Bake Great Bread: 7 Tips You’ll Want to know!
By Megan Chromik
Baking bread often seems like a huge, daunting undertaking, but if you have a few free hours and a little patience, it’s really very rewarding. I’ve been slowly teaching myself how to bake bread. Below are 7 tips that have helped me along the way. Follow these to make your next bread baking experience go smoothly.
- Read the recipe all the way through several times before starting. It’s never good to be in the middle of making something and then realize that you’re missing ingredients or need to let something sit overnight before proceeding. Know what you’re getting into before you begin.
- Know your bread baking terms. Consult the following glossaries to familiarize yourself with any terms that you may not have heard before in the context of bread baking, such as proof and starter: The Fresh Loaf’s Baking Glossary and King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Glossary.
- Plan out your time. Pay attention to how long the starter needs, the proofing times, and the baking time. Often a starter needs to be made the night before you make your bread dough. Take this into account before beginning a recipe. Then pay attention to the resting time the dough needs after it’s made and after it’s shaped. Lastly, be sure you’ll be able to bake the bread after the second rise, so you don’t over-proof it.
- Make sure your yeast is still alive. Your starter will be a good indicator of whether your yeast is still active. You’ll mix your starter ingredients together the night before embarking on a bread recipe, and the next morning, you should find that your starter has grown and is bubbly. If it’s not, you’ll need to get some new yeast before continuing with the recipe.
- Weigh your flour. A cup of flour can vary in weight depending how you scoop it. The best way to make sure you use the exact right amount of flour is to get out the scale. Too much or too little flour could have adverse affects on the finished bread.
- Gently deflate the dough rather than punching it down. I always learned to punch dough down, but punching the dough can actually harm the gluten that has formed, so it’s much better to just gently push and fold the dough to deflate it.
- Create steam in your oven for a crackly, crunchy crust. When baking something like baguettes, if you want a crunchy crust, place a roasting pan filled with ice cubes on the bottom rack of your oven. Also, spritz the loaves with some water just prior to baking them.
Here’s to baking great bread!
Do you bake bread often? What do you think are some helpful tips?
Megan lives in the Boston area and writes about Boston-area restaurants and events as well as her kitchen adventures over on her blog, Delicious Dishings.