This page explores the main ingredients used in the bread making process, as well as looks at the extra ingredients that can be added to your loaves and rolls to enhance texture and flavour and create something a little bit special sourdough.
A good quality Strong flour with a high protein content should be used when baking bread. This will result in a loaf that rises well, with an open texture. If lesser quality flour with a lower protein content is used your bread will have a poor structure and inferior coloured crust and crumb.
Flours to look out for include strong white flour produced from Canadian wheat, which is known as the best in the world for bread making. This flour has an extremely high protein content and is ideal for superior bread making results – as well as white loaves, bloomers and rolls, it is ideal for French baguettes, Italian focaccia breads, bagels, pitta breads, flatbreads and chapattis.
Strong stoneground wholemeal flour uses 100% of the wheat grain, including the bran and wheat germ. Stoneground flour is slowly ground on old fashioned mill stones in the traditional way to produce a flour full of goodness, flavour and fibre. This flour can be used to produce delicious wholemeal loaves and rolls. You can create variations on wholemeal loaves adding ingredients such as honey, sunflower seeds, walnuts and apricots.
To create a textured loaf such as a malted fruit loaf, wholemeal cob or olive bread, you should use a malted brown flour with kibbled, malted wheat grains. The added bran gives loaves produced using this flour a nutritious, delicate malty flavour.
An essential ingredient, yeast is a raising agent added to bread to help it rise. Yeast is a living organism and multiplies in the correct heat and moisture. Yeast converts fermentable sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide, which in turn forms air pockets, making the dough rise.
Both fresh and dried yeast can be used in the home baking process. Fresh yeast is a moist, putty like substance. It crumbles easily, is creamy brown in colour and sweet smelling. It is available from most high street or supermarket bakery counters. Fresh yeast is not suitable for use in bread making machines. Fresh yeast must be stored in a fridge, and can also be frozen.
Dried yeast is available at supermarkets and bakeries, and is a dehydrated version of fresh yeast. Dried yeast requires warm water to activate it. Dried yeast keeps for longer and for this reason is often favoured.
A crucial bread making ingredient, salt controls the yeast action and helps to improve the flavour of the bread. If salt is left out of the bread making process you will be left with a sticky, unworkable dough.
Water is another essential element in bread making and necessary to create a good workable dough. The lukewarm water activates the yeast, which produces the carbon dioxide enabling the dough to rise. The amount of water needed will depend upon the type of flour being used as different flours absorb water at different rates. Brown or wholemeal flour is more absorbent than white flour, so take care when measuring out the water because too much will result in your dough becoming sticky and unworkable.
Milk / Milk Powder
Mixing this with water can be used to produce delicious soft-crusted bread.
Fat (in the form of butter, margarine or oil) is a non-essential addition that most recipes include as it improves the taste and the colour of the bread’s crust. Adding fat also helps the bread to last longer. Hard fats like lard, margarine and white vegetable fat are recommended due to their higher melting points, however butter or olive oil can also be used. Olive oil does however have different properties so care should be taken when using.