Tips for Making Homemade Bread
Making homemade bread demands practice, patience, and basic knowledge of baking. Without these essential tools, making homemade bread will not be successful. The following pieces of advice will allow you to learn some basic baking knowledge if you don’t already know it, and to practice that knowledge with patience so that you can start baking your own bread. The fruits of your labor will surely be rewarding.
When making homemade bread, always measure out the ingredients exactly as described. Use a liquid measuring cup for liquids and regular measuring cups for dry ingredients. For recipes that call for yeast, make sure that you know whether it calls for dry active yeast or cake yeast. Both, however, need warm water for the yeast to activate. Use a thermometer to make sure that your water is not too hot; if it is, it will kill the yeast. Water for yeast should be at 98.6 degrees F. Mix the yeast until most of it is dissolved.
Sourdough starters create wonderful, flavorful breads. If you’d like to use a sourdough starter for a particular bread, this is a great method to do so: All you need to do is add yeast to water in a large glass jar. Allow it to sit for a few minutes, up to ten. Stir in the amount of flour required for your recipe, then cover the jar with a cloth towel and allow to ferment at room temperature for at least two days or up to five days. It should start to look frothy. Use immediately or refrigerate for two weeks. You only use a portion of this starter, so to keep it active for the next time you make bread, you’ll need to add an equal amount of flour and water that you took out. If your recipe asks for cup starter, then you should replace this amount with cup flour and cup water. Ferment again for another day before putting it back into the fridge. Starters that have been around for years are excellent; some starters have been around for four or five generations.An old piece of dough can also be used as a starter. Employing this method doesn’t require you to start another batch of yeast, so it saves you time and sometimes money.
Mixing the dough is also important in the resulting bread. You can choose to mix the dry and wet ingredients together all at once with a wooden spoon, or you can make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in. Then, starting in the middle, start to make concentric circles with a couple fingers, slowly incorporating the wet ingredients with the dry.
Use the heel of your kneading hand to work with the dough. Don’t overwork the dough or else it’ll get too tough, but at the same time don’t under-work it because the ingredients might not be well mixed. Use only a little bit of flour at a time to dust your working surface.
If you are going to allow your bread to rise, let it do so in a lightly oiled glass bowl covered lightly with plastic wrap or a cloth towel. Let it rise in a warm place; I like to have the oven preheating and set the bowl on top of it as it warms up. When the dough is completely risen, punch the center of the dough and you can then put it on a lightly floured surface to knead it. Once you have shaped the dough, or placed it into your pan, you’ll have to allow it to sit and rise a little again. This is called “proofing,” and is, most of the time, a very crucial step in making bread.
Practice making bread and soon you’ll get the hang of it. Be creative but at the same time be mindful of bread-making directions. Soon, you’ll have the wonderful smell of freshly baking bread in your kitchen, too.