Who doesn’t love freshly baked bread? The sweet aroma that fills the house awakens the taste buds and all one can hope for is a perfect outcome. However, this is not always the case, and after putting in all the effort the last thing you want is your work to go to waste. To enjoy homemade bread and savor the unmatched taste of freshness, this post shares numerous tips on the most common mistakes to avoid when baking bread.
A perfectly baked bread starts with having the right ingredients. More so, the measurements should be precise because any ingredient, be it salt, yeast or sugar that’s in excess can spoil the whole recipe. That’s why your loaf can be light or dense.
While some may use spoons or cups for measuring the ingredients, professional bread bakers recommend using a measuring scale to ensure precision. It’s also important to check if your yeast is still active. Yeast makes all the difference in bread and if you’re not sure it’s active, you can try this test – dissolve a half teaspoon of sugar in water and add two teaspoons of yeast into the mixture. An active yeast should bubble within 10 to 15 minutes.
Kneading Your Dough
Have you ever tried to cut the loaf only for the slice to break into pieces? That’s a result of under-kneading. Kneading is the next crucial step that could mess up your whole baking experience. Most beginners don’t know how a finished dough should feel and hence they keep adding flour because the dough feels sticky. And then, there is also the issue of over-kneading. The overworked dough will give you a rock-hard, dense and dry bread. This is more common for those who use a stand mixer. One trick to check if the dough is ready is to poke it. When it bounces back, then you’re good to go! A perfectly kneaded dough needs to be elastic and stretchy.
Use Warm Water
The water you use to mix the dough should be of the right temperature. Professional bread bakers suggest that you need warm water to create a bread with good texture. In other words, you need to be sure that the water is not too hot or too cold. The ideal water temperature should read between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit. Water that’s too warm will kill the yeast and the loaf won’t rise as expected.
The Dough isn’t Rising
After mixing all the ingredients and you’re satisfied that your dough is well kneaded, it needs to undergo a process known as proofing. During proofing, the yeast starts eating the starch sugars in the flour releasing carbon dioxide in the process. Proofing allows the bread to expand evenly when baked. If the dough refuses to rise, the following could be the possible reasons:
- The yeast you’re using is inactive or stale. If you used hot water, it means you killed the yeast, hence the dough won’t rise. Likewise, if your yeast is stale, it will not work.
- The temperature is too cold. You need the perfect temperature to enhance yeast reactions. A temperature that’s too low will slow down the process while a temperature that’s too hot will kill the yeast. A completely proofed dough will rise back after a soft poke. If the indentation doesn’t come back all the way, it means you’ve over-proofed your dough.
Scoring the Bread
If you’re a novice bread baker, it’s easy to forget this important part. Scoring involves using a sharp knife to slit the very top of the unbaked loaf just before you pop into the oven. Scoring creates a passage through which the build-up carbon dioxide will escape. Scoring prevents the loaf from bursting open along the sides.
Failing to Preheat the Oven
This is mandatory in most baking goods. Most people feel like it’s a waste of energy and time, after all, the bread will cook in the end, right? Here’s why you should always preheat the oven – placing the dough in the cold oven will result in dry and rock-hard bread. Additionally, the bread will not rise because the dough didn’t get the right heat that it requires to push it to rise. Plus, food always cooks fast in a preheated oven.
You Open the Oven Door Too Often
One thing that you need to practice when bread baking is patience. After placing the dough in the oven and setting the right temperature, let the timer be the reminder that your loaf is ready. If you’re impatient like many people, and you keep opening the oven door every five minutes to check on the progress of the bread, the temperature inside the oven will fall and will take some time again to rise. As a result, the loaf will not be evenly cooked.
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