9 Myths about Bread Baking Debunked

About 5 years ago, there were two significant moments in my baking career. The first was my “eureka” moment: when I baked my first bread. This was followed by my biggest regret ( the 2nd significant moment):

Why didn’t I start baking sooner … ?

Like most, the answer was that I was afraid to begin. But were my fears sound and based on reason? Or were these completely unfounded?

Today, after baking regularly, almost every day, for the last 5 years, and also teaching my baking community for a long time , I have come to realize that most of my doubts were based on myths!

Today, I am here to debunk the myths about bread baking at home and will try to separate the wheat from the chaff. 🙂

Myth #1: Yeast needs a warm environment and sugar to become active, else the breads don’t bake right.

No. Yeast is active in cool water as well.

Fact: Yeast is active in a cold environment as well! It just takes more time. We can ferment or prove the dough even in a refrigerator. The only difference is the process will be slower. This is called retarding. This slow rise gives great flavour and texture to our breads. So, if it takes 1 hour for the dough to ferment or double in size at room temperature, which is say 35℃, it should be done in a refrigerator at 5℃ in about 6 to 7 hours. We can keep it in for a still longer time for sourdough breads, baguettes etc.

Yeast feeds on flour which has carbohydrates (sugar) and does not require extra sugar for becoming active. Some sugar is added to the dough either for flavour or to make some doughs richer as per the recipe. However, it is not a must for good breads. When I suggested the yeast proof test and asked that some sugar be added, it was to expedite the process. But remember, sugar is not essential to activate the yeast.

Myth #2: Baking is a difficult and complex process.

IT IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE! We’re just baking breads, not trying to go to the moon 🙂

Fact: It is very simple and doable — just look at Kavita’s Nankhatai recipe! No one should be deterred by the list of exotic ingredients and gadgets, or terms and jargon used by pro bakers. Always remember that the basic bread needs only 3 ingredients — flour, water, yeast. Everything else in the ingredients list is for special effects and for a special recipe. Once you know how to make the basic bread dough half the job is done! Further, it is your ingenuity and creativity that makes you experiment with add-ins like herbs, veggies, cheese, sugar, spices, milk, nuts, fruits etc. But, again remember, this is all optional and excusable! Friends, we already have all the ingredients and tools required for baking in our kitchen.

Myth #3: Baking is time consuming and tedious, something I would not like to engage in after a long day at the office.

This is probably how you feel after a long day. But hear me out …

Fact: From start to finish, a bread loaf takes 2&½ hours to prepare. Buns and calzones and pizzas take half an hour less. The duration for which you need to be present for the activity is less than half an hour (five minutes for preparation, ten minutes for kneading, five minutes for shaping…) unless you want to watch the bread rise or bake, which is also good, as it is therapeutic and relaxing 🙂

Cold proving overnight is another great option if there is some time constraint. It is recommended for slow rise and sourdough breads. In such recipes we use less amount of yeast. These breads that are delicious, full of flavour, have nice crumb and need much less kneading. So it’s a win-win for those who have less time during the day.

Myth #4: Breads are not healthy, as they have fat, sugar, salt and are bad for the gut.

Think about it — would you trust this store, or the bread you made in your own kitchen, from scratch?

Fact: Homemade breads are without any additives, chemicals, emulsifiers and stabilizers. They all contain fresh ingredients and the fermentation process brings out the nutritious elements, apart from making the grains easily digestible. These are very good for our health. Salt and sugar are added in very limited quantities and fat is not an essential ingredient in the bread recipe. And home bakers will always have the option of customizing their bread, pizza, garlic bread, etc. as they like it. Remember, our basic bread has only three ingredients- flour, water, yeast.

Myth #5: Breads must be kneaded for a long time, say 15 to 20 minutes, for the gluten to develop.

No. Not at all.

Fact: The rule of thumb is to knead for about 10 minutes for good gluten development, especially when using wheat flour, as we do. Bread flour and AP flour which have more proteins require less effort as gluten forms easily. Adding wheat gluten to the dough also reduces the kneading time and effort. However, if you make slow rise bread or sourdough breads, you may just knead for 2 or 3 minutes, then stretch, fold and prove for a long time. This will help develop gluten. There are also ‘no-knead’ breads, where only stretching and folding is needed. Eggs and other leavening agents such as flaxseeds and natural stabilizers such as vinegar, lemon juice, when added, aid in structure formation of the loaf, which in turn reduces the kneading time. The dough of banana breads or pumpkin breads, where we use baking powder and baking soda, do not require kneading either.

Don’t be wary of kneading because you can use a dough mixer too. But believe me, it is a soothing and therapeutic process and you really enjoy the rhythm, once you get the hang of it. Most bakers in our group are kneading by hands and are enjoying it thoroughly. Moreover, the satisfaction of baking artisan breads all by oneself means a lot to new bakers!

Myth #6: More yeast (or expensive yeast) means a better bread!

Fact: Yeast is the most elusive ingredient. Its mysteries often disconcert new bakers and doubts of even the regular bakers have not yet been fully addressed. The fact is that you do not need too much yeast, else the breads taste yeasty. More yeast is required for mechanical and speedy baking, which you might find in commercial bakeries.

However we home bakers go slow, and patience is our virtue. We use 6 to 7 grams of yeast in 450 grams of flour for a normal loaf and it can be reduced to 4 to 5 grams for a slow rise loaf. When we want to let the dough rise for a long time, we cut out most of the yeast, from the typical 2&¼ th teaspoons that come in a yeast packet, to one teaspoon or so. That way the dough will rise slowly as the yeast will take more time to ferment the dough. If the dough rises too quickly because of more yeast, the flavor will not develop. With practice you find that less yeast yields a more delicious and flavorful bread! Remember that any yeast is good and will give similar results. Only the sourdough starter is better and more nutritious (we will come to that soon!).

Myth #7: Quick rise bread, and yeast free breads, are also Real breads.

If it feels like cake, and breaks like cake, then it’s NOT bread!

Fact: Many quick rise breads are made with baking soda and baking powder where the chemical reaction is different than that of yeast breads. These baking agents also help in expanding the dough and such breads do rise well, but they are very similar to cakes in texture. Curd/milk or fat is added to assist in forming the structure (instead of gluten) as in banana, pumpkin, zucchini or other soda breads. Eggs are also used, which help in baking and rising of these breads.

Traditional breads are ‘yeast breads’. Yeast not only plays a key role in the leavening of the dough, but it also provides bread with a unique taste and texture. The yeast and the fermentation process, specially the slow fermentation or use of sourdough culture, further enhances the nutritional quality.

Myth #8: Gluten free breads are always healthier.

Fact: Gluten free breads are often the choice of people with gluten intolerance or sensitivity. People who have gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, should consult their doctors before eating regular wheat or maida breads in which yeast is used as gluten could cause health complications. If there is stomach discomfort after eating yeast breads (made of wheat and other grains such as rye, barley), then you should should consult your doctor. For such people breads can be made from rice, millets , amaranth and other gluten free grains.

For all others, these regular wheat breads, especially the ones we bake fresh at home with no additives, are very healthy and a great substitute for factory made breads. Gluten per se is not bad or unhealthy. Rather, there are several micro nutrients in wheat and other ‘gluten grains’ and such breads are nutritious and rich in fibre. The fermentation process during baking makes them digestible and these nutrients are easily absorbed.

Myth #9: Baking the same product, with the same process over and over, will soon become boring.

Fact: Here I am, baking regularly for 5 years now, along with our big community of more than 600 home bakers, who are also baking regularly. Believe me, there is not a single boring day and never a dull moment, as neither any two breads nor any two baking experiences are the same!

Closing thoughts

Remember: you are baking. You are creating a new experience each day. You are contributing to the health of your family and yourself. You know what is in your bread and you know how to make it even better. The same master dough can be folded into different shapes, with different fillings and baked with different techniques. You are only limited by your imagination!

Hope the myths stand busted and new bakers are ready to hop on our bandwagon!!

Take care.

21 thoughts on “9 Myths about Bread Baking Debunked

  1. Anjana Dube

    So true Renu, thanks for explaining all these in details so nicely.
    While trying and testing various varieties and bread flavours one enjoys the process and the best is the aroma of the bread while it’s gets baked and eating warm bread just out of the oven.
    Look forward to receipe/tips for gluten free breads too as my son has lactose intolerance.

    1. renuamitabh Post author

      I will soon share some gluten free recipes. Do try out the recipes here and share your experience, as you always do. Thanks!

  2. Poonam Singh

    Renu your encouraging myth breakers
    are truly motivating.
    Did bake my yeast bread with your recepie but still a long way to go.
    Your helpful and inspiring tips are so encouraging and make the daunting task of bread baking more attractive proposition.

  3. Meenakshi Subramanian

    Hello Renu ji, Thank you very much for educating us so well. I am really enjoy baking with your recipes, tips and techniques. Looking forward to monday and friday to learn new recipes. I have few doubts regarding yeast can you clarify please.
    1. Where can i buy yeast,
    2. Instant yeast is good or the normal one.
    3. Is there any particular brand of yeast or can i buy any unkonown brand too?

    1. renuamitabh Post author

      You are welcome Meenakshiji.You can buy instant yeast online or from any good departmental store. Some common brands used by our group members are Angel and Royal Lion.

  4. Vishakha

    Wonderful article. Well articulated and detailed. Ignited a desire to bake everyday. Thank you 😊

  5. Archana bhagat

    Amazing article Ma’am … I will start my experiment with baking this weekend and tell you the results .. I hope I will make you proud😊

  6. Nirmla lohan

    Gudmng ma’am…
    It’s really good to know that these are the myths which makes people think that baking is a very tedious and perfectionist job…. Though cooking is my hobby and I love it, but I was always afraid of trying my hand on baking… But with your helpful tips, I am feeling little confident to give baking a try…
    Hoping for such informative tips in future… thanks

  7. Vishakha Singh

    Wonderful article. Well articulated and detailed. Ignited a desire to bake everyday. Thank you 😊

  8. Urmila

    Hello ma’am…
    The caption ” Why didn’t I started baking sooner” is too apt for many beginners like me…. Baking is always considered much difficult than other cooking techniques due to minor technicalities required and people are generally afraid of giving it a try… But ma’am as you explained few tips and clarification regarding myths which make baking a tough will surely help starters like me…. And I m sure, I will also regret one dat that “Why didn’t I started baking sooner “

    1. renuamitabh Post author

      Urmila let us start now so that there are no more regrets. I am sure you can bake very well as you are inclined to bake. So no further delay!!

  9. Urvashi

    Gud afternoon ma’am,
    I am a working woman but I love cooking, specially for my family…. But when it comes to baking, because now a days kids are more inclined towards pizza and burgers… I feel bit reluctant when my son have market based pizza and burgers because we know they are not healthy…. But your tips and journey of baking make me think to start baking …
    thanks for important information… looking forward for more tips…

  10. Deeksha

    Hiii…
    Good to know about your baking journey…. this is the story of almost all Indian mothers who are always willing to give their family healthy food… but kids have changed their taste and more inclined towards baked foods which we Indian mother’s hesitate to try… but ur journey motivate to start baking

    1. renuamitabh Post author

      Deeksha you are absolutely right. The reason for taking to baking was my kids who loved breads and pizza. Oce you start baking at home you will realize how simple, delicious and healthy all these home made bakes are!! Join our baking community! Welcome!

  11. Shubha Narayanan

    This is an amazing group. I failed in making bread so many times that I had decided that baking is not at all meant for me. I had huge misunderstandings about yeast, and never even knew how to know whether it was dead or active. I tried oats and sooji bread which came out reasonably well, buns which came out quite well, and now going to try nankhatai too. Thanks for Renu for being the inspirational force and instilling confidence that we can all bake, and for every member who has added much value to the group by learning, trying and motivating others!
    Shubha Narayanan

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