You’re preparing for your child to be born, and you’re craving something delicious. Bread is on your mind day and night, and if food is on your mind, you can start baking the perfect loaf of bread today. But I am not going to give you a recipe to follow.
I’m going to do something even better: help you fix all of those baking errors that you’re making. You’ll be able to use a lot of these secrets to make fruit cakes, cookies, pastries or any other type of cooking when baking is involved.
Bread Baking Secret #1: Warm Butter
You follow a recipe exactly, and what happens? Your bread turns out horrible. I have had this happen countless times, and the problem was something so simple that I am almost embarrassed to even mention it: butter.
I added the butter into the mix.
But I didn’t let the butter warm up first. The recipe never really said what to do with the butter, so I left it out for a minute or two before adding it into my dough.
Room temperature ingredients trap the air through emulsion and this air will expand and allow the bread to get nice and fluffy. If your bread hasn’t been getting the fluff you want, this may be why.
Bread Baking Secret #2: Knead on an Oiled Surface
This corrective technique seems so obvious, but it’s a technique most people don’t even think about. If your bread and dough is just dry, you’ll want to knead it on an oiled surface. If you knead your dough on a floured surface, you’re going to add to the dryness of the bread.
And this should be evident during your last dough rise.
If you just have dough that’s always too dry, this trick will help – a lot.
Bread Baking Secret #3: Temperatures Aren’t What They Seem
I started to notice that my bread never came out just right after a few recipe failures, but it wasn’t just bread. A lot of baked goods didn’t come out right. I knew I followed the recipes exactly, so the next logical step was to look at my main equipment.
The utensils have little to do with the problem. When I was using a new bread maker, the problem went away, too. But any time I put my dough into the oven, or any baked good for that matter, instant problems.
My oven. The temperature wasn’t right. I put it on 350 degrees, but the calibration was off, and the oven’s temperature was off. I used a separate oven thermometer, and the oven was off by 25 degrees
You can calibrate some ovens, but I just used the thermometer to tell the difference in temperature and I was back to the grind making delicious bread once again.
If your oven is off, and a lot of them are, it’s going to be problematic.
Another mistake I learned from my grandmother, and it’s so simple, too: stop opening the oven door. You let a lot of the hot air escape the oven when you open the door, which causes the bread to bake improperly and causes the oven to work in overdrive.
Bread Baking Secret #4: Use a Digital Scale
Baking with confidence requires you to use a digital scale. The best bakers in the world know that even a slight variation in an ingredient’s quantity can lead to a major difference in the chemical reaction in the bread.
And if you just “eye” your ingredients, it’s no wonder that they never come out right.
You need to measure your ingredients using a scale. And I am sorry, but you need to also measure in grams. Trust me, it’s so much easier and it makes an immediate impact on your baking.
Scales are the difference between consistency and chaos.
If you measure all of your ingredients by weight, you’ll be able to make sure that the same recipe tastes the same the next time you follow it.
Bread making is an art, and it’s all a matter of taste. Something I learned on my travels to Italy is that the way Italians make bread is a lot different than the way Americans make bread. The sweetness isn’t part of the Italian bread making ritual. Not at all.
And the taste is much earthier in Italy than it is in the U.S.
But it’s all a matter of taste. Experiment, add ingredients and find the bread taste that makes your mouth water.