There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly-baked bread to get the mouth watering. If you’re interested in learning how to bake bread, or want to perfect the process you already have in place, follow these tips.
- Use quality ingredients. The fresher the ingredients, the better. Whenever possible, use organic flour. If your flour doesn’t already contain vital wheat gluten, you can add your own for a lighter texture.
- The rising process is the most important. Active dry yeast that is allowed to proof beforehand helps give the bread a lighter texture. You can also add:
- 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of diastolic malt
- or, 1/4 teaspoon of dried, powdered ginger
to help with the rising process. You should always allow your bread to rise as close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit as possible.
- Start with sticky dough. Since you’re adding more flour as you knead, use slightly less flour while mixing the dough. Your dough should be sticky to start, and as you knead it and incorporate more flour, it won’t stick to your hands anymore.
- Use water on your hands, not flour. Adding more flour than necessary will create a heavy dough. To avoid this, wet your hands with water instead of using flour to keep them from sticking to the dough.
- Use a baking stone if you don’t have a wood-fired oven. The baking stone retains heat better and gives bread that crispy, golden crust.
- Avoid cracking by cutting slits into the bread. These diagonal cuts not only look beautiful, but they also produce a lighter bread that won’t crack.
- Create a warm, moist oven environment. Bread should be baked at a high temperature, usually 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Create moisture by placing a pan filled with boiling water in the oven with the bread while baking.
As with any skill, the more you bake bread, the better you’ll get at it. Practice makes perfect, and any imperfections can be turned into breadcrumbs or croutons, and they’ll still taste delicious.