So often I get asked, “I want to bake bread, where do I start?” Yeast breads are the most daunting recipes for beginning bakers. There is truly no alchemy involved in creating a beautiful loaf of bread or crown of dinner rolls, just a little time, patience and care. Here are my top 5 tips to help you on your journey of bread baking. (I realize now as I’m writing this that I needed to make this 10 tips, but I’ll give you the rest soon!)
Top 5 Bread Baking Tips:
Have a Trustworthy Recipe
*Use recipes from sources that you trust. Make sure that the ingredients are specifically measured, ie: not a handful of this or pinch of that, you want ‘tablespoons’, ‘cups’ etc. One of my favorite and most trustworthy yeast loaf recipes is for Honey Wheat Bread. Give it a try!
Obtain Correct Quality Ingredients and Measure Correctly
*Get the correct ingredients for your recipe and make sure they are quality ingredients. Some flours on the market like basic supermarket flour won’t turn out a gorgeous loaf of bread like some other higher end products like King Arthur Flour, Unbleached All-Purpose Flour. I used to kid myself that this flour didn’t make a difference, after a couple of years in competitive baking I’ve realized it does and I have the winnings to prove it. The little investment up front will help your end result. I promise. Use fresh yeast (I prefer SAF instant yeast for most of my breads). PS: Don’t kill your yeast by adding liquid to the dough that is warmer than 115 degrees. If the recipe says warm water (which it should) use water that is comfortable to the touch, no warmer. Your bread will not rise if you scorch the yeast by adding too hot of liquids to the dough.
*Measuring your flour is the most important thing you can do to help your yeast bread recipes. It is the easiest measurement in baking where the recipe can go wrong. Aerate the flour by lifting it from its bag or container so it is not packed. Then SPOON flour into measuring cup, level with a knife and add to the recipe.
*You need to have a kneading ‘method’. After the dough ingredients are mixed together the kneading process begins. It is the goal of ‘kneading’ to produce a soft, pliable, stretchy dough. Kneading by hand is preferred. I didn’t realize that kneading properly wasn’t a natural trait all humans possessed until I began offering baking classes in my home. I noticed that some of the ‘students’ were merely pushing the dough ball around on the counter. This does not work, you must push and pull it in all directions, so the gluten strands within the dough, giving structure to the final baked product. To see how I knead my dough and a link to a simple pizza dough recipe, check out this post.
Time & Patience
Bread baking is an art that can’t be rushed. Incorporating ingredients, kneading, rising, shaping, rising and baking will take a couple of hours. Give yourself plenty of time to bake your first batch. There isn’t a ton of active time in bread baking, just time you need to wait on the dough to develop flavors and structure. Bottom line, don’t hurry. Check out my post on Rising Times and learn how important properly rising your breads is. If you do anything, take time here. Please.
This is a must. For less than $5 or $6 at your local grocery or hardware store you can obtain an oven thermometer to determine how accurate your oven temperature is. Too often the preheat function tells the baker that the oven is at the desired temperature when it is not even close. Placing an oven thermometer in the center of your oven and letting it stay there throughout baking (yes this is okay) will show you how much you can trust your baking unit. *Full disclosure: don’t turn your oven on “CLEAN” function with your oven thermometer inside. It will destroy it. I’m speaking from prior experience. Oops.
Lastly, if you ever need advice or assistance in baking anything I’m well versed on: my kitchen is your kitchen. Message me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll help you any way I can!
Everyone needs a good helper in the kitchen.
*Please monitor your children around hot ovens!