Paul Hollywood’s Best Tips for Baking Bread

Updated: Jan. 08, 2024

Paul Hollywood has a lot to say about bread—and those blue eyes make us listen!

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Paul Hollywood at The Pride of Britain Awards 2013
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He’s the “silver fox” judge on the Great British Baking Show, author of several cookbooks and a master artisan bread baker. Here are a few of Paul’s best tips to turn out beautiful and delicious loaves of bread at home.

Obsessed with the Great British Baking Show? We are, too. Try these copycat recipes.

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Portion of dried Yeast (close-up shot) on wooden background

Keep salt away from yeast

You need both for a great loaf of bread but salt kills yeast when they come into contact! Paul recommends placing the flour in a bowl, then salt on one side and yeast on the other. Mix each into the flour separately before stirring everything together.

Up for a challenge? Check off all the recipes on this bread-making bucket list.

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Ingredients for homemade pizza dough on dark rustic background.
Shutterstock / Olga Dubravina

Don’t use all-purpose flour

Bread flour contains more protein than all-purpose flour. More protein means better gluten formation, creating a superior texture in your finished loaf. Paul’s advice is to always use bread flour (called “strong flour” in Britain) when making bread.

Are you measuring flour correctly?

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Preparation of fresh dough.
Shutterstock / Artem Shadrin

Knead on an oiled surface

Though most of us knead dough on a floured surface, Paul actually uses olive oil. He says it cuts down on the stickiness without negatively affecting the dough, as too much flour can do. Try out this trick with homemade wheat bread.

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Hands holding a finished clean dough
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Test your dough after kneading

How do you know when you’ve kneaded the dough enough? Paul recommends stretching: when the dough can stretch to about 7″ without breaking then it’s ready. Here is a beautiful soft loaf to bake!

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Yeast dough
Olga Markova/Shutterstock

Do a first rise in the fridge

Paul suggests letting the dough’s first rise happen overnight in the fridge. In the morning, punch the dough down, shape it and let it come to room temperature as it has its second rise. Try this tip on a homemade Italian loaf.

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Fresh yeast dough for pizza, bread, baguettes, sourdough
Shutterstock / AngieYeoh

Do your second rise at room temp

Though you may have been taught to let dough rise in a warm spot (like near the oven), Paul Hollywood lets his bread rise slowly in a room temperature location. He says the slow rise gives bread a better-developed flavor.

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Freshly baked multi-grain bread with homespun fabric on rustic dark wood background.
Shutterstock / Marie C Fields

Get a crisp crust by using steam

To achieve a crispy crust on your French bread, Hollywood recommends placing a baking dish on your oven’s lower shelf before preheating. After putting your dough in the oven, pour cold water into the hot pan, then quickly close the door to keep the steam in.

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Young woman holding tasty fresh bread in her kitchen
Shutterstock / sheff

Tap for doneness

To test if bread is done baking, Paul says the best way is to tap the bottom of the baked loaf. If the bread is properly baked, it should sound hollow. If it doesn’t, you can pop the loaf back in to bake a little longer.

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Extreme clos-up of rustic Italian bread
Shutterstock / germip

Give your bread that bakery look

Here’s how Paul says to make a crackly, bakery-style top. Mix 1/2 cup rye flour with 2/3 cup beer. Pour over your shaped loaf before baking. The batter will create a distinct top on your bread and deliver a rich boost of flavor!