Here are some points to check to ensure you produce the beautiful loaf you’re waiting for.
1. Accurate measuring is important when you bake bread. A few tablespoons more or less of either liquid ingredients or flour can make a significant difference in your dough and your final results.
I prefer to use glass measuring cups because sitting them on a level surface quickly reveals my measuring accuracy.
To check whether or not individual measuring utensils and larger measuring cups/pitchers agree (and make sure you’re not short or long on an ingredient), you can use a small one to measure ingredients into a larger one. Typically, a 2 or 4-cup measuring utensil (preferably glass) is the most accurate way to measure your recipe ingredients.
2. If you’re warming your recipe liquid to a temperature range of 105 to 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) to boost your yeast activity, take into account how any other ingredients added to the liquid affect that temperature. Those ingredients would include milk, sweetener (such as sugar), etc. Even stirring your recipe liquid with a cold spoon will take away some of the heat.
3. If you’re mixing your dough with a hand or stand mixer, you’ll want to develop a method for warming the mixer bowl and beaters so they don’t detract from your dough temperature. If your kitchen is quite cool while you’re baking bread, just the cool air temperature will affect your dough.
4. For bread machine users, don’t be afraid to check on the texture of your dough once it has mixed for several minutes. Open the bread machine lid to see if the dough is pulling away from the sides of the bread machine canister. That’s what you want to see.
However, if the dough is too dry, you can add water one tablespoon at a time to moisten it. This should only take a few seconds. Of course, use warm liquid to help preserve your desired dough temperature.
If the dough is too wet, add flour one or two tablespoons at a time to get the desired texture.
5. Making your own bread takes some time, and there are ways to trim that down (see one of my other articles for tips), but don’t reduce kneading times below 15 minutes. It takes both yeast action and gluten activity to produce that picture-perfect rise.
6. Be sure to warm your bread pan before you place the dough into it for its final rise. If you check your pan for warmth (especially in winter), you’ll be surprised at how cool it is. Hot water for 30 seconds will warm it up.
7. While you need a warm environment for your final rise, avoid making it too warm. If your oven (or other rising area) is more than 120 degrees, yeast may push the dough high early in the rise and then fall when you bake it.
Don’t be discouraged if you encounter some issues as you prepare your bread dough and don’t produce high, light bread at first. Checking on each of these points each time you bake will give you the results you hope for!
Photo by Loretta Sorensen.
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.