How You Should Be Baking Bread, According To Paul Hollywood

Fans of the wildly popular television show "The Great British Bake Off" will know that Paul Hollywood is, above all else, a bread baker. Though Hollywood's expertise allows him to make judgments on everything from delicate French pastries to layer cakes, bread is where he got his start — and luckily, he has several tips for any home bakers trying to craft a better loaf of fresh-baked bread.

His first tip has to do with ingredients. While you may reach for the big bag of all-purpose flour you have on hand to make your loaf of bread, Hollywood suggests going for bread flour instead (via Taste of Home). Bread flour has more protein, which plays a role in gluten formation, and the simple swap in for your standard flour will help with the texture of your loaf. He also suggests keeping the salt and yeast separate for as long as possible while mixing.

Beyond the base ingredients, Hollywood has a handy tip for the crucial bread kneading process that will ensure you get a picture-perfect loaf worthy of a signature Hollywood handshake. Rather than using your standard floured surface, opt for an oiled surface instead when you're kneading the dough (via Paul Hollywood). According to Hollywood, the oil will help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, and it won't change the consistency of the dough the way that incorporating too much flour has the potential to do.

The perfect rise and crust — and how to check for doneness

One thing that intimidates many home cooks when it comes to baking bread is the rising process. Where should you place your loaf? How long do you wait? Paul Hollywood has a few tips for that as well. If you have enough time, he advocates allowing the first rise of your dough to take place in the fridge (via Taste of Home), keeping it there overnight if possible. Then, bring the dough out for the second rise at room temperature. Many believe that the ideal spot to let your dough rise is a very warm location (via Completely Delicious), but according to Hollywood, a room temperature rise gives the bread a more desirable flavor.

To encourage your bread to form a crisp crust, Hollywood suggests the addition of steam. You don't need special gadgets or a particular type of oven to achieve this — simply place a baking dish in your oven while it's preheating, and whenever you pop your loaf of bread in, fill the dish with water and allow steam to form. If you're looking to level up your crust even more, he suggests adding a dusting of fine semolina to the exterior (via Paul Hollywood).

Finally, Hollywood even has a tip for knowing when your bread is done in the oven. His go-to method of determining doneness is simply to tap the bottom of a loaf of bread — according to Taste of Home — you'll know it's ready if it sounds hollow.