The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Simple Bread - maybe too simple?

tboland's picture

Simple Bread - maybe too simple?

I have always been the cake, cookie and quickbread baker, while my Dear Wife (DW) has always been the bread baker. She actually sold her bread through a Farmer's Market in Iowa many moons ago. The old paradigm in our house when people asked who baked what was pretty simple. It came down to leavening. If it was chemical (or absent), it was me. If it was biological, it was DW.

I tried to understand what she was ding, but she would always use terms like "as much as it needs" and "you'll know when there's enough". For a cookie baker, that's just anathema, bordering on heresey. 10 grams of flour difference and you have very different cookies. I couldn't wrap my head around the imprecision (not inaccuracy) of it all.

Finally, I deided that it was time to break the code on this bread / yeast thing. There were going to be rules here, though.

  1. It has to taste great
  2. It has to be consistent
  3. It has to be easy to do
  4. It has to be easy to clean up after.
  5. It has to be able to be done one loaf at a time because there is only two of us in the house,

DW makes several hand-kneaded loaves at a time and it completely takes over the kitchen for hours and the sale of the cleanup is fairly large. Because of this, she wasn't making bread that often. I was looking for a day to day bread, and she likes to bake wonderful project breads. If I could take care of the D2D bread, she gets to have teh fun of doing what she likes when she likes whithout having to worry about not having fresh bread around.

I started out trying to duplicate DW's procedure on a smaller scale and using a stand mixer. I wanted a softer bread because DW's bread was just a touch too artisan for me. Once I replicated her procedures, I started to adjust for the changes, such as mixing vs kneading. In DW's hand procedure, this was a big differene because of turning out the dough onto a board on a special height counter. For me, the difference is changing the speed on the mixer.

(She is 5' 3" and a standard cabinet / counter is too high for her kneading. When we redid the kithen, we had a custom baking cabinet put in that is "Anne height" - I have no idea how high it is, just that it fits her kneading height. We had the cabinet-ordering-person meaure the height from the floor to the bottom of her palm with her hand outstretched and her arm down at her side.)

What I am looking for is comments about whether I went too far in simplifying the procedure. So far, so good, though.

Sorry about the charts. That's how it got converted from Word and I am new to this blog. Here is a link to a PDF file.



Basic Bread Using All Purpose Flour

Ingredient List


Bakers' %


US Volume


All Purpose UBW Flour



3.333 cups

~ 1 lb

Bottled water



1.333 cups


Kosher salt



1.5 tsp


Active Dry yeast



2 tsp

~1 pack






Melted butter






Equipment and Supplies

Stand mixer, bowl, and dough hook

Digital kitchen scale

2 cup microwave-safe measuring cup

Probe thermometer

Clean Tea Towel

Baker’s Joy spray

Bread pan (medium or large)

Small microwave-safe cup for melting butter


General Notes and Description

This is a very straightforward white bread. The dough will be wet.  That’s OK. Let the dough be what the dough will be. This procedure is designed for great taste, consistent results, easy preparation and even easier cleanup.


Other Assumptions

  • All ingredients, including water, were weighed using grams in developing procedure.  All volume measurements are converted (and then approximated) from weight.
  • 135 g per cup of AP flour.
  • California coastal climate – 55 to 75 degrees F, 20% to 50% relative humidity, sea level.
  • National brand unbleached white (UBW) All Purpose flour at 11 - 12% protein.
  • Very hard water area, requiring bottled water.
  • KitchenAid Artisan (325 watt, 5 qt, 4.7 L) mixer used for compiling procedure data.
  • Baker’s Secret medium bread pan used as reference.
  • Auto-convection baking – Set at 350 degrees, converts down 25 degrees to account for convection heating element.
    • If not using convection, use standard bake at 350 degrees and bake to 185 degrees F internal temperature, noting times for future reference.
    • If not using convection and If oven is known for uneven heating, spin pan around 180 degrees right before placing probe thermometer at the 25 minute mark.
  • Bread flour cab be substituted 1:1 by weight for AP flour. It will change the texture a bit.
  • Salt amount is a minimum; add up to 2 to 3 grams per personal taste.

Dry Prep              Step time: 2 minutes                      Cumulative time: 2 minutes

  1.  Weigh flour into mixer bowl.
  2.  Add salt and yeast. Volume measures can be used, but weight is preferred.
  3.  Place bowl on mixer with dough hook attached.

Wet Prep            Step time:  2 minutes                     Cumulative time:  4 minutes

  1.  Pour water into 2 cup measure.
  2.  Heat carefully to 105 to 115 degrees F in microwave. Use a thermometer. No guessing

Mix                        Step time: 2 minutes                      Cumulative time: 6 minutes

  1. Mix the dry ingredients for 30 seconds on medium speed.
  2. With mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the water over 30 seconds to one minute.
  3. With mixer still on medium speed, add honey over 15 seconds. I squeeze out of the bottle without measuring – I guess at this.  Less work and cleanup. This is the only place in the procedure I do this.

 Knead                   Step time: 15 minutes                    Cumulative time: 21 minutes

  1. Lower mixer speed to low (2 or 3) and let it run for 15 minutes total.
  2. To move some of the ingredients off the bottom of the bowl, increase to medium speed (4 or 5) every 5 minutes for 30 seconds each time.
  3. Turn off mixer and recover any dough from dough hook.

 Rise                       Step time: 2 hours, 1 minute       Cumulative time: 2 hours, 22 minutes

  1. Remove bowl from mixer and place on a not-cool counter.
  2. Cover bowl with clean tea towel.
  3. Let rise for 2 hours. It should look like the Son of Blob.

 Bake Prep and Second Rise

                                Step time: 23 minutes                    Cumulative time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

  1. At the two hour mark of the rise, preheat oven to Auto-Convection Bake 350 degrees. See Other Assumptions note on this.
  2. Spray Bread Pan with Baker’s Joy spray.
  3. Lightly hand-knead the Blob in the bowl to release gas pockets for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Pour the dough into the prepared Bread Pan.
  5. Let rise again in uncovered Bread Pan for 20 minutes.
  6. While rising, heat butter using microwave in microwave-safe cup and let cool to >=100 F.
  7. At the end of the rise, pour cooled melted butter over top of loaf and spread evenly. Your clean fingers are good tools for this.

 Bake                      Step time: ~40 minutes                 Cumulative time:~3 hours, 30 minutes

  1. Auto-Convection bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes with the pan dead center in the oven.
  2. Place probe thermometer center mass in loaf set to 185 degrees F.
  3. Auto-Convection bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until internal temp hits 185 F. Temperature wins over time.

 Cool                       Step time: 25 minutes                    Cumulative time:~4 hours

  1. Remove bread pan from oven.
  2. Let cool for at least 5 minutes in pan.
  3. Turn out bread onto cooling rack or bread board or wherever.
  4. Cover with tea towel after 20 minutes.
  5. It can take up to 2 hours before the bread is cool enough (>= 100 degrees F) to place in plastic bread bag for storage or freezing.

These loaves are residual heat sinks. If you don’t believe me, leave the probe thermometer in until it completely cools to 100 degrees F.


Floydm's picture

Fear not, tboland, and anyone else who makes a post that appears to disappear when you save.  It is still there and in the database.  

There is a little switch I can toggle to make it reappear (which I just did) and I am working diligently to figure out why that is happening sometimes when folks paste from Word.  

If anyone else makes a post and experiences this problem, send me a message and let me know so I can fix your post at once.



tboland's picture

Thanks. I assumed that I was doing something wrong.

gary.turner's picture

Ooh. I really dislike that wet a dough for a d2d sandwich bread. About 60–65% is optimal for that type of bread. (There are lots of wet-dough advocates that will likely argue, but hey! They're not making sandwich bread, even if they make sandwiches with it.) I go with 60% water plus whatever residual water from honey, butter, &c.. For example, you use ~10% honey which adds water equiv to ~2.5% of flour weight.

The lower hydration, with a strong mix will provide for smaller alveoli with an even distribution; the jam doesn't leak through. Another benefit is that cleanup is easier with a less sticky dough.

You may want to try using milk for some or all of the water. You'll need to allow for milk being only about 90% water. Milk will soften the crumb and lengthen the shelf life, a key reason for the fame of Viennese breads.

Another simple shelf life and flavor enhancement is a preferment. I like to throw together a simple poolish the night before bake day. Take (for example) 20% of your flour and an equal weight of your liquid (150g each) and mix them together. Add about 0.1% yeast. That's 0.15g—I simply use a small pinch. Cover and ferment at room temp for 12 to 16 hours. Incorporate the poolish with the rest of the liquids. You may reduce the final amount of yeast anywhere from 20% to 100% depending on the time required for the bulk rise. I usually knock it back by 50%. The long, slow ferment allows for enzymatic action to break down the starches into complex sugars which add a tremendous amount of flavor. Another result is the increased acidity. Acidity improves the protease's  ability to break down the proteins, compared to amylases breaking out the sugars.

A darker crust due to the Maillard reaction will make for a more complex flavor profile. I bake this type bread at 350 or 360℉ (no fan) until interior temp exceeds 200℉. If you like the crumb you get at 185℉, simply raise the oven temp until the desired crumb temp is reached as the crust becomes a lovely rich looking golden brown.

These are suggestions that conform to your stated requirements. I'm guessing in your real life you're either a baker or an engineer. Excellent write-up.


tboland's picture

I'm a Systems Administrator who actually documents things. I am known for my user-readble docs. Most Sysadmins aren't that good at it.

I will try the higher temp / shorter time mehtod to 185 degrees and see if that darkens it up just a little.

I also like the milk idea. I will definetly try that, too. But probably not at the same time I try the temp/time change. One change at a time.

 I have noticed that with the residual heat in the bread, it climbs to 190+ after pulling it at 185. This is also true of my quickbreads and (less so) of my cakes. I haven't seen a lot of documentation on residual heat in bread baking. I guess most people don't leave the proble thermometer in the loaf after removal from the oven.

Thanks for your comments. That's exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.


tboland's picture

BTW, my DW is a Systems Engineer in Aerospace. She writes requirements for a living. So our household has a higher threshold for  detail and quality in notes and documentation than most, I assume.

gary.turner's picture

I don't think it's really much of an issue. Temperature rise is self limiting. While the crust may reach oven temps, the crumb is limited to no more than 212℉ by its moisture content.

gary.turner's picture

Here is a well documented approach to making sandwich bread, written by a software/system engineer. I'd bet her documentation at work is also easy to understand. Shreddably soft sandwich bread

I know of a bunch of man pages I wouldn't mind either of you rewriting. ;-)

Take a look at TXfarmer's blog index



tboland's picture

Great Suggestion

I looked at the TXFarmer's loaf and am *very* intrigued. I will try that. Very interesting on making three little loaves in the pan. I will have to try that. Really want to try the Pullman variation.

On the crazy detail of the documentation - I use the documentation experience that make sure that I haven't missed anything. A lot of recipes fail for me because they list ingredients, but leave one or two steps or methods out becauase the writer doesn't even think about it anymore. An example would be on how hard or fast they knead bread or lightly they bring biscuit dough together because thay have been doing it for 20 to 50 years.

When writing things up, I force every step to be absolutely complete to an independent observer. It also forces me to make sure that the step is required or can it be made simpler with the same or better results. The documentation process get rid of the "We've always done it that way" issue.


gary.turner's picture

One reason Ted Williams never coached a hitter into greatness was that what he was able to do was not what he thought he was doing, and was dependent on his natural talent which he assumed everyone had. Naturals and old-timers seem to have the most trouble explaining things. Not to mention nobody likes writing docs.

Nice thing about Lisp is its self-documenting feature; well, you still have to write it, but you do it on the fly in a comment within the block.

The rule I followed (retired now) is to always assume the guy who has to maintain your work is a violent psychotic who knows where you live.


//edit: Read a bunch of the other articles txfarmer wrote. She is a very meticulous worker. We can all learn from her experiments.