Since the quarantine started many have started to dive into various new hobbies to pass the time. One of those hobbies that has taken off on social media is bread making. People around the globe have been flocking to their kitchens, cultivating their own sourdough starter, buying up all the yeast, and ending up elbow deep in one dough or another.
I myself have jumped on this bandwagon, I’ve actually been on the bandwagon long before it was cool. I guess you could say I am a home bread maker hipster! Not all of us were born with the uncanny ability to produce a perfect loaf every single time, some of us have had to learn through trial and error. Myself included. So I wanted to go over several common mistakes home bakers make when it comes to making bread at home.
1. Killing your yeast.
Your yeast is what is going to help your dough rise, become nice and fluffy, and help it to form the gluten it needs to become an amazing loaf of dough.
If you are used to baking with just boxed cake or brownie mix, you might just be accustomed to dumping all the ingredients into a bowl. Mixing it. Dumping the batter into a dish, and baking it. You really cant do that when baking doughs that call for yeast. Yeast is a living organism, you want to wake it up, encourage it to start eating, and it give you the wonderful byproduct that will give you nice fluffy dough.
One way you can kill your yeast is by adding it to water that is too hot. In my experience water that is 110 degrees Fahrenheit is what yeast likes best. Also, if your recipe calls for sugar, go right ahead and add some of that sugar to the water. Yeast loves sugar and adding it to the water will encourage your yeast to wake up, start bubbling, and start working.
You also always want to proof your yeast. What this means is that you’re checking to make sure your yeast is even alive to begin with. How you do this is you add your yeast to the liquid your recipe calls for, add some sugar like I mentioned; and then wait. Wait ten minutes. If your yeast is alive an well the mixture will froth and bubble up. If that doesn’t happen, it means your yeast is dead and your dough wont rise.
2. Not Kneading Your Dough Enough.
Kneading your dough helps the gluten to form, which is what is going to help your finished product be light and springy. It also helps all the ingredients to be fully incorporated throughout. Leaving you with an even flavor and texture.
If your recipe calls for you to knead your dough for ten minutes, you better knead your dough for that amount of time. Sure, it can be exhausting, but gyms are closed right now. Think of it as your workout for the week!
3. Not Using The Correct Flour
Flour types matter. If you’re making a loaf of bread, typically the best type of flour to use is Bread Flour. This flour is milled and formulated differently than All Purpose flour.
You’ll get a more even rise and flavor when you use the correct type of flour. Now you might want to be on the healthier side and use whole wheat flour, you can do this, but you’ll need to look up the alternative measurements when replacing bread or all purpose flour with whole wheat.
When using whole wheat, the change in measurements is important because whole wheat will tend to give you a denser or dryer loaf than one made with All Purpose or Bread flour.
4. Not Rising Your Dough In an Appropriate Environment
Again, you don’t want to kill your yeast before it gets a chance to do it’s thing. Your dough is going to want a dark, warm, and moist place to do its rising. I have personally found that the inside of my microwave with the over counter lights on is the ideal environment. The interior of the microwave is dark and the lights radiate just enough heat to keep things moist and warm.
Others have found that turning your interior oven light on and putting your dough in the oven (with the oven OFF of course) yields the same results. Like I said, I personally prefer the microwave method.
5. It’s Ok To Fail
Maybe bread making isn’t your thing, but you ROCK at baking cakes! That’s ok! Even though your first loaf might not have turned out Instagram worthy, you can still try and try again. You should also remember that some of the bread recipes that are floating around and are going viral right now are for more advanced bakers.
I’ll confess something to you, dear reader:
I suck at sourdough bread.
I tried and tried and tried to cultivate my own sourdough starter and failed miserably. The bread that I ultimately made looked like an oversized hockey puck and tasted like nail polish!!! So if you tried your hand at sourdough and it didn’t work out, fear not! Sourdough is HARD! Maybe start somewhere a little easier like an Amish Sweet Bread. I will attach my favorite recipe for that below.