Could Hard Water Be Ruining Your Baking? The Best Places In The UK To Make The Perfect Loaf, Revealed

Home care

From irritable dry skin to limescale damage in your home, the detrimental impact of hard water is well documented.

But, it has now been revealed water hardness also has a considerable effect on baking, too.

Using our 2020 Hard Water Index we can reveal the areas best placed to make the perfect loaf of bread.

It’s bad news for budding bakers in Ipswich – the area with the hardest water. However, for people living in Cardiff, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Stoke you’re in a great position to make that perfect homemade loaf.

Research has previously found water of a medium hardness (50 to 100 parts per million of calcium carbonate per litre of water) is optimum for allowing dough to rise perfectly.

Our Hard Water Index shows water in Cardiff has a calcium concentration of 60ppm while in Liverpool it’s 65ppm. Residents in Middlesbrough and Stoke have slightly harder water, 80ppm and 96ppm respectively but that’s still within the 100ppm threshold.

Best places in the UK to make bread

RankCity
1Cardiff
1Liverpool
1Middlesbrough
1Stoke
5Newcastle
6Sheffield
7Birmingham
8Coventry
9Gloucester
10Manchester
11Nottingham
11Glasgow
13Plymouth
14Edinburgh
15Bristol
16Northampton
17Bath
18Derby
19Brighton
20Bournemouth
21Southend
21Salisbury
23Milton Keynes
24Peterborough
25Southampton
26Oxford
26Swindon
28Portsmouth
29Hemel Hempstead
30Bedford
30Guildford
32Slough
33Luton
34Cambridge
35Watford
36Canterbury
37Chelmsford
38Reading
39Stevenage
40St Albans
41Ipswich

Water in Ipswich has a concentration of 368ppm and is the hardest in the UK, closely followed by St Albans, 342ppm and Stevenage, 334ppm.

Hard water has a detrimental impact on the fermentation process when making bread which results in the dough not rising as well as it should. The fermentation process is a crucial aspect of making both bread and pizza ensuring the gluten of the dough strengthens as it should.

Culinary expert and co-founder of The Daring Kitchen, Chris Riley, described the issues people making bread with hard water face. He said: “Very hard water can make mixing the ingredients difficult and delay the fermentation process. Ensuring dough rises is a very important aspect of making bread because it helps to blend the ingredients and permits the growth of yeast.”

Despite the research revealing Cardiff as one of the best areas in the UK to make bread in, analysis of Google search trend data shows residents in the Welsh capital have baked the least during lockdown. In contrast, the search data reveals people in Bristol have been baking the most in lockdown followed by residents in Salisbury and Watford. On the whole, searches for ‘how to make bread’, ‘bread recipe’ and ‘pizza recipe’ increased by 535% during lockdown compared with the same four month period last year.

The areas baking the most during lockdown

RankCityResidents per baking related search
1Bristol29
2Salisbury32
3Watford33
3Cambridge33
3Reading33
6Bedford41
7Peterborough42
8Oxford43
8Hemel Hempstead43
10Edinburgh47
10Newcastle47

If you’re having problems perfecting your loaf, Chris has these two top tips:

Be precise – While it can be tempting to stray from the measurements, make sure you stick to the recipe once you’ve found one that works for you. Sticking to timings is also crucially important – if this is something you struggle with Chris recommends using a timer.

Allow enough time for proofing – A lot of recipes will call for a second rising process so make sure you allow time for that. To check you’ve proofed your dough for the right amount of time, poke your dough with your finger – it should leave a small indentation and spring back slowly.

Methodology

To rank the best places to make bread in the UK we used the data from our 2020 Hard Water index alongside research from Bakers Journal which has highlighted water with a calcium concentration of 50 to 100ppm is optimum for dough to rise. To work out the areas which had been baking the most during lockdown we analysed data from April to July 2020 for the search terms ‘how to make bread’, ‘bread recipe’ and ‘pizza recipe’ and compared this to population data.

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