Whether you’re new to making bread or just need a little refresher course, this bread-making primer will answer all of your questions about making bread. Click on any of the links below for a refresher course and extra information on each step to making bread.
Making this in your bread machine?
1. Mix the Bread Dough
Whether you’re making bread in a bread machine, a stand-type mixer, or by hand, the most important ingredient to remember when mixing the dough is the yeast. It’s sensitive to temperature and its relation to other ingredients. Just make sure not to over-mix the dough if you’re using a stand-type mixer.
If you’re making your bread in a bread machine, the water should be 80 degrees. If you’re making bread in the oven, the water should be 110 degrees. Getting the right temperature for your water ensures that you’ll have the right temperature in the dough for the yeast to actively grow.
When mixing the ingredients, remember that sugar accelerates the yeast growth while salt kills the yeast. Be sure to keep the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the mixing bowl and get exact measurements of each of your ingredients, the salt especially.
2. Knead the Bread Dough
The important part about kneading is giving the dough the elasticity it needs to rise. This can be achieved by using a dough hook in your stand-type mixer or by hand. Your bread machine will automatically go through this process for you. It takes about 15 minutes to knead the dough by hand and 5-10 minutes with a stand-type mixer.
To knead the dough by hand, simply press the heals of your hands into the dough and pull the dough back over itself only to press the heals of your hands back into the dough again. Repeat the process until the bread dough becomes elastic.
The way you know when you’re done kneading is when you can pinch a portion of the dough and stretch it into a smooth, thin layer before it breaks. With the stand mixer, the sticky dough will completely pull away from the sides of the bowl into a drier ball.
3. Let The Bread Dough Rise
The important thing about letting your dough rise is that it needs to double in size, or else it will turn out flat and dense. There’s no precise expectation of time for this because it depends on the temperature of your kitchen.
The ideal temperature for a quicker rise is 79 degrees, and it could rise in as little as 45 minutes. To control the temperature and environment better and trap in the moisture and heat, we like to use proofing bags to cover our dough as it rises.
4. Form the Bread Loaf
The easiest way to form a bread loaf is by pretending the dough has a ball or cylinder in its center. Pull the dough around its center to create a smooth surface and tuck the seams into the bottom. Pinch the seams together firmly and put the loaf seam-side down into the pan.
Once your loaf has been formed, set it aside to rise for a second time, this time watching for it to double in size and for air bubbles to rise to the surface. That’s when you know it’s time to rush the loaf into the oven.
Our test kitchen is air-conditioned. It’s too cool for optimal yeast growth and we have to be patient or find a shortcut. Often we will set dough in proofing bags in front of the south-facing windows in the kitchen.
“Last week we were making hamburger buns. (Jalapeno-cheddar burger buns are out-of-this-world good.) But they weren’t rising fast enough. So we were running baking sheets with rising buns down to the parking lot.
“If the sun is shining on a car, the car acts like an accelerated proofing box. Don’t leave the dough there for over about 20 minutes or the dough will take over your car. Use the car for only a kick start and then finish proofing in the kitchen.”
5. Bake the Bread
The most important part of baking bread is the internal temperature. It’s the only true way that you can know when your bread is done baking. Most bread mixes and bread recipes will call for a 350-degree oven. At this temperature, most loaves will bake in about 25 minutes, and rolls will bake in 15-20 minutes.
Use a kitchen thermometer to check the internal temperature to know when your bread loaf is completely done. You can stick it into the center through the bottom of your loaf. Your bread is done baking when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees for regular loaves or 210 for crusty artisan loaves.
If your bread isn’t done yet, simply stick it back into the oven and cover it with tin foil to finish baking.