How to Make Delicious Homemade Bread: Best Tips & Tricks
Making Homemade Bread is Easy, Once You Know How
I Love Homemade Bread But... Isn't it Hard to Make?
Many people would like to try their hand at making bread but the thought of actually doing so seems somewhat daunting. How do you make bread that turns out perfectly every time?
A little know-how goes a long way. Before you try your hand at bread-making, it helps to follow some simple steps to ensure that your first batch of bread turns out just right.
We will discuss questions you may have, common problems that can arise when making bread, and look at tips and tricks for fail-proof and delicious bread. You can make great-tasting bread, armed with the right info, and it's a lot easier than many people realize.
Is it hard to do?
It's not hard at all to make bread when you know how to go about it. Like any skill, once you do it a few times, it becomes easier.
Isn't it time-consuming?
A batch of bread dough can be made and set to rise in about half an hour. For seasoned bread-makers, this can be done in about 10-15 minutes.
Isn't working with yeast tricky?
As long as yeast is still fresh and your water isn't too cold or too hot, you won't experience problems.
What is kneading?
This involves using your knuckles to knead the bread dough. This helps to mix the dough so that no lumps or pockets of flour remain.
What the heck is heeling the dough?
Heeling involves using the heel of your palm to push in the bread dough. You normally turn, heel, and then turn the dough, and you keep doing this, heeling in towards the center, folding and heeling and working in a circle. Heeling is done after kneading, towards the end of your kneading time.
How to Knead and Heel Bread
Full-Length Apron--Before you get started, you'll need a good-sized apron to cover your clothes. Bread-making can be messy as you'll be working with flour and dough.
Large Bread Bowl--You'll also need a bread-making bowl. I prefer a large plastic tub because dough doesn't seem to stick as much to this type of surface; however a large steel bowl will also do. The main thing is to have a bowl that is large enough to accommodate your rising dough. A good-sized bread bowl is essential if you plan on making your own bread on a regular basis.
Dough Scraper--A dough scraper can make incredibly short work of counter clean-up. It removes stuck-on bits of dough and hardened flour. Depending on the style, a dough scraper can also be used to remove stuck-on dough from a bread bowl. Once you've used one of these, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it.
Tea Towel--Use this to cover your dough when you set it in your bowl to rise. When you've placed dough in pans for the final rising, cover with a tea towel. This prevents dough from forming a crust as it sits.
Anyone Up for a Nice Thick Slice?
Shaping Your Loaves
Making bread can be a creative undertaking. What shape will it be? Why not experiment with your dough? You can easily make:
- A round loaf, such as pictured above, by shaping your dough into a ball.
- A braid and then join it into a circle. As it bakes, you bread will assume an interesting-looking shape.
- A long braid.
My dough rose beautifully and then it collapsed!
Check the expiry date on your yeast. When yeast gets old, often the first tip-off is bread that collapses. No one enjoys tough loaves 1-2" high--these look unappealing and the texture is awful.
When you set your yeast, watch to see that it bubbles and foams. If it just softens, chances are that you need to replace it.
Additionally, do not set your loaves to rise in a chilly room.
I went to cut my bread--and it was full of holes!
Your bread dough rose too high. Even in the bowl, if you forget your dough batch and it rises too high, you will end up with holes.
Once your dough is in your pans, watch it carefully, as well. It will continue to rise after you put it into the oven, so it doesn't have to be "bread-sized" before placing it in your oven. A good rule of thumb is to let it rise about 1/2-3/4s of the way.
I added my yeast to my hot water and sugar but nothing's happening.
Your water should be warm but if it is too hot, it will kill your yeast.
When water cools, yeast can stop rising. What I do is place a bowl or pan of warm water underneath to give the yeast a boost, if needed.
Why is my bread is too flaky? I cut it and the crust falls off. It's impossible to make toast with it.
Cut back on the amount of oil you use, if you want a softer bread that holds together. If you use the recipe that I've included at the bottom of this page, you shouldn't encounter problems.
People who use oil instead of shortening or lard may encounter this problem, as well. I prefer shortening, which makes for tenderer bread.
Some breads call for more oil, such as French bread because a flaky crust is desired but for everyday bread, this is not usually preferred.
Why is my bread dry as powder? Ugh!
When incorporating your flour, use less, for a moister bread. You work your dough until it no longer sticks to your fingers but if you continue to add flour, your bread will be denser. When you've made bread a couple of times, you will develop a feel for when the dough is just right.
Whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture, so if using whole wheat allow for this. I give tips below on how to make moist brown bread.
My bread seems claggy. I know I cooked it long enough. Why?
You may not have added enough flour to your dough. Dough will become less sticky as you add in the flour. You should keep adding flour and kneading until dough doesn't stick to your hands. It should become springy, resembling the feel of skin. This is why seasoned bread-makers go by feel.
Uh-oh! I set my pans to rise and now the dough has stuck together. I'm afraid my loaves will collapse when I pull them apart.
Pull them apart very gently. If they do collapse, all is not lost. Knead them down to remove air bubbles and set them in pans to rise again. If your yeast is still active, your loaves will rise.
Ensure that your pans are spaced, next time, to allow for dough expansion.
I can't fit all my pans in my oven. Now what do I do?
Place surplus pans of dough into your fridge while cooking your other loaves. The dough will stop rising and these can be cooked as soon as your first loaves are removed from the oven.
My bread over-browned/burned on the bottoms!
Avoid tough-bottomed bread by double-panning ( use two bread pans). Also check that your oven rack isn't placed too low.
My bread seems overcooked on the outside but undercooked on the inside. What's happening?
Your oven is too hot. Reduce your oven temperature. I always start my bread at around 325 degrees, depending on my oven, then I reduce my temperature for the last half hour of cooking time, depending on how brown my loaves are getting.
How long should I cook my bread?
Count on about an hour. You should check your bread and make oven heat adjustments, as mentioned. Much depends on how hot your oven cooks and whether you like your bread golden or prefer it darker.
My oven elements just wouldn't shut off and my bread is burning.
Always leave spaces between your pans when placing them in your oven to allow for air flow. Never cook your bread with your pans touching. I've encountered this problem when there wasn't enough airflow between pans.
My bread is stuck to the pans.
Grease your bread pans with shortening or lard for best results. Oil may cause bread to stick. If the problem persists, do not wash your pans between batches so that they season (similar to what chefs do with cast iron pans).
If bread is stuck, it might be best to wait a bit so that it sweats in the pan from the heat, which can soften the loaf bottoms and make removal easier.
A metal flipper can be used to pry bread up from the pan. The flat flipper will help so that bread doesn't come apart.
My top element came on and when I looked, the tops of my loaves were on fire!
While you may never experience this, I had this happen to me one time when my oven was malfunctioning. Talk about frustrating! I'd made a beautiful batch of bread and had remarked how perfect my bread was going to be. I was too stubborn to waste the bread so cut off the burnt tops and used the rest. I should have cut the inch-high remainders into squares for homemade croutons. As it was, we joked for years about our "bread flambe."
The Right Type of Fat & Brown Sugar or Honey Make for Moist Brown Bread
Adding Hot Water to Melt Sugar and Fat
Perfect Bread--Tips & Tricks
Choosing the Right Fat
Your fat makes a big difference to how tender your bread is. While I'm not a fan of hydrogenated fats and normally do not use them, there are times when I make exceptions and bread-making is one of them. Use either vegetable shortening or lard. Do not use liquid oils for homemade bread. I find this leads to dryer, tougher crusts.
Kneading & Heeling Bread
Kneading and heeling are important elements for good-textured bread. Invest the time when you are making your bread. This helps to develop the gluten.
If you are making a large batch and your arms get tired, place your bowl on the floor and use your upper body weight to offset the strain on your arms. Brown bread, because it is denser, is harder to knead.
How to Make Sesame Seeds Stick to Top of Bread
Once you've placed your bread dough in pans, wet your hand with water and run your hand over the top of each loaf, prior to sprinkling on sesame seeds. Smooth the seeds over loaf tops and press lightly.
Adding a Nice Shine to Top of Bread
Brush well-beaten egg over the top of your bread (can also be used to help make sesame seeds stick).
Adding Sifted Flour to Top Loaves
A nice touch for bread is to dust loaves with sifted white flour. This is often done in bakeries. Place your bread dough in pans and then sprinkle on a coating of flour. (You'll see I've done this with the round loaf.)
Avoiding Soggy Bottoms
Once you take your loaves out of the oven, remove bread from pans. If loaves are cooled in the pans, the bottoms will become soggy.
Lay out a dish towel and place your cooked bread loaves on their sides to cool. Rotate the loaves as they cool.
Allow loaves to cool before cutting. If you attempt to slice off pieces while bread is still hot (many of us like a thick piece fresh from the oven!), be prepared to have that particular loaf become misshapen.
It's a good idea to have large plastic bags on hand for storing your bread in, once your loaves have completely cooled. If you cannot fit whole loaves into the bags you have on hand, slice your loaves and store the slices.
If you don't care to store bread in plastic, cut it into slices, and store in rectangular containers.
Ready to Try Making Perfect Homemade Brown Bread?
Wonderful Sweet Ingredients
- Soft Cranberries--Add soft cranberries when making white bread. This makes for a great Christmas bread or can be used for seasonal buns.
- Cinnamon & Raisins--Add cinnamon and raisins for your own raisin bread
Once You've Mastered White Bread, Why Not Try Making Brown Bread?
Making brown bread is as simple as adding whole wheat flour when making your bread. You can use half white/half brown flour or add either flour in the amount of your choosing.
Ensuring a Moist Bread
Brown bread can become a bit on the dry side. To counteract this, use brown sugar or honey when making denser breads.
When I make brown bread, I usually check to make sure my dough is on the moist side. As I mentioned, if you use the right type of fat and don't use too much of it, you will end up with a nice, moist bread that isn't crumbly.
Bumping Up Nutrition in Brown Bread
Stirring in Whole Wheat Flour
Adding White Flour for a Lighter Bread
Adding Flax Seeds
Dough is Too Thick to Keep Stirring
Folding Over and...
Batch of Brown Bread Set to Rise
Plain or Naked?
Once you place your dough in pans, you can choose to leave your loaves "naked" but it's much more fun and tastier, too, to add toppings. This is another perk of making your own bread, you get to choose texture and flavor elements.
If you love a bread you can really sink your teeth into you might choose from some of the toppings listed below.
Toppings for Bread
sifted white flour
Bread Topped With Poppy Seeds & Set to Rise
Do You Make Your Own Bread?
Ready to Make Bread?
Good bread also results from a good recipe. Use the tips and tricks in this article to avoid common problems when making bread.
Check out my article, How to Make Hearty Homemade Bread or click the link at the bottom of this page for the recipe.This recipe was passed down to me from my no-nonsense Scottish grandmother (Grandma Dot) and I get perfect bread every time.
This recipe is for a larger batch of bread. You will get 6-8 loaves, depending on how you size the dough before placing in your bread pans. For a smaller batch, simply cut the recipe in half--perfect if you want a loaf or two and some bread buns.
I hope you've enjoyed these bread-making tips. If you have any questions, please leave them below and I would be happy to answer you and add them to this article.
Mmm . . . So Good!
© 2011 Athlyn Green