Discover how easy and rewarding bread making can be with these simple but essential bread making tips for beginners.
14 Simple Bread Making Tips for Beginners
Believe it or not, bread making is easy and rewarding, especially if you have the right information at your disposal.
So, get your favorite bread recipe out and don’t forget to review these best practice tips for making the best loaves you’ve ever tasted.
1. To Knead or Not to Knead
Believe it or not there are some hard and fast rules for making bread. And, along with this is how much to knead or not to knead.
Quick breads usually don’t require any kneading but many yeast breads do. And, of course, there are exceptions to the rule with “no knead” yeast breads.
The best tip I can offer is to review your recipe ahead of time. Understand that there is a science to making the “perfect” loaf. That way, if you follow the directions carefully and this includes any notations on how much kneading will be required, your loaf will turn out as expected.
2. Properly Store Your Baking Ingredients
When storing your baking ingredients, place them in a dry place at room temperature. Never refrigerate.
3. Use the Right Type of Flour
For most baking needs, you can get by with all-purpose flour. It is just as the name implies–it’s a well-rounded flour that can be used for a variety of baking needs.
However, in more specialized baking–like making bread, for example, you will want to purchase bread flour. The reason? It’s ground specifically for this purpose.
And, if you are making a mixed grain bread, say multi-grain, rye, oat, bran, etc., type of bread, then you’ll want to incorporate some bread flour to keep the loaf texture light and airy.
4. Always Use Fresh Yeast
Regardless of what brand yeast you use, always check the expiration date. If the date has passed, dispose of the yeast and replace with fresh. This is true in all cases when you need yeast for baking.
Yeast is what gives rise to the dough and if your yeast isn’t fresh, you will find that your loaves will not rise properly. Whenever I need yeast, my go-to brand is Active Dry Red Star Yeast.
Even so, you can use other yeasts like Fleischmann’s, which is a good alternative if Red Star Yeast is unavailable.
How Yeast Works in Bread (Video)
5. Use Fresh Baking Powder
Baking Powder is another ingredient that needs to be fresh in order to work well in your baking.
What you may not know is that baking powder is a mix of baking soda, a bit of cornstarch and cream of tartar. The combination that is created allows for a “double acting” which in layman’s terms gives the dough a longer rise time than with just baking soda and a simple acidic ingredient.
RELATED: Homemade Herbed Irish Soda Bread
If you are making soda bread, you will definitely want to use baking powder. It gives you the benefit of both lift and consistency of loaves. It also makes for a beautiful outer crust.
Quick Soda Bread from Jacques Pepin (Video)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8QV7co2SIA
6. Use Fresh Baking Soda
When your recipe calls for baking soda, make sure that it has not passed its expiration date. Because if you’ve opened the box and have neglected to sealed properly, the baking soda might not react as well as its fresher counterpart.
Bread Making Tip: In certain batters and doughs, baking soda is used as a leavening agent that when combined with another acidic ingredient like Cream of Tartar it will help them rise–but only once, not twice as in the case of double acting Baking Powder. Because of this you wouldn’t want to substitute baking soda for baking powder unless your recipe allows it.
RELATED: Bread 101 – King Arthur Flour
7. Use the Right Salt When Baking
There are differing thoughts on whether to use Iodized Salt versus Kosher Salt or even Sea Salt when baking. Many cooks find iodized salt works best, although others will swear by kosher salt.
Personally, I always use Morton Iodized Salt for all of my baking needs. It always gives me the best results.
8. Check the Temperature of Your Liquid Before Adding to Yeast
If the temperature of your liquid is too cold, the yeast won’t be activated. If it is too hot, then the yeast will die in the process.
The ideal temperature range is between 95 degrees F and 115 degrees F. When in doubt, use a candy thermometer.
9. Don’t Use Too Much Flour
Bakers know that flour can be the bane or boon of bread making, so start with the minimal amont of flour and then knead in more, if needed. Using too much flour makes for some“heavy” and “dry” loaves.
RELATED: Yeast Bread Primer
10. Stick to the Prescribed Rising Times
As is often the case, home bakers may get caught up in another project and lose track of time when allowing their dough to rise.
Don’t let that happen to you. Stick to the prescribed time(s) and use a kitchen timer. Too long of a rise time, you might end up with a sour-tasting loaf, or it may be too dry, or gasp, it might even have an abundance of “holes.”
11. Elevations Affect the Timing and Consistency of Your Loaves
When in doubt check with other bakers in your area, especially if you live in mountainous or higher elevations, as to what works best. The same is true for those regions that lie below sea level.
RELATED: Baking Bread at High Altitudes
12. Know Where in the Oven to Place Your Loaves for Best Results
Believe it or not, you will have differing results if you place your loaves on the top, middle or lower shelves.
It is always best to follow your recipe’s directions where to place your loaves in the oven. And, never overcrowd your oven with too many loaves, otherwise you risk the chance that your loaves will not brown evenly or cook properly through.
13. Beware of the Time of Year and Weather when Baking Bread
You might not know this, but the time of year can affect the size and density of your bread loaves. This also goes for changes in weather, too.
Professional bakers will tell you that from the amount of humidity to even a slight frost in the air, you will see changes in the rise or composition of the loaves. Why?
Humid weather causes bread to rise too quickly; too dry of weather, causes bread to rise too slowly. The same applies to the four seasons.
The culprit is yeast. Yeast needs a certain amount of humidity and warmth to rise properly.
How to Get Bread to Rise in Cold Weather – The Epson Bakehouse (Video)
14. Store Your Bread Properly
Heat and humidity are two of the most important factors in causing fresh bread to mold quickly.
That is why it’s essential that your bread has completly cooled before placing it in an airtight plastic bag or a bread keeper. Store your loaves at room temperature for 2-3 days.
And, if you are not going to be able to eat it right away, slice your bread (once completely cooled), bag it well (in two bread bags or a freezer bag), then put it in the freezer. You can then opt to take out the whole loaf or several slices at a time. Freeze bread only for 2-3 months max.
Need more bread making tips? Then you’ll want to check out this handy article: 24 Essential Bread Baking Tools.