Breadmaking 101: Tips and steps every home baker should know

Chef Konstantino Blokbergen, founder of Firebake – Woodfired Bakehouse & Restaurant, shares why you should return to traditional methods of bread baking, and tips on making real bread at home.

1. Prepare the ingredients.
At Firebake, Konstantino uses freshly milled organic flour and non-ionised salt, as well as Nordaq Fresh water. “These pure ingredients allow a neutral-flavoured base that will enhance the natural flavours of real bread,” he says.

2. Create a sourdough starter a week before baking.
Start small with a ratio of 50:50g of water and flour. Disregard half, and “feed” the rest with 50:50g of water and flour every day for a week; your starter culture will ferment and become more active. You need a total of 120:120g ratio for an approximately 1.5kg recipe. Use what you need and refrigerate the leftover starter in a sealed glass jar for your next bake (which you have to “refresh” by feeding it for at least two days before use).

 (Read: Chef Konstantino shares with us which ovens are best for baking)

3. Make and knead your dough.
Dilute your starter with 400ml of room temperature water and 720g of flour. Mix well and let the dough rest for half an hour. Add 24g of salt with 80ml of water, and mix again. Knead until you have a ball of dough – good dough should not be too sticky or wet. Afterwards, give it four to six folds every half an hour, for the first two hours. Let the dough go through bulk fermentation for at least six hours in the fridge. The longer it ferments, the sourer the dough.

4. Proof the dough.
When you are ready to bake, bring it to room temperature and divide into two loaves. Shape each into a round ball (so it can ferment evenly) and place it in a basket layered with a kitchen towel. Cover with a damp cloth and let proof for at least another hour at room temperature. Remember to preheat the oven at 240 deg C, along with a cast iron pot, for an hour.

5. Bake the bread. 
“Use Dutch ovens or cast iron pots. The shallow bottom and high rise cover helps retain moisture, so you cook the bread in its own steam,” says Konstantino. Place the loaf (with baking paper) into the pot – score the surface if necessary – cover the lid, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 20 minutes; this gives it a nice colour, crackling and dry crust. When it’s done baking, cool the bread on a perforated grill for half an hour before serving.