It doesn’t get much more comforting and appetizing than a slice of freshly baked bread still warm from the oven.
Many of us are too afraid to try baking our own bread, preferring to buy it from a local bakery or grocery store instead. But not only is homemade bread more delicious than store-bought, it can also be better for your wallet.
If you’re ready to give the age-old art of bread making a shot, read on for five bread baking tips straight out of Grandma’s recipe book.
No matter what type of bread you’re baking, flour is arguably the most important ingredient. Cheap all-purpose flour is great for making sandwich bread, but it won’t help if you’re going for artisanal loaves.
If you’re going for a dense, hearth-style bread, bread flour can help you get the texture you’re looking for. A pumpernickel or rye bread will need pumpernickel or rye flours, respectively. And for chewy breads like bagels, you must choose a flour type that’s high in gluten content.
Long story short, if your bread recipe calls for a specific type of flour, there’s probably a good reason. Stick with their recommendation, at least for the first few times you use the recipe.
Mastering the technique of kneading bread dough can take quite a bit of practice. Don’t make the mistake of over-kneading or adding too much flour, or your loaf will turn out dense and dry. You can tell when your dough is ready by taking a small piece and stretching it—if it breaks, keep going, but if it stretches, you’re done.
If you can’t seem to get the kneading right (or you don’t have time to try), there’s no shame in using a bread machine to get the job done. Look at this list to find the best bread maker for the loaves you’re baking.
Many of the best bread artisans around the world use a steamy technique to give their loaves that perfectly crisp crust. Increasing the humidity of the oven by adding steam keeps the outside of the loaf from cooking too fast, allowing you to bake it for long enough to get that coveted golden-brown exterior.
Industrial bread ovens have steam injectors that keep the dough moist as it bakes. But you can accomplish the same thing at home without any fancy equipment. Just cook your bread in a dutch oven to trap the moisture or place a sheet tray of ice on the rack below the bread in your oven.
Along with increasing the humidity, using a baking stone instead of a loaf pan also helps your crust get crisp and golden. If you have to use a loaf pan for your recipe, try placing the pan atop a baking stone for a similar effect.
It may take you a few tries to get the perfect loaf of bread, and that’s fine! The important part is to keep trying. Take it slow and enjoy the process, and soon you’ll end up with a signature recipe that your family can’t get enough of.
If you want to try your hand at making a loaf as tasty as Grandma’s, give these bread baking tips a try today. And if you’re looking for more baking inspiration, make sure to check out the eat+drink archives.
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