Can you please email me a very basic egg-less cake recipe (i mean just basic cake), which can be improvised later to add/modify stuff? If you already have a post for it, please point me in that direction. Thanks in advance :)

  3. Forgot to mention that give me a small cake measurements, the one that is enough for a small family of 4 or max about 6 people.

  4. Thanks for all the kind information. Definitely it will be useful for ppl like me :)

  5. Very useful information.Thank you once again.

  6. Beautiful post, truly useful for many of us..thanks Champa..

  7. Nice informative post dear :-)
    When I start baking , definitely will reach u with my questions :-)

  8. thats brilliant info.. please have a lok on mine as well please.. http://chackoskitchen.blogspot.com/2009/10/baking-basics.html

  9. Thanks everyone for taking time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it and this is what keeps me motivated to blog.
    Priya, I do not have the files on my work laptop. I will email you the recipe once I get back home.
    Abraham, I hope you read this. You have a very nice place and your baking basics for cakes is very nicely written. Thanks for visiting.

  10. A very informative post dear :) Thanks!

  11. An informative article, BB. Things have been so hectic these past few days, and I've a lot of catching up to do on your blog-- I see you've been busy, as usual :)

  12. Thanks for this!! Very informative. Can u please suggest an easy recipe for a beginner?

  13. Thankyou very much for sharing your knowledge on yeast and baking. Just now i saw u r post on yeast. It is really very helpful to understand how yeast works and its varieties. I have recently purchased MW Convection oven. First i started my trials on cake. The first 2 attempts on cake failed. Cake sunk in the middle. I did not got any response from the concerned blogger whose recipe i have tried.In my 3rd attempt i made cake with half quantity of ingredients. Then from 3rd attempt i baked cake without sunk and with good taste. My MW Oven is just 40days age, i am able to bake cakes.Baked nearly 10 cakes successfully. .

    I have tried 3 times bread also but could not got perfect bread till now .I stay at bangalore. First time it was very wet inside did not baked very well. 2nd and 3rd attempt also same. I am getting so many doubts. Is outside bangalore weather also very cold in day time affects on rising yeast? Then how bakery people will bake breads?
    Where i made a mistake i am not able to recognise because it is raising nicely. Doubles the dough quantity. After baking bread is not good. I have used Eagle brand Active Dry Yeast Pkt. As you have rightly said , i too feel procedure for cake is little bit difficult than bread. But why i am not able to bake a good bread?

    I will try your bread recipes and come back to you.

    Thankyou very much for sharing information. Can u guide me on bread making?

  14. Kavya,
    Welcome to my blog and welcome to bread baking. If the dough is rising well, that means there was no problem with the temperature. If it is too wet, that means it was not baked properly. Also, when you knead the dough, it should be smooth, elastic and not sticky (for most of the basic breads at least). Try something and if it doesn't work out, if you tell me what recipe you used and what the problem was, I probably will be able to trouble shoot. Thanks for leaving a comment and take care.


If you have a question and you leave it as a comment, I'll surely answer the question to the best of my knowledge. Thanks for visiting.