Want to make better bread at home? Use these five handy tips & tricks & you’ll be baking like a pro in no time!
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Baking really good bread at home doesn’t have to be difficult & fortunately, there’s several things that you can do to take your bread game to the next level! With that being said, here’s five of my top tips for making better bread…
Use Digital Scales
Bread making is all about precision, so perhaps the most important part, is weighing out all of your ingredients accurately. Using a set of digital weighing scales is by the far the most precise way to do this. Especially when it comes to ingredients like yeast & salt.
In all of my bread recipes, you’ll see that any water used, is also measured in grams, instead of millimetres. This is because 1 gram of water is the same as 1 ml & using scales is a more accurate way of measuring than a jug.
A good set of digital scales can be picked up cheaply online & are an easy way to ensure you’re using the exact amount of each ingredient specified by a recipe.
Accurately Measure Temperatures
The key to ensuring proper fermentation is by accurately measuring temperatures. This includes any water/liquid in the dough, the temperature that the dough will prove at (room temperature or a cold prove in the fridge) & the oven temperature, for baking the bread.
The best & most precise way to do this is with a digital food probe & an infrared laser thermometer. The probe is used to measure internal temperatures, so water temperature, cooked bread temperature, etc. The laser on the other hand takes surface temperature, so is useful for measuring room, fridge & oven temperatures.
When I make bread, I find that the ideal room temperature for proving is as close to 25.5°c/78°f as possible. Unless you’re using a bread proofer though, you won’t have much control over this & the temperature can depend on the weather outside.
Fortunately, by accurately measuring the room temperature, you can determine whether the dough will need a shorter or longer prove (a shorter prove for a warmer room temperature, a longer prove for a cooler one).
Use The Windowpane Test
Gluten development is an incredibly important part of baking.
In bread, gluten provides structure & texture. It also helps trap gas during fermentation which is what causes bread to rise. Without proper gluten development, you’d end up with flat, dense bread that looks like a pancake!
After kneading, the best way to assess gluten formation in your dough is by using the windowpane test. To do this, you take a small piece of dough & stretch it between your fingers. If it stretches thin enough so that you are able to see through it, enough gluten has been developed. If it tears, more kneading is required.
If you were making a no-knead bread like a loaf of sourdough, you would perform the windowpane test after several sets of coil folds/stretch & folds.
When you cold prove dough in the fridge, the fermentation process is slowed down considerably, meaning that the prove will take place over a day or two as appose to a couple of hours at room temperature. This will give your bread a better, more developed flavour whilst also making the dough easier to handle, when it’s time to shape. It also allows the baker some flexibility with their baking schedule.
Depending on the recipe/type of bread, you would either cold prove the dough shaped in a proving basket/baking tin or unshaped in a bowl/container.
With sourdough, for example, you tend to cold prove shaped (in a proving basket) then bake it straight from the fridge. Whereas with something like a focaccia, you would cold prove in a bowl then transfer the dough to a tin & leave to rise at room temperature before baking.
The reason for doing a cold prove is the same either way & will make a real difference to the flavour of your bread! Keep in mind that the temperature of your fridge should be between 1°c-5°c (34°f/41°f) for the best cold prove.
Leave To Cool Before Slicing
So you’ve baked an amazing loaf of bread & can’t wait to slice it! We’ve all been there & it’s definitely tempting to eat a piece of still warm bread but cut into it too soon & you’ll end up with undercooked bread with a doughy, gummy crumb.
It’ll still taste pretty good but for the best results, you should let your bread cool down on a wire rack for an hour or two before serving. Your bread will thank you for it!
Essential Bread Making Equipment
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- Thermapen Digital Probe
- Stand Mixer
- Digital Scales
- Laser Temperature Gun
- Proving Basket/Banneton
- Oval Casserole Dish (For Baking Sourdough)
- Spray Bottle
- Baker’s Lame
- Dough Scraper
- Bench Scraper