I have recently delved into bread making. There were a few hits and mostly misses at the start. When I mentioned to my dear family that we would be having homemade bread with dinner, the kids would roll their eyes and my husband would encourage me to just relax and he’d pick up a loaf on the way home. In case you can’t read through those lines, he means oh please, not again. I remember one particular loaf of olive oil and sea salt that was so bad even the dog wouldn’t eat it. Who knew baking powder could expire?
The good news is that I’m always learning and improving. Mostly I’ve picked up some great tips, tricks and secrets along the way. Here are nine secrets I’ve learned as well as a few great recipes to try.
#1 Mixing Rules
For whatever reason, when mixing dry ingredients, if you put yeast and salt on top of each other it affects the rising. I’m not sure why this would be, but trust me: put them on opposite sides of the bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, combine the salt when you add the flour.
#2 It’s All About the Yeast
SAF Yeast is the best yeast ever. It doesn’t have that funky coating that other yeasts have. If you store it in the freezer you can just throw it right in without having to proof it. Proofing is testing the yeast by adding warm water and waiting 5 minutes to make sure it foams.
#3 Dough Enhancer
A product on the market called dough enhancer or dough conditioner can make a big difference in your bread. It makes dough light and fluffy, even if you are using wheat flour which tends to be a bit heavy.
#4 Control the Flour
The recipe is often a suggestion where the flour is concerned. Humidity, altitude and temperature can all affect how much flour you need. Use about 1 cup shy of what the recipes calls for and then slowly add more until the dough pulls off the sides of the bowl and is no longer sticky. It may be less or it may be more than what the recipe calls for.
#5 Measure Correctly
Do not pack the flour when you’re measuring! I’m guilty of digging down into the container and then smooshing down onto the side to level it. Big no no! Instead, use a flour scoop to pour the flour into the measuring cup and use a butter knife to skim off the extra.
#6 Fresh is Best
Fresh ingredients really are essential. Old yeast makes bread crumble and fall apart. Old baking powder makes your bread into a dense brick. The fresher the ingredients the better the end results.
#7 Coat Correctly
Use cooking spray instead of flour to coat your hands and counter tops when rolling and kneading. I always visualized the housewives with flour on their aprons. It just seemed like you were suppose to, but too much flour makes for a dry not-good-crunchy bread. Plus, you end up leaving the house with flour on your bum (tell me I’m not alone here). Using oil gives the bread the right kind of crunch.
#8 Control the Rise
If you have a cold and/or drafty house like mine, getting your bread to rise can be problematic. Turn on your oven to 170º/warm before you start mixing ingredients and turn it off before you knead/roll. When it’s time to rise, just put it in the oven. The warm oven facilitates rising and the enclosed space eliminates drafts. This tip alone saved my bread making future.
#9 Boiling Water
My last tip is a professional bakers tip: To get that fabulous golden brown split down the bread just place a tray of boiling water on the oven’s bottom shelf just before baking. Homestead Wishing offers some great tips to storing homemade bread.
Are you ready? Here are some recipes to try:
Honey-Wheat Oatmeal Bread & Amish White Bread by Runamuk Acres
Gluten & Dairy Free Bakery Swirl Loaf by Spring Mountain Living
No Knead Simple Whole Grain Bread by Northern Homestead
1 Hour French Bread by Food Storage Moms
Be sure to check out Recipe Tips for tutorials on shaping bread. They cover everything from the basic sandwich bread to amazing “fancy” shapes. Check out these easy to sew linen bags. Linen allows the bread to breathe without becoming stale. I made a few myself and I love them.
Do you have any secrets to making bread? Share them in the comments below.