My Mother taught me to bake, and make bread. Not really sure how old I was when she started or I had an interest but it was young enough that she’d fool me into thinking playing with a cup of flour was helping her bake. As the years went on, she would give me more, stir, measure, chop, and maybe even handle half the kneading which I was horrible at.
I remember we had things set up on the table. It would be a whole day event, most likely for breakfast at church or it was nearing the holidays and my Mom would be giving out English muffins. We set up an assembly line more or less, I’d melt the butter, with sugar and milk, then hand it to her while she added flour, I did the other three batches before she switched back to me for stirring. By the time it was time to knead I just shoved the bowl at her. It was not my thing.
She was a master at it, watching her knead dough was like watching some sort of dance on stage. She’d flip the corner, turn, flip the corner turn and run her heel of her hand in the middle while turning it around to do it again. While I stared and watched and grunted at the fact I couldn’t do it, I somehow missed the whole process as when I moved out, I was completely lost.
Turns out shifting the duties of bread making cut my knowledge in half, while I was staring at her kneading I should have been asking to learn it myself, but having the sticky gooey dough all over and in my fingers had turned me off. The number of times I’ve screwed up making bread is countless. In fact, it took me a good solid year before I could make a loaf of bread without too much going wrong.
Since there’s three thousand miles between us now, I’ve had to remember the simple things and tips she’s given me to make baking bread easier.
So here we go, the top things I’ve learned in my kitchen for making Bread.
– Always have your ingredients out and lined up, double check it
– Have your ingredients at room temperature . Yeast if you store in the fridge needs to be taken out 30 minutes before hand. Along with eggs, and butter *unless the recipe calls for chilled butter.
–Proof the yeast. Unless your using RapidRise which doesn’t need to proof. Dissolve the amount of yeast (normally 2-¼ teaspoons of Active Dry Yeast into a ¼ cup of warm water -100 to 110 degrees F . Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and let it sit. Your yeast should “poof” up, or foam. That means the yeast is good.
–Always check the temperature of the water your using, recipes normally say, warm, or hot, even list the temperature is should be at. Don’t skip that, you can either kill the yeast when the water is too hot, or not even get it to rise with water that’s too cold.(warm to the touch of your finger is a good judge of temperature)
–Fluff up the flour. No, I’m not joking. My Mom used to scoop up flour and drop it back in the flour bowl about 4 times. Until I made my own I had no clue what she had been doing. It’s almost like shifting the flour, you’re just breaking it up, and yes it does make a huge difference.
– Level the flour with a knife or your finger, never pat it down or shake the measuring cup, and don’t think letting it mountain up is no big deal. ¼ c. of extra flour can make or break your bread.
–When adding the flour always leave out a good 1 cup of it till the very end. My main problem was always adding too much flour, but it was always as directed in the recipe. The thing the recipe doesn’t tell you is, your weather changes the dough. One day you may need 9 cups, another day only 7 and a half. My tip- Keep a full cup out while mixing and add it in while your kneading. You’re less likely to over flour the dough.
–Don’t go by the time the recipes says when Kneading. You knead the dough till it’s smooth, and feels like -well a baby’s butt. If your fingers are sticking, it’s not done; sprinkle a little of the cup of flour you kept out over the dough while it to the point where you can run your hand against it, and nothing sticks.
–If you’re forming, or shaping the dough, pay attention to any resting time the dough requires. Like a pizza dough I use, if I don’t let it sit for those 10 minutes, and start messing with it, it becomes really stiff and hard. When it rests, it’s light, elastic and smooth. Ten minutes does make a difference.
If you’ve gotten this far and all is good, there’s little to mess up with baking it, just make sure you pull it out on time!