Bread making for beginners

by Maria from Bulgaria

Are you longing for real thick bread with a hard crusty crust, instead of the supermarket sweetened sponge? Yes, itfs quite hard to find and itfs usually quite expensivec

But, you can make it yourself at home cheaply and easily! Let me share my experience and hope this convinces you to try.

We don't have a bread maker, just a combined oven with microwave ? standard Japanese machine.

Even though I come from a bread-eating country I've never made bread, or any dough-thing, before coming to Japan - I always considered it too complicated for my cooking level. My mother never did anything of this sort either. It's only my grandma who would sometimes do pastry. This is just to tell you from what humble bread-making background I come. Another note among these lines - in our house my boyfriend is responsible for the bread making and he has absolutely no previous relevant experience whatsoever. Initially we were taught by a (male) friend of mine who makes his bread in a small toaster oven..

Now, hope this convinces you - making bread is VERY easy. Me too, I didnft believe at first, but it is.

OK, he's the procedure, simple as children's game.

What you need:
1. flour, 1 kg and some more (might need to add more to get the needed consistency). There seem to be two types of flour in this country - strong and weak. Can
ft tell you what the difference is. We use the cheapest and it always work just fine. Here's a word about whole-wheat flour (brown flour or whatever you call it). We can rarely find such flour (but we prefer it) so we just mix white flour with bran (the brown cover of the grains, in our Yamanaka supermarket they sell it as Graham ? gurahamu, look in the cake baking section) and sometimes add rye flour or soba flour or corn flour. Whatever you use, make the total volume to 1 kg.
2. yeast (dry yeast, dorai iisto - ask in your supermarket, it's usually in cake baking section together with all the fancy little decorations for cake and flour mixtures for muffins and sort), 2 tea spoons per 1 kg flour. The pack instructions will be for a huge amount-that's for a spongy type of pastry.
3. salt, 1 tea spoon, but actually the amount is a question of personal taste. We find it tasteless without salt.
4. water, around a liter, approximately. You will see for yourself what
fs the best amount - if the dough gets too hard, you add some extra water, if it's too loose you add some more flour till you get what you need - a firm non-sticky elastic dough.
That's all!

You might as well need the following:
5. a big bowl, where you'll do the mixture and will work the dough. We use a plastic bowl from Daiso.
6. Baking dish - not very necessary, but helps if you want to make a big loaf in a nice shape. I use an oval heat-resistant glass dish, but before we had it we just shaped the dough by hand and simply placed it on the baking tray. This works perfect if you make little rolls instead of a loaf. What we noticed
? whole-wheat (brown) flour makes firm dough that holds well and keeps its shape during baking on a tray, but white flour gives much looser dough that doesn't stay in shape without a baking dish.
7. sieve (sifter) - flour gets better if sieved, but it's not an absolute requirement. they sell them in 100 yen shops.

Time: 2
? 2.5 hours total. From it, 30 min work.

1. measure 2 tea spoons of the yeast in a cup and add warm! water. Add just a little bit of crystal sugar (optional, but the yeast bacteria will be happier). The yeast is simply dry bacteria - they need some warmth to come back to life again and will enjoy some sugar for breakfast. They are the main stars in the bread making - they eat sugar and produce gases - fermentation - that's how we get the dough to rise.
Leave the cup with yeast for 15 min (while you're preparing the rest)
After you open the dry yeast pack it's better to keep it tightly closed in the fridge.

2. Place half of the flour into the working bowl (0.5 kg total mixture of whatever flour you decide to use; at this stage I put all the brown stuff and leave for adding later only the white flour), sieve it if you want (the bran (graham) can't be sieved). Add the salt and mix it in the flour. Make a well and pour in the yeast water. Add the rest of the water. Take a spoon and start stirring and mixing everything till all the flour is taken in the mixture. It will be still very loose mixture. Just start adding little by little more flour, mixing it into the dough until it gets strong enough to start working it by hand (at this stage it will be still very sticky so your hands will get really sticky, but that
fs part of the fun J; get some flour and rub it into your hands to clean them from the dough). Try to get the dough into a big ball. Cover the bottom of the bowl or the table/kitchen counter with some flour and start working the dough ? press with your wrist in the middle to flatten it, fold it in two, press in the middle again, fold it in two from the longer end, press, fold, press, foldcyou got the picture. All the time add flour on the working surface and cover the dough with some flour too, then try to incorporate this new flour into the dough. How long ? until the dough becomes easy to handle, elastic and not sticky even if not covered with flour. This usually takes 10-15 min.

3. Leave the dough to rest and rise at a warm place. How?

3.1. If you have an oven, they usually have a function of 30-40 degrees warming. This is exactly for dough rising. Just switch this function on, select 40 min or 1 hour (I go for 1 hour). Take a dish at least 2 times bigger than the dough volume (as it will rise!) and cover the bottom with some oil (any oil, just to prevent the dough from sticking). Place the dough in the dish, put it in the oven and wait for it to rise.

3.2. If you donft have an oven (just like the friend who taught us). Take a deep pan or casserole with a cover, at least 2 times bigger than the volume of the dough. Cover the bottom with s little oil (just to prevent the dough from sticking). Place the dough in the pan/casserole, place the cover. Heat the pan/casserole on the gas cooker ? strong flame for a short time ? you aim to heat the walls of the container, not to fry the dough. Then cover the pan/casserole with few layers of towels/little blankets and leave it. In summer one heating is enough (and in hot days no heating is needed), but in winter the pan should be checked often and if the walls get cold should be reheated repeatedly.

4. The dough has risen. It gets at least double.

4.1 If youfve been rising it in an oven in a baking dish and want to make a big loaf, just turn to the oven function 210 degrees Celsius 40 min (give it 50 min the first time and see how it goes for your oven) switch it on and wait for the dough to get even bigger and eventually to become golden/slightly brown on the top.

4.2. If youfve been rising it in a casserole and want to make a big loaf in an oven (thatfs what wefve been doing for half an year until we accidentally discovered our oven HAS a rising function), just take it out of the pan and place it in a baking dish, or give it a form (round, cylinder) and place it on a baking tray, stick it into the oven and bake for 40-50 min at 210 degrees Celsius.

4.3. If you want to make little rolls instead of big loaf (and thatfs what you can do in a toaster oven).

Take the dough out of whatever youfve been rising it into. Place it on the table/kitchen counter covered with some flour. Tear with hands little peaces and make balls. Make them as equal size as possible. Cover the baking tray with some oil and place your rolls on it. Bake at high temperature for probably 30 min, but check them often as it will all depend on your toaster oven. They should rise and get slightly brown on the top.

5. Ready! You have 1 kg of bread! Take your bread out of the oven, cover with clean towel and leave to cool down. With big loafs wefve noticed that cutting it while itfs still hot is no good ? the inside is still too moist from the steam and gets a bit gluey. But if left to cool itfs just perfect.


1.       anyway. You might want to try though ? after the initial rising, work the dough a little and give it a form/make little balls. Leave this final form in its final baking container to rise for 1 hour again, before baking it.

2.       This recipe is the simplest ? only flour, yeast and water. You can add some olive oil into the initial mixture, or some nuts/raisins/corn/ anything while youfre working the dough (not at the very beginning, but when you get a formed dough).

3.       This dough makes decent pizza too. Tried and approved J After rising separate the dough in small pieces and flatten them, put any topping you like and bake.

4.       How much does it all cost? 1 kg of white flour is between 100 and 200 yen.. 500g of bran (graham) is around 300 yen, a big pack of yeast (that keeps us going for months) is around 500 yen.