Bread is a regular bake here at the Kitchen Shed, as visitors to my blog and Twitter followers might know 🙂 Making your own bread is such a satisfying experience (for one thing, you simply can’t beat the aroma of freshly baked bread) with the reward of a finished bake which tastes so much better and has the added bonus of being lighter on the shopping budget too.
In real terms, I started making bread about ten years ago as preparation for our new venture in France, where we planned to “live off the land” as we grew, prepared and cooked as much of our own food as possible. Make your own bread in France I hear you say ? Although we love French bread and when at the local market I do pick up a lovely crusty pain from our favourite boulangerie, there is a time issue. Working as we do, there isn’t enough time to go into the village every day for bread whereas making bread at home runs alongside other jobs.
Wherever you are in your bread making adventures, I hope these tips will be useful. I’ve chosen tips which I feel would have been most useful to me at the beginning whilst still holding true for all breading making. If you’ve never made bread before, bread rolls are a good place to start. My Ted’s Rolls recipe is my most popular post and remains a great favourite with family and friends; I had a wonderful day teaching my nephews how to make Ted’s Rolls. Once you’ve tried making these rolls you can easily begin experimenting with other breads using all sorts of flavours, flours and grains.
It’s important to use flour with a high gluten content. There are so many good bread flours available and it’s worthwhile trying different brands and noting how your bread turns out. One of my favourite bread flours is Waitrose’s “Canadian and Very Strong White Bread Flour.”
Flours do differ, so you may need to add more water to your recipe. If you’re dough is hard to work with and doesn’t become smooth and elastic, chances are you need a touch more water – “Wetter is generally better”.
2. Keep Kneading !
The longer you need, the stronger the gluten becomes, essential for a good well risen, tasty loaf of bread.
It really is rare to over knead your dough, especially by hand. You should hand knead your dough for at least ten minutes, maybe fifteen. If using a machine, a good ten minutes in a mixer fitted with a dough hook usually does the job.
Use the windowpane test to check if you’ve kneeded your dough for long enough.
3. The Window Pane Test
Pinch off a small piece of dough and gently stretch it apart, pulling and rotating the dough into a thin membrane, or window pane, which is translucent when you hold it up to the light.
4. Be patient
If you have time, go for a long slow rise for your dough – your bread will be tastier, lighter and the texture will be much better. An hour and a half is often quoted as the time needed for a first prove but if your dough is in a cooler environment the rise may take up to three hours. The longer rise at a cooler temperature will give better results.
Some recipes recommend just one rise – you can get good results like this but a second proving takes your bread to another level and it’s well worth the effort.
5. Finger Test
One of the things I struggled with when first baking bread, was knowing when the bread had proved after I’d shaped it. Sometimes my bread would taste of yeast or I’d have a very flat loaf. Up to forty five minutes in a warm place is usually enough time for a second prove, check your recipe and use the finger test.
Gently press your finger into the shaped bread to a depth of about 1cm. If, when you remove your finger, the indent comes halfway back, your bread is ready to bake.
6. Crispy Crust
Commercial bread ovens have a steam element in them, the steam softening the outside of the bread to allow for extra expansion whilst a high temperature dries the crust and helps the browning.
A good way of introducing steam to a domestic oven is to use a roasting tin and boiling water.
Place a roasting tin in the bottom of your oven.
Preheat your oven to its hottest setting.
When your bread is ready to go in the oven, slash your loaf or baguettes before placing in the oven. Add boiling water to your roasting tin on the bottom shelf, close the oven door and wait for the magic to happen.
I bake a large crusty loaf the 20 minutes at 240°C and then turn the oven down to 200°C for a further twenty five minutes to ensure it is cooked through. Your bread needs to sound hollow when you tap the bottom of your loaf. Check your recipe for oven timings.
I’m entering Kitchen Shed Tips For Better Bread Making into:
And Linking to: