Baking Bread

close up of sliced bread

One of my favorite things about baking bread, aside from the great taste, is the way the house smells when its baking, which is why they recommend baking before a showing when trying to sell a house. Whether you use a break making machine or a KitchenAid to make your bread, or do it by hand, there are a lot of tips and tricks to doing it.

Break Making Tips & Tricks

Ingredients

  • bread ingredients flour water yeast saltAlways start out with the best, freshest ingredients available
  • If you don’t bake bread often, always check your yeast expiry date before using
  • Salt is relied upon for its chemical reaction with the flour and yeast so don’t omit it from the recipe
  • Adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the dough mix will help the crumb stay soft after baking
  • For bread making, use old-fashioned rolled oats rather than the quick oats
  • To substitute honey for granulated sugar, use 3/4 cup honey for each cup of sugar and reduce the total liquid used in the recipe by 1/4 cup. Also, keep in mind that honey is more concentrated in flavor than sugar
  • Use dry measuring cups to measure dry ingredients, and liquid measuring cups to measure liquid, to obtain precise measurements
  • If your loaf smells of yeast, reduce the amount you use by a quarter next time
  • Replacing half the water in a recipe with yogurt will give more flavor to white bread
  • Try not to add too much flour to avoid dry, tough loaves

Mixing

  • mixing breadWhen mixing by hand, use your whole arm to stir
  • If you’re using a bread machine, use bread machine recipes
  • Let the dough rest ten minutes before kneading
  • If using a bread machine, open the lid after 5-10 minutes into the knead cycle. By then the dough should be in a soft, tacky ball – if dry and stiff, add liquid as required, a tablespoon at a time; if too wet and sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time

Kneading

  • kneading bread doughKneading is just pressing the heel of your hand into the dough to stretch it, then folding the dough back on itself, rotating it a quarter turn, and repeating
  • After kneading, leave the dough until it has risen by half
  • Shape dough, then bake after it rises by a half to two-thirds
  • To test whether kneaded enough, stretch a small piece of dough like gum – it will remain translucent and untorn if ready, known as a “gluten window”

Rising

  • rising bread in the ovenThe ideal temperature for bread to rise is between 70 to 75 degrees F
  • I usually rise my bread in a covered bowl inside my gas oven, counting on the pilot light to add that extra bit of warmth
  • Don’t rush the rising process, longer rising times improve flavor and texture – slow the rising time by reducing yeast a bit, or by using barely warm water
  • If your kitchen is colder than 70 degrees you can use warm water to encourage rising
  • To determine whether it has risen enough, push two fingers into the dough up to the second knuckle – if the holes remain when fingers are removed, it is ready to punch down; if not, allow to continue rising
  • To determine if a risen loaf is ready for the oven, lightly touch the side of the loaf; if the imprint remains, it is ready to go in the oven
  • Failure to rise is usually caused by the kitchen being too cold, or the water too cold to activate rising, or too hot, which can kill the yeast
  • Bread falling in the oven means the dough rose too much and got too light
  • Insufficient rising can cause breakage on the sides, as can too hot an oven
  • For a decorative look, glaze and slash the top, after the dough rises, with a single edge razor blade or sharp knife, cutting about a quarter inch into the dough
Bread Dough Rising Bucket (3.5 Quart Capacity)

Bread Dough Rising Bucket – click for details

Baking

  • Use a baking stone (pizza stone) for freeform, crusty bread loaves – the bread doesn’t crack on the bottom and the bread cooks through without over browning
  • For a glossier crust, try putting a pan with a cup of hot water in a shallow metal pie plate into the oven along with the bread to create steam, or add a milk wash for a softer glossy crust
  • baking breadArtisan, chewy style crust needs steam for a few minutes, then dry heat
  • For a nice shiny color and good flavor, brush the top with butter when taken out of the oven
  • If bread fails to brown on the sides, the pans are probably too bright and reflect heat away from the side, or were poorly placed or overcrowded in the oven
  • If the tops start to brown excessively, cover them with tin foil
  • Bread will sound hollow when tapping the bottom or side after turning out when done, so test one loaf before removing all
  • Cool bread on a wire rack to prevent it from getting soggy from steam accumulating on the bottom of the pan
  • Let bread cool at least fifteen minutes before slicing, although some small loaves and rolls are made to be eaten warm from the oven

5 currently popular bread machines

Panasonic SD-YD250 Automatic Bread Maker with Yeast Dispenser, White(click for further details and current pricing)

  1. Panasonic SD-YD250 Automatic Bread Maker with Yeast Dispenser, White;   Mixes, kneads, rises, and bakes in 3 loaf sizes, up to 2-1/2 pounds; Settings for white, whole wheat, multigrain, French, quick breads/cakes; 13-hour delay timer makes meal planning easier; Includes recipes for 40 breads and doughs, plus baking tips; Product Built to North American Electrical Standards;
  2. Oster CKSTBRTW20 2-Pound Expressbake Breadmaker, WhiteOster CKSTBRTW20 2-Pound Expressbake Breadmaker, WhiteUp to a 2-pound loaf capacity, ideal for larger families; 9 bread settings and 3 crust settings for variety of breads, dough and jams; Expressbake setting bakes bread in under an hour; 13-hour programmable baking timer allows for fresh breads anytime; Large LCD display – easily indicates each stage of the bread making process;

  3. Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker 120 VoltsZojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker 120 Volts; Bakes a large traditional rectangular shaped 2-lb. loaf; Exclusive Home Made Menu function includes 3 memory settings; Additional heater on lid for even baking; Quick baking cycle prepares bread in a little over 2 hours; 13-hour delay timer; LCD clock makes it easy to check the completion time and set up the Timer; Includes as easy-to-follow instructional DVD, manual and recipe booklet; Menu settings include: basic bread, wheat bread, gluten free bread, sourdough starter, dough, jam, cake, quick bread and 3 home made menus;

  4. Cuisinart CBK-100 2-Pound Programmable BreadmakerCuisinart CBK-100 2-Pound Programmable BreadmakerProgrammable bread machine bakes 1-, 1-1/2-, and 2-pound loaves; 12 preprogrammed menu options; 3 crust settings; 13-hour delay-start timer; Viewing window; removable lid, pan, and paddle for quick cleanup; Stay-cool handles; measuring cup, measuring spoon, and recipes included; Product Built to North American Electrical Standards;

  5. Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker, WhiteSunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker, White600-watt programmable breadmaker makes 1-1/2- or 2-pound loaves of bread; 12 cooking functions; 3 shade selections; 13-hour delay bake; LED display; touch-control panel; Measures approximately 14 by 19 by 13-1/2 inches; 1-year limited warranty

Basic white bread video and recipe

This is the method I use most when baking bread, with the exception of letting my KitchenAid Artisan Mixer‘s dough hook do most of my kneading for me, I only knead by hand for the last couple of minutes to get a feel for the elasticity of the bread, which takes a bit of time to get familiar with.

Click for Video:  http://www.robinhood.ca/BakeClassVideo/Soft-Simple-White-Bread

10 currently popular bread making recipe books

(click book title for details)

  1. The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg, Zoë François and Stephen Scott Gross
  2. Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread: (Biscuits, Bagels, Buns, and More) by Nicole Hunn
  3. The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine by Beth Hensperger 
  4. Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
  5. Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish
  6. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart and Ron Manville
  7. Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger
  8. My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey and Rick Flaste
  9. Paleo Bread: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo-Friendly Bread Recipes by Rockridge Press
  10. The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Alan Witschonke and Michael Batterberry
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