For most types of breads the ingredients for bread making are pretty simple – bread flour, yeast, salt, water and in most cases fat.
It’s only when you go more fancy that you’ll need additional ingredients to make an enriched bread dough.
In this post, I’m going to show you the main ingredients, why they matter and where you can get them.
Just to let you know before we start, we sometimes recommend products via Amazon and other retailers which we feel might be helpful for a particular topic.
The 6 main ingredients for bread making
1 – Bread Flour
Flour is the main ingredient of all breads and the type is important because it will greatly affect the end result.
For most breads, you will need a strong bread flour, because it’s higher in protein, meaning you can have the right amount of gluten to produce a bread texture.
Plain and self-raising flours have less protein and are used for cakes, biscuits and pastries, where you want the end result to have a crumbly texture.
Below are some popular bread flour types along with some information on how you can use them and where you can get them:
Strong white bread flour
Strong white bread flour is the most commonly found and used type of bread flour. It’s easy to use and is the main ingredient of a variety of breads, including a white tin loaf, bloomer bread, ciabatta and baguettes.
Strong white flour is widely available in most supermarkets and online and is a good flour to start with if you’re a bread-making beginner.
Other specialists strong white bread flours are available including French or Italian Bread flour which can be bought online directly from producers and some are available to buy from Amazon. Click the link below to see bread flour which is available to buy from Amazon:
Strong Wholemeal flour
Strong wholemeal flour is used to make a brown wholemeal loaf and contains some of the wheat kernel to give the bread extra texture.
Wholemeal flour contains extra fibre, particularly if you can get hold of stoneground wholemeal flour, which retains more fibre & nutrients.
Like strong white flour, wholemeal flour is widely available in most supermarkets and online from producers and stores such as Amazon.
Granary or malted bread flour
Bread which is made using a malted bread flour is often called Granary bread, however, the term ‘Granary’ is actually a trademark of Hovis.
If you’re not using the Hovis version, and you’re looking for a similar flour, you can get similar results with various types of malted bread flour, such as Doves Farm or Shipton Mill.
Malted bread has a rich nutty texture because it contains malted wheat, sometimes other malted grains and some contain caramelised sugar.
It’s generally available in larger supermarkets and online.
TIP: Not sure if you have all the necessary bread baking equipment at home? Check out my recommended picks below (Amazon links):
Rye flour comes from a type of grass and is generally lower in carbs than some other bread types. It’s also full of fibre and is a great choice if you’re looking for the healthy option.
Rye flour is not as readily available in smaller supermarkets, but you can buy it online or in a speciality shop.
Spelt is an ancient grain whole grain which has seen a big increase in popularity due to its health benefits.
Spelt flour is not gluten-free, but it’s said to contain less gluten than some flours, so it’s good for those with mild intolerances. It’s also said to contain a higher level of nutrients.
Like Rye flour, spelt is not as widely available, but you should be able to get it in larger supermarkets, online and from specialist shops.
For more information on bread flour (available in the UK), take a look at the following post:
The best bread flour brands
There are so many options when it comes to choosing bread flour.
At the time of writing, this post buying options in supermarkets have become very limited and sometimes the bread and yeast shelves have been completely bare, so it’s been a case of buying what you can get.
Let’s face it, when you have no choice and it’s more important to you to make your homemade bread, supermarket own-brand bread flours are not a bad option and for basic loaves, they’ll do the trick.
Luckily, if you can buy online, there is much more choice and you can choose from British artisan flour makers who have traditional mills and are creating organic flours.
The thing to remember is that flour isn’t just flour, most flours contain additives and some include greater nutrients than others, depending on the process which is used to make it.
I’ve put together a directory of some of our favourite bread flour producers in the UK along with various links to shop bread flour online, click the link below to view the directory:
2 – Dried or fresh yeast
I generally use dried yeast sachets for my bread-making where yeast is required. It performs well, it’s easy to use and to keep fresh.
In the past dried yeast was seen as a bit of a cheat in comparison to fresh yeast, however, fresh yeast can be a bit tricky and performance is more temperamental.
Dried yeast is readily available, I use Allinson easy bake yeast, you can get it in either 7g sachets or the 125g tin so you can measure it out.
If you don’t use yeast that often, I’d recommend using sachets because they stay fresh for longer.
Once the tins have been open for a while the yeast can become very sluggish and takes some time to rise, even if they are still in date.
At the time of writing, yeast is difficult to find in supermarkets, so if you can’t get Allinson yeast, I’ve found supermarket own brands (such as Tesco & Lidl) seem to work just as well for most bread (although I’ve not tried them all).
If you like using or want to experiment with using fresh yeast, you can buy it online, I recommend Bioreal Organic fresh yeast which you can buy in small blocks from Bakery Bits.
3 – Water
There’s no special water which you need for bread making, but it does need to be the right temperature.
The temperature you need is tepid, so just warm to the touch.
A good way to get tepid water is either, use water from the kettle which has cooled down or mix boiling kettle water with cold tap water so that it’s just warm.
An easy way to measure the water, (in case you need a bit extra), is to make too much in a jug and then weigh it into your mix by pressing zero on your digital scales after you’ve made a well in your dry ingredients.
Water which is too hot or too cold can affect the yeast’s performance or make it rise too quickly or not at all.
4 – Fat
Using fat in bread helps it to stay fresher for longer and helps create a lovely soft dough. Butter is good to use in traditional loaves and rolls, whereas olive oil is great for Italian breads such as Ciabatta.
Olive oil is also good to use on your work surface for kneading and knocking back the dough. It also helps to give a nice brown finish when baking.
The type of olive oil or butter you use is really personal preference and what you have available at the time. I personally prefer salted butter and extra virgin olive oil.
Some bread recipes contain milk which creates a softer dough and end result.
For more information on using fat in bread dough, you might find the following post helpful:
5 – Salt
Although you can use any salt in bread, some are definitely better than others and contain more minerals with no additives or chemicals.
A good sea salt is full of natural minerals and tends to have a more delicate flavour.
My favourite salt for all cooking and bread baking is Maldon Salt, it has a unique shape and is made using traditional methods.
Many commercial breads contain lots of sugar, for flavor and for bulking. Good homemade bread doesn’t need any sugar because it has so much more flavor to begin with.
Some people say it helps the yeast to rise, however, it’s not necessary when you’re using a dried yeast because performance will be just as good with or without it.
If you feel you need sugar then it’s fine to add some in, but personally, I only use it for sweet doughs such as brioche.
Another alternative to sugar is honey, which some bakers say actually increases the performance of the yeast.
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