The Whole Loaf: How to Guide for Baking Bread

The Whole Loaf: How to Guide for Baking Bread

The Whole Loaf: How to Guide for Baking Bread

From French baguettes to a loaf of traditional sandwich bread, there’s nothing quite like a freshly made loaf of bread. But, baking bread can seem like a daunting task. Understanding how to proof, how much to knead your dough, and what the best ingredients are to use can all impact how successful your final product is. In this article, we’ll take a look at all of the factors to consider when baking your next loaf of bread. Each will help you on your way to making the perfect loaf a reality.

Top Tips for Bread Baking Success

No matter what type of bread you want to make, starting your baking journey with some tips, tricks, and strategies will help go a long way in ensuring baking success. Here are just a few of our best tips -- perfect for beginners and bread experts alike. Each of these tips will help get you started in whatever bread baking plans you have.

Plan Ahead

It might go without saying, but planning ahead is the most important tip for bread baking. That’s because knowing what recipe you’re using, the type of ingredients you need, and the time it takes to make and bake all help keep you on track and ensure that you’re bread will be a success. One good strategy for planning ahead is to make a checklist of things you need to do and prepare for before you start baking bread.  

Stick with Simple & Easy-to-Follow Recipes

Whether you’re a beginner baker or a baking expert, another really important consideration is what type of bread to make and what recipe or method you plan to use. No matter what skill level of baker you are, you can’t go wrong with simple and easy-to-follow recipes. In fact, some of the best tried and true bread recipes are the simplest. In addition to your overall baking skill, you’ll also want to think about the occasion that you’re baking for. Special occasions and everyday baking needs vary. So, you’ll want to make sure you choose the right bread type and a recipe for the occasion.

Not sure where to start when looking for bread recipes? You’ll find lots of options online from websites like King Arthur Flour. 

Choose the Right Kind of Flour

Bread flour. High-gluten flour. All-purpose flour. When it comes to bread baking, the type of flour you use can impact the rise and potential fall of your loaf. Bread flour is an excellent one to choose if you’re making a yeasted bread. But, if you don’t have bread flour, don’t despair. All-purpose flour can work just as well too for many bread recipes. The most important tip we can give when it comes to using the right kind of flour is to use the recommended type your recipe calls for. While you can sometimes substitute flour types, you may not always get the best result if you veer from the recipe recommendations too far.

Use the Right Kind of Yeast

In traditional yeasted bread, yeast is the key ingredient that helps bread get its rise. But, yeast can be the nemesis of even the most experienced baker. That’s because yeast is a living organism. So, careful storing of yeast is important to ensure so you don’t end up with flat and improperly risen bread. Yeast also comes in a variety of forms -- including active dry yeast, instant yeast, and rapid-rise yeast. While it may seem like they’re similar, each type of yeast is used for specific baking purposes. Swapping out different yeast types is not a good idea and can actually ruin a loaf of bread. So, do make sure that you read your recipe and use the recommended yeast type the recipe calls for to avoid any baking tragedies.

Use Fresh Ingredients

While it may seem like flours and other shelf-stable ingredients can last a long time, they actually can lose their potency. Some ingredients, like yeast (a living organism), are also fragile and can also be killed during the storage process. And some ingredients, like flour, can go rancid. When in doubt, use fresh ingredients whenever possible and don’t keep certain baking ingredients longer than a year. You’ll also want to make sure you use fresh milk and butter too.

Measure with Scales

One of the keys to baking success is to measure your ingredients with a scale. Bread baking, in particular, will see better results when using a scale to measure the ingredients. That’s because the weight of both wet and dry ingredients and precision can make or break your final baked loaf of bread. Measuring with a scale ensures that all of your measurements are precise and accurate -- something that’s much harder to do with measuring cups. If you have a recipe that is measured in weight, using a scale will also help reduce the headache of trying to convert the measurements too.

Don’t Skip Kneading & Proofing

Two of the most critical steps in baking are the proofing and kneading. Kneading is important for activating the gluten in your bread. This process helps you get a good rise and texture in your baked loaf. Kneading too little or too much can make for a poorly risen loaf or really tough bread texture. So, careful attention to your recipe’s recommendations for kneading is important.

After you knead your bread, you will usually let your bread rest during a process called proofing. Proofing allows your bread ingredients to work together to rise, expand, and prepare for baking. Make sure to follow your recipe’s instructions so that your bread has the right amount of time to proof. Like kneading, it’s easy to over or under proof your bread.

Temperature Matters

Temperature is a critical factor in baking. Have an oven that’s too hot or cold, and your bread will bake on the outside but not the inside or risk losing its rise. But, the temperature isn’t just for your oven. Make sure that you follow the proper temperature recommendations for your ingredients too. For example, use water or milk that’s too hot when mixing with yeast and sugar, and you’re likely to kill the active yeast you’re using.

Cool Completely

The smell of freshly baked bread can be so inviting, that’s it’s tempting to want to cut into a hot loaf as soon as it’s out of the oven. But, cutting into hot bread can actually affect the texture. Cut too soon, and you’re likely to experience a gummier texture. Always let your bread cool for at least 30 minutes or until it’s at room temperature. And, as an added bonus, expert bakers even suggest that letting your bread cool actually helps give a better flavor to your bread too.

Don’t Rush It

Mixing ingredients, kneading, proofing, and bake times are all factors in making bread baking a lengthy and time-consuming process. Rushing it can actually affect how tasty your bread is. So, be sure to follow directions and don’t rush it. If you’re looking for a bread that takes less time, look for fast-rising bread or non-yeasted bread for an easy to make and bake bread experience. But, we promise, the time you spend on baking a loaf of homemade bread is totally worth the time and effort. 

The High Rise: Bread Baking Made Easy

No matter what your bread goals are, you’re sure to be on your way to a fresh and tasty loaf with these simple tips, tricks, and strategies for bread baking made easy. Thinking about baking a loaf of bread for a special occasion? Consider adding a handwritten card to compliment your next homemade loaf. Check out HeartSpace Cards for unique greeting cards that are the perfect accompaniment for your next special occasion.