The 6 best kept bread baking secrets
Baking bread at home is truly a labour of love. It might take some time before you get that perfect blend of knowledge and practice, but once you do and that smell of freshly baked bread wafts through the house, it’s well worth it. In this article we’ll share with you 6 bread baking tips to ensure you get a great result time and again.
1. Get the right kind of ingredients and measure them carefully.
A basic yeast bread calls for only 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast and a pinch of salt. Seems simple enough but to get off to the best start, make sure you have the right ingredients and then measure them properly with a digital kitchen scale.
When it comes to the yeast, for example, we recommend using instant yeast since this doesn’t need to be mixed with water beforehand and won’t be ‘deactivated’ by the salt you add to the dough. If you prefer to use regular yeast though, give it a head start by only adding the salt in the last 5 minutes of the mixing process.
In terms of flour, all-purpose flour will work fine, but if you can get your hands on bread flour this will make for an even better result since it’s typically higher in protein which will help the gluten to develop better. If you want a light crumb that stays soft after baking, adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the dough will do the trick.
2. Get your hands wet.
A common mistake is to flour your hands before kneading the dough. Instead, wet them with a little bit of water. This will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands, and, more importantly, it won’t add more heaviness to the dough.
3. Put your dough to the test.
Kneading the dough helps to develop the gluten in the flour and gives the dough the elasticity it needs to rise properly. Before putting it away to rise you can test if the dough is kneaded enough by tearing off a small piece and stretching it until it’s thin and elastic, similar to a bubble gum. If the dough tears quickly or you can’t really stretch it, it needs more kneading.
4. Be patient.
Any baker knows that yeast dough needs a draught-free spot to rise and double in size once you’ve put it in a bowl and covered it with a clean tea towel. But where some might put the dough in the oven at the lowest temperature, it’s actually those breads that are given the time to rise slowly at about 21°C/ 70°F that give the best and most flavourful result.
5. Slash and steam
When you’ve placed your dough in the Gem loaf pan or on the Ron baking stone, you’ll want it to get a good bake in the oven and let it rise as much as possible. You can give it a little hand by slashing the top of the loaf as well as creating steam in the oven during baking. By slashing the dough, you’ll not only create a pretty pattern on top of the loaf but also direct how the bread can rise and prevent air pockets under the crust. To create steam, put a small stoneware dish filled with boiling water on the bottom shelf of your oven just before adding your loaf.
6. Be patient … again.
When you’ve tapped on the bottom and you’ve heard that hollow thump which means the loaf is ready, you’ll need to exercise a little more patience before getting out your bread knife. Leave the bread enough time to cool on a wire rack (as soon as you’ve taken it out of the loaf pan), otherwise you’ll interrupt the internal baking process that’s still going on while the bread is cooling off.