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Adding Fat to Bread Dough: Benefits & Tips on What Fat to Use

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Have you ever wondered why fat is added to bread dough, what it actually does and does it really matter if you don’t add it? In this article I’ll explain how using fat in your bread dough can impact the end result.

Fats such as olive oil, butter and lard are used in bread dough recipes such as burger buns, Italian bread or loaves where you want to achieve a softer crumb and crust, which will stay fresher for longer.

The type of fat you use and whether you even need to use fat in your bread dough depends on the type of bread you’re making and the results you’re looking to achieve.

Read on to find out which fats you should use for each bread type and when you shouldn’t use fat in your dough.


The benefits of adding fat to bread dough

Many recipes include some sort of fat in them because adding a small amount of fat helps to create bread with a softer texture than bread with no added fat.

As well as creating a softer crumb texture, adding fat also produces a softer outer crust.

It’s for this reason that recipes such as burger buns need some fat because you want the overall outcome to be a nice soft roll, which is easier to eat when you slice it up and add fillings.

By adding fat to bread dough, you are also adding more flavour and it will help the bread will stay fresher for longer than bread with no fat.

Fat is added to the dough mix before it’s mixed and kneaded. If you’re using a harder fat such as butter you will need to make sure it’s softened before you add it to the mix.


When not to add fat to bread dough

You don’t have to add fat to bread dough and if you’re looking to make a bread with fewer calories or you have a milk allergy then it’s perfectly fine not to add fat.

In fact, many bread purists believe the best bread is made using the fewest ingredients.

Dough which doesn’t contain fat or contains only a small amount of fat will produce a crispier and thicker crust which is perfect for recipes such as crispy rolls or a tin loaf.

Sourdough recipes generally don’t include fats to maintain very crispy and authentic sourdough flavour and texture.

Many flatbreads, such as pitta bread and wraps don’t need any fat in the dough mix, although they may need to be cooked in a little oil depending on the cooking process.


Top tip!

If you’re looking to achieve a slightly softer crust but you don’t want to add fat or you want to reduce the amount of fat, try adding a tray of water to the base of your oven to create steam when cooking.


What type of fat should you add to bread dough?

Use the table below for a general rule of which fats to use in your bread dough depending on the bread type.

Bread TypeFat to use
Standard white/brown
loaves
Softened butter,
Olive oil or
Lard
Soft white rolls/
Burger baps/hot dog
rolls
Softened butter
or lard
Pizza DoughOlive oil
Milk loafSoftened butter
CiabattaOlive oil
Foccacia Olive oil
BriocheButter & eggs
BreadsticksOlive oil or softened
butter
Spelt breadOlive oil or softened
butter

The fat you add to white or brown loaves really depends on personal preference on whether you use butter or olive oil, as a general rule I tend to use softened butter for a standard sandwich loaf.

In some cases you can use lard as a fat (pork fat) in bread, this works well in burger/hot dog buns and other savoury bread where you’re looking for a bit of extra flavour and softness.

You can also replace olive oil with rapeseed oil if you prefer, however olive oil is traditionally used in most Italian bread recipes.

Some bread recipes such as Focaccia and garlic bread use fat to add extra flavour to the finished bread recipes. In this case, you may not want to add fat to the dough recipe.

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Using olive oil on a work surface to knead bread

Olive oil works well as a lubricant on a work surface to knead bread. As well as stopping the dough from sticking to the work surface, olive oil makes a good alternative to dusting with flour because it helps to prevent the dough from going too dry.

Using olive oil on surfaces for kneading and also shaping bread will also help to prevent the dough from sticking to the mixing bowl and bread tins.


More FAQ’s about adding fat to bread dough

How much fat should you add to bread dough?

For a bread recipe which uses 500g of flour, you would need to add 30-40g of fat to the ingredients to create a soft texture.

If you’re looking for a crispier crust while still maintaining a softer crumb, 20g of fat will help you to achieve this result.

What happens if you forget to add fat to your bread dough?

Don’t worry if you forget to add fat to your dough mix, your dough will still rise and your bread will be tasty.

By not adding fat to the bread dough you will just have a crispier crust and your bread may need using more quickly than it would normally.

A crispy loaf will make delicious toast for breakfast the day after or you can slice and freeze part of the bread to use another day.

What does adding milk do to bread dough?


Milk contains a certain amount of fat depending on the type you use. Using milk to replace some or all of the water content in the recipe along with fat can help to achieve an even softer bread texture.

Replacing all of the water with warm milk will create a very soft loaf which is slightly heavier and more filling than bread which is made using water.

Should I use salted or unsalted butter in bread dough?

Generally, recipes recommend that you use unsalted butter in bread dough, but don’t worry if you only have salted butter because this works just as well. If you use salted butter, you might want to decrease the amount of salt you use in the recipe.

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