Bread Making 101

To make flavorful bread and crusty loaves start by selecting your ingredients.


Flour is the most important ingredient for making bread. One can choose unbleached, stone ground or gluten-free. Wheat flour contains protein. When moistened, the protein turns into gluten. Gluten is the elastic substance that gives bread its chewiness and fluffy texture. Different types of flour will change the taste and appearance of your bread. Whole wheat and rye, for instance, do not rise as much as white flour. Bread dough made with more than half whole grains may rise less.


Water moistens the ingredients and helps warm the yeast. Yeast is more active in wetter dough. This makes it sticky and hard to handle. Different types of flour absorb more, or less, water than others.


Yeast is a living organism. It feeds on flour in the dough. As the mixture sits, it ferments, and the yeast expels carbon dioxide gas. The gas gets trapped in the dough and it magically rises. Consider using active dry and instant yeast to make bread dough. Both are easy to use and can be added directly to the flour. Or dilute the yeast in warm water before using. Fresh baker’s yeast, which is available in some markets or from a local baker, must be moistened in water before using.


Eggs, butter, olive oil, sugar, honey and other sweeteners will tenderize and flavor dough. Sweeteners help the yeast to ferment. Therefore, bread dough made with eggs, fats and sweeteners will rise more.

Tips for making the Dough

  • Carefull spoon flour into a measuring cup and then sweep off the excess with a table knife. 
  • Add the water a little at a time until you have a dough that is elastic and keeps its shape without sticking to your fingers.
  • If you add too much water, your dough may be sticky, heavy, and not easy to handle.
  • If you don’t add enough water, the bread will be dry and crumbly. 
  • If you add too much yeast, your bread will have an unpleasant taste. 


Kneading activates the protein in the flour. This gives your bread dough chewy texture. It doesn’t matter whether you mix dough by hand, in an electric mixer, a food processor or a bread machine. Each method achieves similar results. Our goal is to have dough that is silky and smooth.


Place the dough in a bowl or container and cover it with a clean linen towel, plastic wrap or a lid. Let the dough rise at room temperature, protected from any drafts, for the time indicated in the recipe. Pay attention to the temperature. If your kitchen is too cold, the yeast will not ferment, and if too warm, the dough will rise too much. Consider this when deciding how much time you will need as well as what the recipe calls for. 


Before the last rise, shape the dough and place it in your bread baker. Spice seasoning blends are nice placed on top. Just before baking, make rapid, smooth incisions on the dough’s surface using a sharp knife or baker’s lame. These incisions allow it to rise. If you don’t score the surface, the crust may be misshapen. When ready to bake, place the bread baker into the oven, then bake according to the time and temperature indicated in the recipe.


Your bread baker works just like a baker’s oven. The lids trap moisture that evaporates from the bread dough. The moisture turns to steam, which keeps the dough moist during baking. By the end of the baking process, the excess moisture has entirely evaporated, drying out the loaf just enough to get a light, airy bread with a crispy, golden crust.


Each bread baker holds a certain amount of dough. Use recipes with the amount of flour recommended for your bread baker. With experience, once you have used your bread baker a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much dough it holds and you may find that it holds a little more (or less) of a particular dough recipe than another.


We recommend that you brush the bottom section of your bread baker with oil or nonstick cooking spray, then dust it with flour (wheat flour, rice flour or fine semolina) before using. Moister dough will require dusting more flour. Wet doughs, like most no-knead recipes, need a heavy sprinkling of flour. Before your formed dough rises the second time, you may also place it onto a sheet of parchment paper and use it as a sling to transfer into the bread baker. It will help keep the bread from sticking.


Use the oven temperatures listed with the recipes in this booklet. Because all ovens behave differently, you may want to test the temperature the first few times you use your bread baker. Set your timer for 10 minutes less than the time indicated in the recipe. Check the bread by carefully removing the lid and adjust the remaining baking time as needed.


When your bread baker is hot, sue heavy oven mitts or potholders. Remember to remove the lid carefully. Stand back so that steam can escape away from your face. Use a trivet or safe place for the lid and base when they come out of the oven.


Select recipes with the recommended amount of flour or make your favorite dough. Then remove some of the dough and bake it separately into a small loaf or roll. When using one of your own recipes, preheat your oven 25-35 degrees F higher than the temperature you normally use. The clay is thick and absorbs heat.


Tips for common questions.


Refer to the Emile Henry Bread Baker Capacity Chart, then select recipes with the recommended amount of flour for the bread baker you would like to use.


You can let your dough rise in your bread baker then place it into a preheated oven or preheat your empty baker and carefully transfer your proofed dough into the hot vessel. You can even place your dough-filled bread baker into a cold oven. For best results, follow the instructions in the recipe.


You will get good results if you place your bread baker on a rack where it fits close to the middle of your oven. Shallower bakers (Baguette Baker, Ciabatta Baker, Crown Bread Baker, Mini Baguette Baker and Epi Wheat Baguette Baker) may be placed in the upper third of your oven.


Be sure to use recipes with the recommended amount of flour for your baker. Do not over proof the dough during the second rising; it can rise too much and stick to the lid and sides of the baker.


You can place your bread baker in the dishwasher. Or soak it in warm water with some detergent or white wine vinegar to remove baked-on stains. Just wipe it with a sponge after soaking. Let it air dry and, like all Emile Henry products, it will last you for many years to come!

Homemade Sourdough Starter


To begin your starter:

  •  1 cup King Arthur Whole Rye (pumpernickel) or Whole Wheat flour
  •  1/2 cup cool water


To feed your starter:

  •  Scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  •  1/2 cool water (if your house is warm), lukewarm water (if your house is cool)



Combine the pumpernickel or whole wheat flour with the cool water in a non- reactive container. (If you have only all-purpose flour, you can use it. But it may take an additional day or two to get going.) Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this. Make sure the container is large enough to hold your starter as it grows; we recommend at least 1-quart capacity. Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there’s no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. See TIPS* for advice about growing starters in a cold house.


You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling. Either way, discard half the starter (about 1/2 cup), and add to the remainder a scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it’s cold). Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.


By the third day, you’ll likely see some activity — bubbling, a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It’s now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows. For each feeding, stir down the starter and measure out a generous 1/2 cup. Discard any remaining starter. Add a scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the reserved starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.


Measure out a generous 1/2 cup of starter and discard any remaining starter. Repeat steps from Day 3.


Measure out a generous 1/2 cup of starter and discard any remaining starter. Repeat step from Day 3. By the end of Day 5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume. You’ll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little “rivulets” on the surface, full of finer bubbles. Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering. If your starter hasn’t risen much and isn’t showing lots of bubbles, repeat discarding and feeding every 12 hours on day 6, and day 7, if necessary — as long as it takes to create a vigorous (risen, bubbly) starter. See TIPS*.

Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Measure out a generous 1/2 cup of starter and discard any remaining starter. Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6-8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface.

Remove however much starter you need for your recipe — typically no more than about 1 cup. If your recipe calls for more than 1 cup of starter, give it a couple of feedings without discarding, until you’ve made enough for your recipe plus 1/2 cup to keep and feed again.

Transfer the remaining 1/2 cup of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you’d like to store it in long-term. Feed this reserved starter with 1 scant cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and let it rest at room temperature for several hours, to get going, before covering it. If you’re storing starter in a screw-top jar, screw the top on loosely rather than airtight.

Store this starter in the refrigerator. Feed it regularly; we recommend feeding it with a scant 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water once a week.


Helpful tips for making sourdough.


It seems so wasteful… But unless you discard starter at some point, eventually you’ll end up with a very large container of starter. Also, keeping the volume down offers the yeast more food to eat each time you feed it; it’s not fighting with quite so many other little yeast cells to get enough to eat. You don’t have to actually discard it if you don’t want to, either; you can give it to a friend, or use it to bake. There are quite a few recipes on using “discard” starter, including pizza crust, pretzels, and waffles, and even chocolate cake. If you’re still uncomfortable dealing with discard, though, try maintaining a smaller starter: the smaller the starter, the smaller the amount of discard.

Why does this starter begin with whole-grain flour? Because the wild yeast that gives sourdough starter its life is more likely to be found in the flora- and fauna-rich environment of a whole-grain flour than in all-purpose flour. What if all you have is all-purpose flour, no whole wheat? Go ahead and use all-purpose; you may find the starter simply takes a little longer to get going. Also, if you feed your starter on a long-term basis with anything other than the all-purpose flour called for here, it will probably look different (thicker or thinner, a different color) and act differently as well. Not to say you can’t feed your starter with alternate flours; just that the results may not be what you expect.


Unless your tap water is so heavily treated that you can smell the chemicals, there’s no need to use bottled water; tap water is fine.


The colder the environment, the more slowly your starter will grow. If the normal temperature in your home is below 68°F, we suggest finding a smaller, warmer spot to develop your starter. For instance, try setting the starter atop your water heater, refrigerator, or another appliance that might generate ambient heat. Your turned-off oven — with the light turned on — is also a good choice.

Regarding the duration of everyday feeding, here is some great advice: “Conditions vary so widely that 7 days can be far too little. I’ve learned the key is to watch for a dramatic and consistent rise in the jar — at least doubling between 1 and 4 hours after feeding. This could be 7 days or less after you begin, or it could be three weeks (for me it was 12 to 14 days). Bakers may want to watch for this phenomenon, rather than watch the calendar.”


This information is provided by the artisan bread baker experts of Emile Henry.