Traditional bread baking methods often took me as much as four hours by the time I collected my baking tools, stirred up the dough, and completed all the kneading and rising.
Using a bread machine drastically reduces the time required for kneading and rising bread dough. And there are some additional simple steps that can help trim your bread baking time frame even further. One of the easiest ways to cut down the time spent baking bread in a bread machine (a good 10 to 15 minutes) is to prepare ingredients and tools ahead of time. Steps to accomplish that:
- Mix all the dry ingredients (except the yeast) and store either at room temperature (if it will be used within a day or two) or in the freezer/refrigerator until you’re ready to bake. You can measure and store one or multiple mixes this way. If they’ll be stored a while, it’s a good idea to label and date the storage bag/container.
- Measure yeast and sweetener and store in separate containers.
- Assemble all the bread baking equipment the night/morning or a few hours before you’re ready to bake.
Most bread machine cycles can be manually started and stopped, which means you can shave a few minutes off each cycle to reduce the complete knead/rise/knead time. Bread baking experts say knead times should be at least 8 minutes. Often, bread machine knead cycles are as long as 15 minutes. Since kneading causes gluten strands to become stronger and longer, aiding dough rising, we don’t want to reduce kneading too much or the bread won’t rise sufficiently. Some bread machines feature a custom programming option which allows users to set the length of each cycle.
If your machine doesn’t have a custom program feature, you can use timers to manually stop and start the kneading and resting cycles. This can be very effective if you plan to complete the final rise in your oven and bake the bread in the oven.
The final rise time can also be reduced from 30 minutes to 25 or 20+ minutes. Take care not to reduce final rise time so much that the baked loaf is overly dense and heavy.
Completing the final rise in a warm oven – temperature range between 100 and 115 degrees – will help yeast remain active so the final rise completes quickly and thoroughly. If you’re not able to set your oven to this exact temperature range, you can use a digital thermometer to test your oven temperature. Position the thermometer in a cold bowl/pan, extend the thermometer probe and set it inside the oven for a couple of minutes so the temperature can register. It shouldn’t be necessary to heat the oven any further during the rise. You can also place a pan of hot/boiling water underneath the bread pan to help maintain the desired temperature.
Photo by Istock
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 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, on Pinterest, and Facebook.