It’s my absolute favourite week of GBBO (unsurprisingly!) – it’s Bake Off Bread Week! From the plentiful double innuendos to a stunning showcase of bread sculptures, there was plenty to love. And this week, the bakers showed us some of the common pitfalls that can stop you getting a great bake on your bread. So here’s five ways watching Bake Off Bread Week can help you bake great bread.

Get hands on kneading your bread dough

The Epsom Bakehouse how to knead bread dough bake off bread week

The bakers were asked to hand knead their cottage loaf dough as part of the technical challenge this week. And it’s not a big deal to do this! In fact, kneading by hand will give you a feel for how bread dough changes as the flour absorbs moisture and the gluten in the dough develops. My top tip would be don’t flour the surface – this will just dry your dough out. You can see a simple kneading technique in this video.

What is the window pane test?

A common question I hear in my bread making classes is ‘how long should I knead for?’ As Katy demonstrated this week in Bake Off, the window pane test is a great way to check that you’ve kneaded for long enough. The test demonstrates that you’ve developed enough gluten in your dough to give your bread structure and help it rise. Watch this video to find out more about the test.

Give your dough plenty of time to rise

Great bread takes time, something the Bake Off contestants don’t have much of. Ensuring your dough has plenty of time to rise will make the inside (crumb) of your final loaf light and airy, not dense and underbaked. Plus, your dough will develop fantastic flavours given time. Yeast works more slowly at cooler temperatures, so as we go into winter you might need to leave your dough to rise for longer. I’ll often leave basic doughs to rise for two hours during the first rise. So make like a Bake Off contestant in bread week – sit down, have a cuppa, do something else entirely, whilst your bread dough gets on doing its thing.

Shaping your loaf

The Epsom Bakehouse well-risen dough bake off bread week

You might think that hand kneading your dough will be the hardest part of bread making. But shaping your final loaf is a crucial step in getting a great bake. Shaping builds structure that will hold in place as your dough rises, and then bakes, ensuring your final loaf doesn’t collapse on itself. Find out more, including a video on shaping dough for a tin loaf, here.   

How to get a great bake  

The Epsom Bakehouse bread oven bake off bread week

In bread week, the judges were keen to assess how well baked the breads were. Did the final products have a good colour, was the dough baked through and did the bread feel light? Baking bread is usually done at a high temperature, often over 200C, so that the crust caramelises to a deep brown colour and the dough bakes through. Read more tips on getting a great bake on your bread here, from steaming your oven to using a baking stone.

Do you have any other bread baking questions? Do let me know in the comments – I’m writing an ongoing series of answers to bread making questions and would love to answer yours.

Want to learn how to bake your own great fresh bread? Find out how on one of my hands-on, relaxed bread making classes held here in Epsom, Surrey. Classes get top marks from my students too!