Information and advice for people baking Real Bread for family and friends, or even setting up a microbakery, at home.
It has been written and said so many times but what beats the smell of fresh Real Bread coming from your oven?
Baking Real Bread at home is a very cost effective way of producing a filling and nutritious staple for about the same price as even the cheapest industrial ‘value’ loaf, just without the litany of artificial additives and undeclared processing aids.
Like anything that you haven’t tried before, the idea of baking your own loaf can be daunting, so here we have a few thoughts that might help to build up your confidence.
For fun, food and family
Don’t be afraid - though professional Real Bread making requires a lot of skill and experience, baking a basic loaf at home is something that kids can do.
With nothing more than flour, water, yeast, a little salt and a bit of kneading, anyone can turn out a loaf to be proud of. Even without an oven, you can produce a variety of Real Breads on a stove top or in a bread machine.
If for some reason your bread doesn’t turn out right the first time, try not to be too discouraged – go back to the recipe to see if you overlooked something (also see troubleshooting below) and give it another go. If it’s any consolation, the Real Bread Campaign project officer, now a keen home Real Bread baker, still uses his first ever attempt as a doorstop.
Unlike the factory process, making Real Bread takes time.
That said, most of the time it takes is not your time. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a local bakery or shop that sells Real Bread, baking a loaf could well take less of your time than going out to buy one.
Typically, you might spend twenty minutes mixing and kneading, five or ten minutes shaping your loaf and a few minutes each putting it into and taking it out of the oven: half an hour, top whack.
The rest of the process (proving and baking) doesn’t require your input at all, leaving you free to do other things – watch telly, hoover the carpet, read a book, fix that thingy like you’ve been meaning to, stop the kids from killing each other or whatever. If you’ve chosen a long fermentation method, you might even be able to leave it at home for several hours (unlike the kids) while you go off and do something else.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that baking a loaf of bread in an electric oven uses around 1.6kWh per use and that a gas oven consumes around 1.5kWh per use.
To make the most efficient use of your oven, both in terms of your utility bills and also the cost to the environment, the Real Bread Campaign urges you to bake more than just one loaf at a time.
Some notes on the basics:
The Real Bread Campaign recommends that you use naturally-occurring yeasts (i.e. a sourdough starter), fresh bakers’ yeast or dried active yeast. Almost every brand of instant (AKA fast acting or easy bake) dried yeast contains artificial additives. Please avoid these. Click here for more information.
Tap water is fine for domestic baking. If it is heavily chlorinated in your area, this might slow down the growth of a sourdough starter or yeast fermentation, but not too much. To drive off the chlorine, boil the water and leave to cool.
Table salt is fine, though many brands contain an anti-caking agent. Such an artificial additive would put your loaves outside the Campaign’s definition of Real Bread. You may prefer to use rock or sea salt, both of which will often contain a variety of minerals in addition to sodium chloride.
As most people know, too much salt is bad for you. The government recommends that bread should contain no more than 1% salt. To read more about why and how to reduce salt to make yours better bred bread, click here.
By definition, anything else is unnecessary! Read more here.
When it comes to adding sugar, fat and whatnot, before you do please ask yourself: why?
Some thoughts, with thanks to campaign supporter Gaye Whitwam.
Any bowl will do but it needs to be large enough for the dough to double in size. A 3 litre bowl is a good size.
The most useful utensil in bread-making but not easy to buy even in good kitchen shops. Use the scraper to mix the dough, to cut dough, to lift dough off the worktop, to clean dough out of the bowl, off your hands and work surfaces.
Large plastic bag (e.g. a carrier bag)
Put your bowl of dough inside the bag, making a tent so that the top of the bag doesn’t stick to the dough while it’s proving. This will keep the dough from drying out and forming a skin. Turn the bag inside out when you have finished to dry out. You can then fold up and use again and again.
A deep walled good quality metal tin will give excellent results and a traditionally shaped loaf. Always use hard butter/margarine to grease the tin. If you use oil it will sink to the bottom and fry the base of your loaf.
If your loaf doesn’t easily come out of the tin after baking, leave it a few minutes and then try again. If it still sticks, then use the straight edge of a dough scraper to release the edges. This is normally where the sticking occurs. Don’t be tempted to use a knife as you could puncture your loaf and scratch the non-stick coating of the tin.
If your tray is not non-stick, then don’t forget to grease the tray or sprinkle it liberally with flour. The thicker the tray the better as thin trays buckle in the high heat of the oven.
Useful but not essential for testing the temperature of the water and also the finished dough which, ideally, should be around 27-28C.
Again, not essential but as the thermostats on domestic ovens tend to be inaccurate, a thermometer is useful to ensure your oven is at the temperature it says it is.
Always cool your loaf on a rack otherwise the bottom will ‘sweat’ and go soggy. If you don’t have a cooling rack, use something else that will allow air to circulate under the loaf, like the rack from a grill pan or the shelf from the oven.
The campaign recognises that not everyone in the UK has an oven, which is one of the reasons that we recognise the value of a bread machine.
In addition, we are inviting people to give us their recipes for Real Breads that can be cooked on the stove top, either on a flat pan, upturned wok, or in something like a casserole or Dutch pot. If you have a stove top recipe that you would like to share, please email us.
For absolute accuracy, we use grams in recipes and recommend using electronic scales to weigh all ingredients including liquids.
If you don’t have access to electronic scales, then accurate conventional scales, measuring jug and measuring spoons (i.e. not just the ones you use to eat with) will help you to get the best results.
That said, don’t panic! Unlike professional baking, the home made loaf is pretty forgiving.
Here are some conversions that you might find useful.
1ml = 1g
5ml = 6g (approx)
5ml = 4.4g (approx)
The following yeast conversions are taken from WildYeast.com
NB – If converting from a recipe that call for fresh or active dried yeast, knowing the amount of fast acting/instant yeast to use instead can be tricky. Perhaps due to the different chemical and/or enzymic additives that most instant yeasts contain, different brands recommend differing yeast to flour ratios e.g Sainsbury’s - 7g sachet to 750g of white flour; Hovis 7g for 500g white flour.
Online conversion sites
Please see the list on our companions page for a number of sites and books that provide a host of tips and information.
We encourage Real Bread Campaign supporters with questions to visit The Real Baker-e, where one of the hundreds of other supporters – who include professional and home bakers – just might have answers.
Despite the continued efforts of the industrial baking industry, cosmetics business, genetic engineering fraternity, that song by Cher, King Cnut [sorry anti-revisionists, that’s the current generally accepted way of spelling Canute…] and many others, you can’t turn back time.
When it comes to bread, however, there are ways of slowing staling down a little. Staling is an effect of water loss and starch retrogradation. The latter is a process in which chains of starch molecules in bread move from a flexible gel-like formation when just-baked, back to their stiff, crystalline original state.
No matter what the artificial additive mongers and marketers say, bread can’t be made to stay fresher longer (as our call for an Honest Crust Act notes - fresh means just baked), there are natural ways of slowing staling.
The wetter the better
The higher the water content of the dough, the longer it will take for the bread to dry out and for the starch molecules to move back to their original state.
A little oil
In small quantities, fat (or oil) stops the water that is attached to the starch molecules from ‘getting away.’ It also slows down the movement of water that is not joined to the starch molecules. This ‘free’ water also helps to stop the starch chains coming back together in their original state. That said, if you have a lovely wet dough, the oil won’t make all that much difference.
Long slow fermentation using a sourdough culture not only produces fantastic flavour, but also one that stales more slowly and inhibits the growth of mould. Make sure the baker does it for real, though – not just throwing some yoghurt, sourdough powder or culture to flavour a loaf made in an hour or two using commercial yeast or baking powder.
Don’t slice until cool
Tempting though bread fresh from the oven is, it’s best if left to cool before slicing. If cut when still warm, bread will lose much more moisture as steam than if left intact. Allowing the bread to cool means more of this water will be kept in the loaf, helping it to stay moister longer.
Once completely cool, put the loaf in a container or bag that will reduce evaporation. NB – if you don’t wait until it’s completely cool, or you move the wrapped loaf straight to a much cooler environment condensation can form. This can encourage another enemy of an aging loaf – mould.
As the warmer the environment the faster the evaporation, a hot kitchen isn’t the best place to keep a loaf. If you happen to have an old-fashioned pantry, great, but most of us don’t, so try to find somewhere cooler in the house. Otherwise, find the coolest spot in the kitchen but…
Starch retrogradation takes place most quickly at fridge temperature, so whilst it might slow down the growth of mould, it will speed staling.
This might seem to contradict the last tip, but freezers operate at temperatures below the ‘danger zone’ for starch retrogradation. Staling will be speeded as the loaf is about to freeze and as it thaws, but these periods of accelerated staling will last only minutes, compared to hours (or days) sitting in a fridge. It’s best to allow it to defrost at room temperature – thawing in an oven or microwave will cause more moisture to evaporate.
Unless you plan to eat the whole loaf on the day you thaw it, slice before freezing, so you can take it out as needed.
Resuscitation and recycling
A short-term revival technique for stale bread is to dampen a whole loaf very slightly (not too much – nobody likes it soggy) and put in a medium oven until it is warmed all the way through. This won’t reverse the staling, but will make the bread more flexible again for a short while. The time depends on the size and shape of loaf, but will be from about ten minutes for rolls and baguettes, up to maybe twenty-five for a large loaf.
If you believe in a god, then toast is why he/she/it invented staling. Stale Real Bread makes the best toast. And that’s before we even get to bread and butter pudding…
We also wrote an article for the Love Food Surrey website.
For more on the science of staling (not to mention of bread and food in general), see McGee on Food & Cooking by Harold McGee. Andrew Whitley dedicates a chapter of his book Bread Matters to ‘growing old gracefully.’
Shameless plug: There are around 90 recipes in our book Slow Dough: Real Bread.
A couple of things to bear in mind when following a bread recipe – unless you are making a bread whose character is dependent on sugar and/or fat (e.g. brioche, hot cross buns, lardy cake, certain types of focaccia etc.) you probably can omit them. Sugar will make the yeast work faster and fat can make the finished loaf a bit softer and stay that way for a little longer but often neither is absolutely necessary.
Sick of industrial loaves and want to do your bit to help bring Real Bread back to your local community? Well, as the old 'backyard' musical cliché goes, 'let’s put on a show right here!'
Yes, why not start a homebakery?
This is exactly what it says it is - a microbakery run from your own home kitchen, garage, shed, or other converted domestic space. A homebakery can be run as a lone enterprise or by clubbing together with other people as some form of Community Supported Bakery.
To help inspire you to get you started with your own microbakery, here are a few we know so far. Every microbaker has a different story and one might well be similar to your own.
If you run your a microbakery, please tell us your story and we'll add it to this list.
The dates refer to the last time we updated the information.
Allendale Bakery at Elpha Green
Allendale Bakery's bakers have 'retired' to their home bakery deep in rural Northumberland. After three years in a heritage site learning the baking trade in conjunction with an overwhelming café business, Allendale Bakery's bakers were delighted to sell the café part of the business earlier this year, and simultaneously to refurbish their approved catering kitchen at home into a fully fledged home bakery.
The Real Bread we bake now is truly artisan, in a wood-fired oven, using locally sourced, stone-ground Northumbrian flour (Gilchesters Organics). The oven, a Habo15 from Haussler in Germany, is the equivalent of a single, three tray deck, which means different dough logistics after our earlier experience on a three tray, three deck electric oven. Also, using locally sourced wood from sustainable forests, means a rather significant reduction in energy costs. We're now baking at about half of our peak weekly bake in the heritage site: four baking days and four dough set-up days (overnight prove in our retarder-prover), delivering some 200 loaves (800g equivalents) weekly to three local retailers.
We can expand our capacity a little, if we wish, but we also provide breadmaking courses and we do specific catering jobs locally on request (typically family parties, small weddings, funeral teas). We're not looking to dramatically increase our business (we say we're semi-retired!), but rather we are looking for a stimulating and productive lifestyle activity here at home, and we think we've found it. We do love baking wonderful Real Bread.
After a night baking with Tom Baker at Loaf in Birmingham over two years ago, Andy has been baking in his small kitchen in deepest mid-Wales. He bakes a range of white and rye sourdough and yeasted breads. Bread is on sale on most Friday afternoons from around 1pm at Great Oak Foods in Llanidloes.
Steve has been baking a range of Real Bread from his home in St. Levan, Cornwall for a couple of years, originally with one domestic oven in his kitchen. He now has two extra ovens in his conservatory, making three ovens. The summer is his busiest time, baking around 120 loaves a week to supply the local café across from his house with bread and a local deli in Penzance six days a week. His loaves start at around £1.80 for a small white.
Established in December 2007, Bethesdabakers bakes sourdough for private and commercial customers. Since early 2012 output has been reduced so that Mick can put more time in to producing bread books and running courses for beginners through to potential microbakers.
Birch Cottage Bread
Bread Angels alumna Lucie Steel runs a microbakery from a converted shipping container in the garden of her west Berkshire home. The container is fully-equipped with a baker’s oven, stainless steel table, mixer, double sink and fridge. Lucie makes yeasted and sourdough Real Breads for local shops, community markets, café and catering company. She also runs Real Bread making classes.
The Bread Lady
Lesley and her sister bake Real Bread from Lesley’s home in Lanchester, County Durham. The dedicated sorority bake around 300 loaves a week, such as 100% rye sourdough, focaccia, wholemeal and up to ten flavoured breads, with prices ranging from £1.30 to £2.30.
The breads are all cooked in a domestic oven and a range oven. Most of the flour comes from Gilchesters Organics in Northumberland, which is stone ground from rare breed wheat. The two sisters supply a range of farmers’ markets and have a stall every Saturday at Durham Market. They also supply two farm shops, an organic grocery shop and The Hive, a community shop in Ushaw Moor. On top of that they also bake for local individuals and families.
County Durham is an area really lacking access to Real Bread and through the sisterly baking business they are providing access to Real Bread to the local communities in the area.
Crow's Rest Bakehouse
Alex bakes artisan loaves in Camberwell on Saturday mornings and Nick delivers them on his bike. Their balcony "plays resting grounds to local crows who like to perch there and look out as the day goes by."
Gaye's Real Bread
Gaye Whitwam bakes Real Bread every Thursday for her bread club and other people who order in advance to collect from her home in Wallington, Surrey. Sutton Community Farm customers have their bread delivered in the weekly veg box. Gaye bakes with organic flour from Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire, sea salt and a sourdough culture or by the sponge and dough method using baker's yeast.
HOPEbake is an occasional micro bakery run by Bill and Melanie Mawer in Ayot Green, Hertfordshire baking mostly sourdough loaves each week for the local community. The money raised goes to hopeIndia.org a charity providing hope and homes for poor children in India. 'HOPEbake may only last till Bill has to get a 'proper job' but for now he enjoys throwing flour round the kitchen once a week.'
A fanatical baker since July 2011, Jo bakes around 10-25 sourdough loaves to order every Saturday for collection from her home in Luton, Bedfordshire. Her focaccia and malted loaf is also on the menu at a local church café and she can be found at the farmer’s market in Hexton, on the third Friday of every month, from 1 until 4pm.
Leicester Born and Bread
Jessica Edmonds has been baking to order from a domestic kitchen in a small terraced house in Leicester since September 2011. The range available includes tin loaves, rolls, sourdough, and soda bread, plus a monthly special. She runs the bakery alongside her full time job, meeting 30-40 orders a month. She also provides bread classes for groups and individuals in their homes covering basic bread, an introduction to sourdough, and pizza making.
LOAF artisan bread
A home_based Community Supported Bakery, in Widnes, Cheshire. We make Real Bread entirely by hand using the best available natural ingredients and traditional long fermentation methods. We bake naturally yeasted (i.e. sourdough) and lightly yeasted breads to order every Friday. We also offer bread making classes to individuals or small groups in their own homes, making a range of basic yeasted breads and introductions to naturally yeasted bread making.
Loaf for Life Bakery
Peter runs a small home bakery in Cambridge baking a variety of sourdough Real Bread loaves for a local shop, The Urban Larder, and the wider community of Cambridge. Peter uses locally sourced organic flour from Foster’s Mill in Swaffham Prior and created all by hand. He also organises basic sourdough making workshops and is involved in setting up a community bakery, CamBake.
Dragan and Penny set up ‘the smallest bakery in the world’ at home in Oxfordshire. They have since moved the bakery to a (slightly) larger room at their new home in Devon, at which they also run workshops for people interesting in setting up something similar.
Outwell Artisan Bakery
Ian runs his microbakery to make Real Bread to order for friends, family and colleagues at NHS King’s Lynn. Self-taught he is gradually increasing his range as his skills increase. When he started baking for himself Ian didn't realise the demand for fresh home-baked bread. He now supplies 20-30 people with fresh bread and is often fully-subscribed days before his weekly baking session. Ian says 'our scheme means that bread is sold before it’s made, which is a great position to be in.'
The Pocket Bakery
Daily Telegraph writer Rose Prince's children Jack and Lara run this enterprise from their home in order to supplement their pocket money - hence the name.
Saxton's Home Bakery
Mick Saxton set up the bakery at his Sheffield home in May 2011 to produce Real Bread 'of character and taste' using stoneground organic wheat, spelt and rye flours, and his own natural leavens. Mick bakes to order every week on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings and the bread is ready to collect between 11.45am and 2.00pm. Mick also offers a limited delivery service. Mick produces at least three different breads each baking day, plus teacakes or buns. Though Mick asks that customers order by 4.00pm on the day before a bake day, please wanting bread on the day are invited to call to check to see if Mick has any extra loaves.
'I currently bake around 35 sourdough loaves to order on Thursday night for my Friday delivery, and again on Sunday night for Monday. Knead to know has actually made me go slower and think of different angles and I feel this book has a lot to offer to bakers at all levels. In the very near future I am opening a stall on my front drive to supply more of my neighbours which will operate on a Saturday.'
The Really Good Bread Co.
Claire Whittaker began selling Real Bread to friends at the beginning of 2012 and now bakes around 25-30 loaves per week at home in Ashtead, Surrey over two days for sale via subscription schemes. ‘I love cycling around the village with my 3 year old, delivering healthy, delicious bread and chatting to my customers.’
Jane Mason does most of her baking from home, and also runs a Bread Angels course to teach others how to run their own home-based Real Bread businesses.
and outside the UK...
The Weekend Bakery
This is a homebakery in Holland, run by Ed & Marieke Dorré. The couple describe themselves as 'enthusiastic artisan at home bakers', who bake bread, mostly on demand, for our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, every week, but only during the weekends.
Some bakeries that outgrew their domestic kitchens.
Ben Mackinnon's homebakery '...began when I returned from a few months travelling at the end of 2009. I booked myself a place on a baking course at the School of Artisan Food which was taught by Carl Shavitz.' The next step came when 'a local pizza place agreed I could use their wood fired oven to bake bread when not in use. This wasn't practical for the long term, so I began looking around for a space where I could build my own oven.' It moved to a shared railway arch in London Fields in 2010, before setting up a bakery cafe a few arches down in 2011.
The Handmade Bakery
This pioneering Community Supported Bakery in Yorkshire began life in the kitchen of Dan and Johanna McTiernan. In the space of under three years, it went via the pizza oven of a local Italian restaurant and the back room of a community-owned shop to its current home.
'We started out as a micro-bakery making artisan bread and cakes from our home each weekend for a small group of friends. After a year, demand had outgrown our kitchen so we made the exciting and life-changing decision to give up our day jobs and open our first shop.'
loaf social enterprise
Following a meeting with Dan and Johanna from The Handmade Bakery at the Rise of Real Bread conference in 2009, Tom Baker quit his job with the NHS to run this social enterprise from his home in Birmingham. As well as running bread making courses, he also operates a Community Supported Bakery from his kitchen and back garden wood-fired oven. Thanks in part to the Everards and Artisans scheme, Tom moved the bakery to Stirchley High Street in September 2012.
If you’re considering starting a baking business, you will have considered your home as the workplace. Did you know that over 60% of new businesses in the UK are started from a home base; including baking businesses? Emma Jones, founder of home business website Enterprise Nation, offers a recipe for success.
The 5 basic ingredients to starting a bread-baking business from home
It’s good to do some preparation before starting out so you’ll be ready to start selling and promoting your new business. Here’s some points to bear in mind:
Emma Jones is founder of http://www.enterprisenation.com/, the home business website and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’. Her next book ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’ will be published in May 2010.
You can find a wealth of information in Knead to Know, our guide to success in running a Real Bread enterprise of any sort.
The governmental website Business Link offers advice regarding setting up a home-based business
Entitled Bread Skills, the 28th December 2009 edition of the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme focussed on the Real Bread Campaign’s supporters and friends. It included interviews with The Handmade Bakery, St Mary’s Bakery and the food writer Rose Prince, who was then planning to help her children set up a microbakery at home, which became The Pocket Bakery.