Baking 101: A Lesson in Baking Bread for Beginners
Updated: Jul 16
Homemade bread baking is one of the most popular hobbies of 2020. Even the most unlikely suspects mention sourdough starters in casual conversation, as beginner bread makers pop up in all directions. One team member overheard a group of friends discussing how their partner’s fantasy football league is now a remote bread-baking league. We all love the smell of fresh-baked bread, and the taste is even sweeter when you’ve baked it yourself.
The ritual of mixing, kneading dough, and watching bread rise can be calming and therapeutic. It’s a great retirement hobby that even a beginner can enjoy. Let’s explore this popular pastime and learn some baking basics for beginners, to get you started on your own bread making journey.
4 baking necessities for beginners
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that bread baking can be intimidating. As a beginner baker, it may feel like learning a new language. The great news is that once you learn a few simple tricks and tips, it’s not as hard as it looks.
1. Start with a simple recipe
Rather than trying to make a complicated bread or complex recipe, start with a no-knead recipe. One big obstacle for beginner bakers is judging how much you need to knead the dough. It’s easy to over or under knead your dough, and getting this wrong can affect the consistency and texture of your bread. Begin with a simple, no-knead recipe and there’s no need to worry about that yet.
Once your feeling ready for a more advanced bread baking recipe, check out our article on how to make challah bread
2. Knead the dough properly
Here’s a simple test that will help inform when you can stop kneading your dough. Cut off a tiny piece of the dough you’ve kneaded – it should be the size of a small egg. Stretch the dough gently between your fingers to pull it into a somewhat square shape, pulling from all corners. Does the dough stretch without falling apart? You have kneaded your bread enough. Does the bread dough break as you pull it apart? Knead for a bit longer and try this test again. You’ll learn baking tips and tricks like this as you go along, and every loaf you bake will be more lovely than the last.
3. Gain a basic understand of yeast for baking purposes
Yeast is a necessity for any baker, and so is a basic understanding of which yeast you are using. You'll likely want to start with instant yeast, which is also called “rapid-rise” yeast. This is a dry yeast that dissolves rapidly and works quickly. You won’t need to mix it with water before you use it because it’s finer and more efficient. If you’re using active dry yeast in your bread recipe, make sure you refrigerate it after opening, so it stays fresh. The good news is, any yeast is just fine to use. If your recipe asks for instant yeast and you only have active dry yeast, you’ll just need to wait a bit longer for your dough to rise. That gives you time to read one more Boomerang article!
4. Sourdough bread requires a different process
Sourdough bread is similar to other bread recipes but uses a fermentation process instead; this is why sourdough bread has that delicious tangy taste. Most bread recipes use the interaction of gluten, and a store-bought yeast to activate rising dough. Sourdough bread recipes use a “starter” instead, combining lactic acid, yeast, and water to activate growth. Some people prefer sourdough bread because it’s easier to digest, and growing your own starter can be a fun little project for a beginner baker.
Ready to make your own bread?
A bread baking class is a perfect place to start. Our Boomerang baking classes are perfect for baking beginners. Rather than Googling every question or trying to figure out a complicated recipe, you can get answers from a professional baking expert in real-time. Wondering why your sourdough is sitting low? Our Boomerang baking instructors will know just what to do. You’ll go from baking novice to baking mission accomplished with just one class.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.