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Bread, the Stuff of Life

Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour (usually wheat) and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history and around the world, it has been an important part of many cultures' diet. It is one of the oldest human-made foods, having been of significance since the dawn of agriculture, and plays an essential role in both religious rituals and secular culture.

I love baking. Baking is where dough is transformed into bread: one of the oldest and most essential foods on the planet. It's the culmination of all our hours of work and waiting. Baking day is like science-fair day, Feast Day, and Judgment Day, all making a love child together. (Only there won't be any judging here—just learning.) Baking is magic and science all in one.


  • Mixing: That thing we do when we take our raw ingredients—in this case, flour, water, salt, and yeast—and combine them into a dough.

  • Proofing and shaping: Proofing is about letting the yeast eat up the sugars from the flour, and burp out gas and alcohol, which makes the bread rise and gives it a nice flavor. As bakers, proofing is about nurturing and caring for the dough, little-engine-that-could that it is. When shaping, we teach the dough what we want it to look like when it's a full-grown, fully baked loaf of bread.

  • Baking: We start by stabbing the dough we've nurtured and loved, usually several times, and then fling it into a screaming hot oven. Fire, brimstone, and Maillard reactions galore! What comes out of the oven should be airy, crusty, and delicious.

  • Storing/eating: Eat the bread. We made it, we deserve it. Are you going to try not to eat the whole fresh loaf right away, slathered in butter? Well fine, be that way. We'll talk about storage.

The Workhorse Loaf: An Introduction

The Workhorse loaf is white bread done plain and simple, with no frills. The following, four-ingredient formula yields two crusty hearth loaves with a nice, open crumb. It uses all white flour, and only calls for commercial yeast...for now. We'll get into the weird stuff in later posts.

  • All Purpose Flour: 1,000 g (100%)

  • Water: 700 g (70%)

  • Salt: 22 g (2.2%)

  • Yeast: 10g (1%) if using fresh; 5g (0.5%) if using active dry yeast; 4g (0.4%) if using instant

  • Total Dough Weight: 1,732g (173.2%)

But before we start baking, what is a formula? Is it the same as a recipe? Almost. It's like a recipe, but it's based on ratios (the percentages listed next to our weights above), not finite amounts. Why is this helpful? It's important for two main reasons. First, it makes scaling a recipe up or down really easy. Some days at work, I need to make two loaves of this bread; some days I might need a dozen. Memorizing the ratios in a formula allows me to easily make the amount of bread I want. Second, if we think of bread recipes in ratios, as formulas, it makes it easier to compare different kinds of bread with each other based on how much of each ingredient is present relative to the others—regardless of how many loaves we're making at once. As we get more practice looking at these ratios, it will allow us to alter a bread's formula to achieve certain qualities in the bread. It will also allow us to look at new formulas and have an idea of what it should feel and look like as we move through the process before we even start baking. That means fewer failed experiments.

Here are a few more recipes, if you decide the formula thing is not for you;

Baguette Recipe
Download PDF • 109KB

French Sourdough
Download PDF • 112KB

Multigrain bread
Download PDF • 114KB

And for those of you looking for a little more information, join our recipe & cookbook archive, and find hundreds more gems! Looking for more guidance in the Baking & Pastry Arts? Join one of our online programs today!

Cheers, and have a great week!

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