Why Paul Hollywood Thinks You Should Be Breaking This Bread Rule

There's nothing worse than an underproofed loaf of bread — at least according to "The Great British Bake Off" host Paul Hollywood. Whether it's ciabatta or cottage loaf, all purpose flour or self rising flour, the proofing stage is what literally makes or breaks the bread, and the temperature of the water can make all the difference (via Great British Food Awards).

While Hollywood frequently reminds bakers both on the show and at home to follow every recipe exactly as written, bread is the exception. Practically every bread recipe defaults to using warm water to activate the yeast, but according to Hollywood, it is always more beneficial to use cold water instead, in order to prolong the proofing of the dough. "I want to keep the process as slow as possible, as that's when the flavor develops over the time," he shared in the Great British Food Awards blog. "Sometimes in the summer I even use iced water. The longer it all proofs and ferments, the better the taste."

The temperature of the water affects the texture of the bread

If you take your bread out of the oven and find it's full of cracks around the bottom, "that's an indication that the bread inside was very tight, which means you haven't proofed it long enough," Hollywood began in a baking vlog. (posted on YouTube). Properly proofing bread starts with properly incorporating cold water, so as Hollywood demonstrated in his vlog, start by pouring in only half of the water, before mixing it into the dry ingredients by hand, and adding the other half of the water to form a wet, cohesive dough. When the dough has been properly kneaded and is ready to be "slow-proofed," Hollywood stressed keeping it away from the oven or any heat source, as this defeats the purpose of using cold water in the first place. "That superheats it, and then you lose the flavor in the bread," he went on to explain.

Making bread at the correct temperature clearly means more than just preheating your oven, so take it from Hollywood and opt for cold water. You might be committing a cardinal baking sin by doing so, but at least you'd get the coveted Paul Hollywood handshake, and more importantly, a perfect loaf of bread.