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We went along to Le Pain Quotidien in Borough Market, London, and learnt some top bread-making tips for both seasoned bakers and novices.
• Only use strong bread flour as any other types will ruin the loaf.
• When adding in your salt, yeast and sugar, put them in small piles to the side of the bowl – then you can see that you've already added them and don't put in too much!
• If adding seeds to your bread, soak them in a little warm water first – this will soften them for baking and also ensure they don't soak up too much moisture from your dough mixture.
• The longer you leave your dough to prove the better – don't be in a rush to get it in the oven!
• Make sure that after proving you put a deep cut on top of the loaf, otherwise the sides will crack.
• To give your crusts the best crunch, sprinkle a light coating of fine polenta onto your dough just before baking.
• Use oil rather than flour on the table when kneading, so the loaf doesn't take on more flour than required.
• When mixing your ingredients, always add the salt and yeast separately, as the salt can kill the yeast.
• When preheating the oven, place a roasting tin on the bottom shelf to get hot. Then, add a mugful of water to the hot tin when you put your loaf in the oven. The steam will help create a crisp crust.
• If using fresh yeast, make sure it is at room temperature before adding.
• The window-pane test is a simple way to see if you've done enough kneading. Stretch the dough between your fingers – if you can stretch it thin enough to let light shine though, it is ready for shaping. If not, get kneading again! (This only works with white bread dough).
• Resist the temptation to cut into the loaf when hot. Leave to cool to room temperature first.
• Don't be afraid to experiment. Throw some poppy, sesame or pumpkin seeds into the mix for a bit of texture. Or try adding whole spices, such as cumin, for a boost of flavour.
If you're baking bread for the first time, this is a great loaf to start with: