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Bread Baking Tips & Techiques
Refer to this list of helpful bread baking tips and techniques to get you started making great bread. Pretty soon you'll have your own list of tips and techniques to share.
Bread baking tips for the perfect loaf:
For the best bread, use the freshest ingredients.
- Use room temperature ingredients for best results.
Measure your ingredients correctly. Use a dry measuring cup to measure the dry ingredients and use a glass or plastic liquid measuring cup to measure the liquids.
- Do not scoop your flour with the measuring cup. You will end up using too much flour and the loaf will be heavy. Instead, use a spoon to lift the flour out of the container and into the measuring cup. Do not tap or shake the cup to put more flour into it. Simply level the top with a flat edge.
- Don't try to cut the loaf of bread right away, wait at least 15 minutes so that you don't tear the crust.
Quick breads will do better if you wait until the next day to cut them.
Bread baking tips for baking in the Oven
Follow precisely the recipe’s directions for preheating and baking.
Use an oven thermometer for accuracy.
Place the baking pans several inches apart on the center oven rack.
Oven temperatures may vary, so check your loaves about 10 minutes before recipe says they should be done.
If loaves are browning excessively, remove them from the oven and make an aluminum foil ‘tent’ to shield them, and then return them to the oven.
Internal temperature should be between 190°F-205°F; baked loaves should be evenly browned.
After turning bread out of the pan, tap the bottom or side of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.
Bread baking tips to help you judge the condition of your dough: Conventional Method:
To determine if yeast dough is kneaded enough, break off a small, walnut-sized ball of dough. Stretch the dough, much like stretching a balloon or a piece of bubble gum. If the dough is kneaded enough, it will not tear easily and a translucent membrane will be visible. This is known as a gluten window.
Use the ripe test to determine rising times. Yeast dough is considered "ripe" when it has risen enough. Pushing two fingers into the dough up to the second knuckle can test dough. If the holes remain when taken out, it is "ripe" and ready to punch down. If not, cover and let rise longer.
- To determine if a risen loaf is ready for the oven, lightly touch the side of the loaf; if the imprint remains, it is ready to be baked. Expect a beautiful oven spring!
Bread Machine Method:
- Humidity, the way flour is measured and the moisture content of the flour affects dough consistency. Open the bread machine’s lid after 5-10 minutes into the KNEAD cycle. By this time, the dough should be in a soft, tacky ball. If it is dry and stiff, add liquid , 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time; if too wet and sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time.
Bread baking tips for cooling bread
Cool bread on a wire rack to prevent it from getting soggy from steam accumulating on the bottom of the pan.
Bread baking tips for refrigerating or freezing dough:
Now that you've learned how to make bread, here are some tips on how to freeze it and keep it fresh:
Refrigerating dough slows down the yeast activity, but does not stop it completely. After the dough is kneaded, flatten into a one-inch thick disk and place in a plastic bag. The disk shape allows dough to chill evenly. The dough will need to be punched down in an hour and again in a couple more hours, but when completely cool, dough will rise very slowly. The refrigeration time is considered the first rise time.
The dough can also be shaped, tightly covered and refrigerated for several hours or even overnight. Remove from refrigerator, partially unwrap and let rise until ripe. Bake according to recipe directions.
Dough can also be frozen for later shaping and baking using the same processes as above.
Dough can be kept in a freezer up to four weeks. To thaw, place covered dough in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator, partially unwrap and bring to room temperature.
Keep in mind that homemade bread has no preservatives so it is best to freeze loaves within 3 days and use them within a few months of freezing.
Freeze it in an airtight plastic bag or tin foil.
Bread baking tips for reheating bread
You can reheat bread in a 350°F oven. If you're reheating a whole loaf, it can be wrapped in aluminum foil or placed unwrapped in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. It is best to wrap sliced breads and rolls before reheating.
You can also use the microwave to reheat breads. Place the unwrapped loaf or slice of bread on a paper towel, then heat briefly (about 15 seconds) to warm it up. If you heat it too long in the microwave, it will be too tough and chewy.
Tips for using whole grains and flours:
Store your whole-grain flours, wheat germ, bran, nuts, and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer.
Whole-grain breads will not rise as high as breads made with all-white bread flour.
- Wheat germ increases the nutritional value of bread, but it also inhibits the gluten action. Do not use more than 2 tablespoons for every 2 cups of flour.
- To soften cracked wheat, simmer in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain and cool.
- You don't have to cook bulghur before using in a recipe, but you might want to soften it by soaking it in water.
Bread baking tips for using non-wheat flours:
- For the best flavor, look for fresh stone-ground corn meal and store it in the freezer.
- Include 1 to 2 tablespoons of millet in a multi-grain bread, or even in a simple basic white loaf.
- For bread making, use the old-fashioned rolled oats rather than the "quick oats".
- Rice flour is gluten-free so only use a small percentage of it with the bread flour.
- Baked products containing soy flour tend to brown more quickly, so it may be necessary to shorten baking time or lower the temperature just slightly.
Tips for using liquid ingredients:
- Tap water is chemically treated and may slow down the rising. Hard water is alkaline which weakens the gluten and makes a loaf with less volume. Soft water is slightly acid which makes the yeast more active. If your breads are not rising very well, boil the water and let it cool to room temperature or use bottled spring water.
For yeast breads, only warm liquids should be added to dry ingredients in a recipe because a too-cool liquid will slow or stop yeast action and a too-hot liquid will destroy the yeast and prevent it from rising.
- Ideal temperature ranges are 100°F-110°F, when yeast is dissolved directly in water; 120°F-130°F when undissolved yeast is added to dry ingredients.
If a dough ends up too dry, you can sprinkle it with water during the kneading.
Bread baking tips for using liquid sweeteners:
Any liquid sweetening can be substituted for sugar, but it will need to be counted as part of the total liquid content of the bread.
- To substitute honey for granulated sugar, use 3/4 cup honey for each cup of sugar and reduce the total liquid used in the recipe by 1/4 cup. Also, keep in mind that honey is more concentrated in flavor than granulated sugar.
- Oil your measuring cup or spoon before measuring honey or barley malt syrup and it will slip right off.
Tips for using eggs in bread recipes:
Use large eggs unless the recipe indicates otherwise.
- If you don't want to give up the flavor but are watching your fat and cholesterol intake, try Nature's Choice, EggBeaters®, or other substitutes.
- To reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in breads, use two whites instead of one whole egg.
Tips for using herbs and spices:
- Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor than fresh so use about a third of the quantity recommended for fresh.
- Cinnamon can break down the structure of the dough which affects the size and texture, and garlic will inhibit the activity of the yeast. So measure carefully when you use these.
Tips for adding nuts and seeds to breads:
- Lightly toast pine nuts, hazelnuts and almonds to bring out the flavor before using in a recipe.
Tips for using fruits and vegetables:
- If you want to use juicy fruits, mix them with a little flour so that the dough doesn't become too gooey.
- Fresh vegetables are high in liquid. About half their weight will be water so adjust the liquid in the recipe accordingly.
- Frozen vegetables should be thawed completely before using and canned vegetables should be well drained.
What are your favorite bread baking tips?
Do you use special bread baking tips or techniques? Share your bread baking tips and techniques. We'd love to highlight them
on the site so that other bread bakers can learn something new.
© 2008 Lesaffre Yeast Corporation All rights reserved.
Rehberg, Linda and Conway, Lois. The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful Hints. Second St. Martin's Griffin Edition: November 1999. Copyright © 2007 - ACH Food Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
Clayton, Bernard. Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. 2006 Simon & Schuster. Hensperger, Beth. Bread Made Easy - A Baker's First Bread Book. Ten Speed Press 2000.
Shapter, Jennie. Bread Machine - How to prepare and bake the perfect loaf. Hermes House 2003.
Copyright © 1999 Mosher Products
U.S. Wheat Associates. All Rights Reserved.