Some tips for budding breadmakers to help you make a successful loaf.
BUY OR BORROW AN OVEN THERMOMETER
Check if the temperature in the oven and the temperature on the dial are the same. You need to know if there is a difference and adjust your timings to suit.
PLAN THE RISING TIME
Depending on the kind of bread you are making, the preparation time can be quite long. The dough may need to rise for several hours. Read the recipe carefully and generously plan your time. Professional bakers say time is the most important and most expensive ingredient.
KEEP YOUR NAILS SHORT AND CLEAN
Because of the kneading, long nails and nail polish are not recommended. Nails must be spotless. Of course, this is less relevant if you are using a mixer to knead the dough.
OIL THE BAKING TRAYS WELL
Grease the tray or loaf tin with a brush so you get the grease into every crevice. Butter works best for flavour and colour. If you work in a rather cold kitchen, melt the fat first, if not use your fingers to smear it over the tray or tin.
HAVE LOTS OF INGREDIENTS TO HAND
Buy double the amount of ingredients in case something goes wrong and you want to go for a second round.
TEMPERATURE OF INGREDIENTS
Have all ingredients at room temperature if possible.
THE RAISING AGENT
If you use yeast, remember that it needs hand-warm liquid to dissolve. If you use baking soda or baking powder in the recipe, make sure that you add the liquid last, because that is what the agent reacts with and the rising process could start too soon.
BE PATIENT WHEN YOU ARE KNEADING THE DOUGH
There is no standard as to what a kneaded dough must feel like, it depends on the kind of bread you are making – it is only over time that you will get a feel for it. Most recipes need a soft, but not sticky dough. If the dough is too hard or stiff, add a bit liquid. If the dough is too soft, use a bit more flour while kneading.
OPTIMUM TEMPERATURE FOR RISING
The optimum temperature for the rise is between 30 and 40 degrees. Yeast also needs humidity. Most loaves will nearly double in size when proved. You have waited too long and proved your bread for too long if the surface of the loaf shows cracks. You may need to discard the first batch and try again.
THE BAKING TIME
The bread is ready when a wooden stick or skewer comes out clean of the centre of the bread. It should sound hollow if you knock on the bottom of the bread.
COOLING THE BREAD
The cooked bread has to release steam. Place the hot bread onto a baking grid to cool. A loaf tin can be turned out after 10 minutes. If the bread sticks to the tin it might still be too hot. It can also stick to the tin because of a sticky finish like egg so in that case, carefully use a knife to loosen the bread from the tin.
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