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How To Bake A Perfect, Fluffy Loaf of Bread

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Freshly baked bread is the best smell in the world – and a staple you can freeze too.

So if you’re thinking about baking your own, here’s an easy step-by-step bread recipe that will show you how to prep, knead and bake the perfect loaf at home.

Ingredients

Makes 1 loaf

1 sachet fast action yeast

300 ml tepid water

20 ml olive oil

1 tsp sugar

560 g strong white flour (also called ‘bread flour’)

2 tsp flaky salt (or 1tsp table salt)

A loaf tin

Method

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Mix the yeast, water, oil and sugar together in a measuring jug, then leave for 5-10 minutes until the yeast has gone foamy. This means it’s activated.

Add your dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook) and create a well in the centre.

Pour your yeast mixture and mix until fully combined.

Knead for 15 minutes by hand, or for 10 minutes if using an electric mixer.  You’ll know it’s ready when it is smooth and silky and will spring back if you press it.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to knead your bread dough by hand

Step 1: Prepare a flat surface for kneading by cleaning it with warm, soapy water, drying with a towel, and dusting it with flour so the dough doesn’t stick.

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Step 2: Tip your dough onto a floured work surface. It should be a sticky, loose lump.

Step 3: Wash and dry your hands again. Now roll up your sleeves and get ready to knead!

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Step 4: Gather the dough in a pile, it should feel very tacky and difficult to manage at first. Work it with your hands by forming it into a ball, then pressing down and away from you, and reshaping it. Keep going (this is a great stress reliever!) until it starts feeling smoother and silkier. If it doesn’t, sprinkle with a bit more flour.

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Step 5: Continue to work the dough for 10-15 minutes, regularly turning it and without resting for too long.

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Step 6: You can stop kneading when your dough looks shiny and smooth. It should be slightly tacky, elastic and spring back when you press it. This means the gluten has developed, and you’ll have a light, springy finished loaf.

Once you’re done kneading…

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Grease a clean bowl with olive oil. Roll the dough into a ball and place in the bowl.

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Cover with cling film, a clean tea towel or a clean/new shower cap (I keep one specifically for baking)  and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.

Whilst your dough is rising oil and flour your bread tin.

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When the dough has risen (save your clingfilm/tea towel/shower cap for later) turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and stretch the dough out until you have formed a thin sheet about 1cm thick.

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Fold into thirds – imagine you’re folding an A4 letter to go into a standard envelope.

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Starting at one of the narrower ends, roll the dough towards you, using your thumbs to tightly tuck the roll so it stays taut, you don’t want any gaps in the roll.

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Place the loaf in the tin, seam-side down, sprinkle with flour, cover with the tea towel from earlier and leave to rise a second time.

This should be about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size again.

After about 40 minutes, turn your oven on as high as it will go, you want it screaming hot!  If you have a baking stone – like a pizza stone put this in the oven now too (optional).  After 10 minutes, put a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to create steam.

Top tip! Be VERY careful when opening the oven after 10 minutes, as the steam rushing out can scald you.

Uncover your loaf.

Using a sharp knife, score a line down the top of your dough, and put the tin in the oven (on the baking stone if using) and set a timer for 10 minutes.  When your alarm goes off, remove the water tray from the oven and let some of the steam out, and turn the oven down to gas mark 8/230ºC/210ºCfan.

Bake for a further 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. You can test if your bread is cooked through by removing the loaf and knocking on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s ready.

Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely before cutting into it. Congratulations – you baked a delicious loaf of bread. Time to share your creations with us on social media. Don’t forget to tag us @goustocooking we love seeing what you bake! And if this bread still hasn’t scratched that baking itch for you why not try one of our other sweet recipes? We’ve got an incredible recipe for Toffee Apple Cake and our Chocolate Guinness Cup Cakes are a must-try.  As always if you have any questions for us (or tips to share) let us know in the comments below.

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