Bread Making Tips
Bread Making Tips - lets make some real dough!
Are you looking for answers to any of your breadmaking problems? Is your bread too slow to rise, or maybe it's rising too fast? Is your bread too crumbly? Does it taste too "yeasty"? What happens if you use too much yeast?
Find all the bread making tips you need and the answers to all of your bread questions right here. If you can't find the answer you need, just ask and I will find it for you or point you in the right direction.
Now lets get serious about making some real dough!
If you aren't happy with the results of your home made bread or your family turn their noses up as soon as the bread has cooled, you need to read on. This page is filled with bread making tips and simple solutions to common bread making problems.
You'll find what to do if you are interrupted in your bread making and have to go out. Do you want to know how to prepare your doughs so that you can bake them off at a later time? Do you know what "par-baked" bread is? All of these questions and many more are answered below, just keep reading.
Yeast- What is it?
Yeasts are micro-organisms related to fungi that have been used by humans for baking and brewing for thousands of years. Yeast consumes simple sugars and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as waste products. Bakers yeast prefers to live in a temperature range of around 30°C - 37°C but will survive at lower temperatures. It will die at temperatures above 50°C.
Questions About Mixing, Molding and Kneading
How can I tell if I have used the right amount of flour and water?
As a general rule, once you reach the kneading stage if the dough no longer sticks to your work surface or your hands then you have the right flour to water ratio. Of course if the dough is very tough and hard to work, you may need to add a little water.
Why do most bread varieties allow for a variation in the amount of flour used or the amount of water added?
Flour or water is always considered to be variable for a number of reasons. Humidity plays the biggest role in determining how much water will actually be absorbed by your flour. If you are in an area with high humidity, you will need to use slightly less water (or slightly more flour) to avoid your doughs being overly wet and sticky. Another factor can be the flour itself. Flour quality can vary and as a general rule a higher quality flour has a higher protein content, which will take on more water to form gluten.
Is it possible to knead too much?
Yes it is possible but it is unlikely when hand mixing. Pay close attention when using an electric mixer to mix and knead your dough. Stop mixing when the dough has reached an even consistency and stretches easily but still has some elasticity. You can test the gluten development by plucking a small piece of dough and see if it can be stretched out thinly without tearing. Overmixing breaks down the gluten which results in a tacky dough that is difficult to work with and can have reduced volume due to poor gas retention.
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More on Mixes and Molding
Do I need a special recipe for rolls?
No, most bread recipes are also suitable for producing bread rolls. Just cut the dough into small pieces and form into the shapes required.
Why is my wholemeal dough slow to rise?
It's normal for wholemeal, rye or grain breads to rise slower than white breads. If you have this problem, add a little more yeast to your recipe.
What to do if your bread tastes great, but it's uneven and lumpy?
This is probably due to your final molding. Take a little more time to produce the final shapes you want. Any flaws made when you are molding, such as tearing the dough or not rolling it out evenly will be magnified after the final proof.
Kneading and Gluten Development
What causes bread to have a coarse texture or is crumbly?
Both problems can be caused by not enough kneading/mixing. During the mixing process gluten is produced from the proteins in the flour. Gluten forms the cells in the bread which retain the CO2 gas produced by fermentation. This gluten needs to be worked or developed enough so that it becomes flexible and can expand while still retaining gas. Under or overmixing results in poor cell/crumb structure. Some varieties of flour, such as cake flour or wholemeal and grain flours, are lower in protein and will produce bread that is more crumbly.
Why are my loaves too small?
This could be caused by a number of things but most of them can be overcome by allowing longer prooving times. If your bread is bigger when it goes to the oven, your results will be better. Some other causes could be due to too much salt or not enough yeast in the dough. Under or over mixing could result in poor gluten development so the dough does not retain as much gas. If your oven is too hot, you will get less oven-spring (rising in the oven) because the excess heat kills the yeast faster.
Simple Way to Improve Your Bread - Use a Dough Enhancer
Easy French Bread Made at Home
What is Bread Flour?
Bread flour is high protein flour produced from hard wheat. Soft wheat produces lower protein flour with lower protein levels such as all purpose flour and cake flour. The protein in bread flour forms gluten during the breadmaking process. Gluten forms the cell structure and retains carbon dioxide in the bread, giving it volume. Low protein flours, including whole grain flours can be strengthened by the addition of gluten.
Questions about Prooving and Baking
How long should it take for the dough to rise in the first prooving?
This can vary due to a lot of factors but a general rule would be 1 to 2 hours, or as long as it takes for the dough to at least double in size. Yeast prefers to live in tropical conditions so the closer you can appoximate this the better. Ideally you would place your dough in a warm place around 30-40 degrees celsius. In cooler places it will just take a little longer. Don't worry if you can't manage to keep your dough this warm, slower doughs will still produce good (and sometimes better) bread. One other tip, if you have a suitable thermometer, check the temperature of your dough straight after you finish kneading. Ideally it should be around 27 C. You can control this finished dough temperature by using warmer or cooler water in your mix.
How long does it take to rise for the second proof?
Usually the final proof will take about half the time of the first prooving. Again it's usually enough when the dough has doubled in size.
What causes loaves to "sink" during baking?
If the dough is allowed to over-proove, that is, become too large, the gluten which forms the cells in the bread may be stretched to it's limits. When the dough is placed in the oven, the gas in the bread expands, tearing the gluten and escapes. Simply put, the bubbles burst and your bread deflates. This could also be a result of overmixing which weakens the gluten in the early stages.
Watch out for Over-Prooving
What to do if the dough has over-prooved?
You can knock the dough back down and remold it into shape, it will rise again. Try to avoid doing this more than once as eventually the yeast runs out of food or the gluten becomes too weak and the quality of the bread will suffer.
What can I do if I have to go out after making the dough?
Once mixing/kneading is finished you can store the dough in a sealed container or even a plastic bag and place it in your refrigerator. Putting the dough in a cold place slows down the fermentation. This is known as "retarding" the dough. You can take it out later, form it into the shapes you need and then allow it to rise as usual. Note that it will take a little longer to rise due to being at a lower temperature.
Why Use Salt in Bread?
Salt is added to most bread recipes for three main reasons. It strengthens gluten, controls the yeast and adds flavour. Salt is actually poisonous to yeast. Small amounts of salt, around 2% of the flour weight, are used to control the rate of fermentation by retarding the growth of yeast.
Retard Doughs or Par-bake to Finish Baking Later
Can I retard doughs after molding?
Yes, you can form your dough into the shapes needed, then cover them and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to take them out, proove and bake them. If doing this it is best to leave the dough no longer than a few days before baking. It's a handy method for producing two or three days bread at a time, just bake it off as needed.
What is "par-baked" bread and can I make it at home?
Par-baked bread is essentially any bread variety that has been made in the usual manner but is not fully baked. It is removed from the oven as soon as it has baked enough to hold it's form. It can then be stored refrigerated or even frozen. When the bread is required it is removed from refrigeration and placed in the oven to finish baking, usually taking 10 to 15 minutes to finish off. It's a handy way to put fresh bread on the table in a matter of minutes. You can produce your own par-baked bread simply by taking your bread from the oven about 10 minutes earlier than usual, allowing it to cool then store in a container or plastic bag and refrigerate.
© 2008 Steven Cousley