Bread Baking 101 - My Culinary Adventures Blog at - 221275

My Culinary Adventures

Bread Baking 101 
Feb. 4, 2011 11:48 pm 
Updated: Mar. 3, 2011 5:46 am
The following is how I bake bread.  It works well for me- I hope it does for you as well.
If you have any tips to add, feel free. 

These instructions are to be used with a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
Get out whatever bread recipe you are interested in making.  The instructions below apply to any bread recipe you have.  Even recipes that are made for bread machines.

Begin by putting your sweetener into your KA bowl.  Most every bread recipe includes a sweetener-   sugar, honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc.  If your recipe calls for multiple sweeteners, you can add both, or add just one for now.  It doesn’t matter.  A sweetener is important because it helps to activate your yeast.  That’s why nearly every bread recipe includes some form of sugar.

Every bread recipe also includes a liquid.  Either milk, coffee, or water.  Whatever your liquid is, heat it up.  Heat it until it’s about the same temperature as hot cocoa or coffee that you could comfortably sip.  This should be pretty warm.  This is a good rule of thumb, because if your liquid is boiling hot, you will kill your yeast, but if it’s too cool, your yeast won’t activate at all.

Add your liquid to your sweetener and stir.

Sprinkle your yeast onto the surface of this mixture and give it a quick stir. 

Active dry yeast is what I use.  You can buy a big bag of it at Fareway for under five dollars and it will last a very long time.  I’ve been using the same bag for almost a year.  If you keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, it will stay fresh.  Put it in Tupperware.  I clip the measurement information from the bag of yeast and tape it to my Tupperware- you should do this as well.

Mixing warm water, sugar and yeast- that’s called “proofing” your yeast.  Your bread won’t be better or worse than someone else’s who chose not to proof their yeast.  Proofing your yeast just means that you’re asking your yeast to prove to you that it’s functioning properly.  You want evidence.

If you let the water, sugar and yeast sit for ten minutes and it hasn’t become frothy, your yeast is bad or your water temperature was off.  If your yeast is bad, it’s good to find this out now, before you’ve wasted a bunch of ingredients.  Try again with fresh yeast or warmer or cooler water.

Put your dough hook attachment on your KA mixer.

Next, you should add some flour to your bowl of yeast, water and sugar- around a cup or two.  If you’re making a bread that calls for a specialty flour, such as rye or pumpernickel flour, use those flours first. 

Turn your mixer on low speed.

Once you’ve added a little flour, you can add the rest of your ingredients (NOT THE REST OF THE FLOUR) one at a time, slowly.  You can add any cheeses or herbs, seeds, salt, oil, cocoa… anything you have not added yet that is NOT flour should be added slowly at this point, while the KA is still mixing.

Once all of that is incorporated, you need to add more flour.  The amount of flour a recipe calls for should be considered a suggestion only.  Your bread will need more or less flour depending on the humidity of the air in your home while you’re baking.  Sometimes you will need much more flour than the recipe calls for- other times you will use much less. 

That is totally bizarre, but it’s true.

You can add the flour in ½ cup increments until your dough has as much flour as it needs.  Soon it will begin to look like a dough instead of a batter.  Once it looks like a dough, I add flour in much smaller increments- heaping tablespoons.  The dough should be pulling the dough and flour away from the sides of the bowl at this point.  In fact, once you have enough flour, the dough ball pretty much cleans the bowl for you. 

It’s hard to explain in writing how to know you have enough flour, but here goes:  if you look straight down into the bottom of your KA bowl, right in the center, there will be a little pool of gooey dough that stays there while the KA is kneading the dough.  You don’t want that there.  You need to add flour a little bit at a time until your dough is ALL part of the giant dough ball.  None should be hanging on at the bottom of the bowl.  If at any point during the kneading process, you look in and see some hanging out down there, add a little more flour until it isn’t.

Once you have the right amount of flour in your dough, you should let the KA mixer continue to mix, or knead it, for about ten minutes.

Most recipes will tell you to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.  That’s a very apt description.  Well-kneaded dough feels satiny.  If you aren’t sure if your dough has been kneaded long enough, there is a surefire way of finding out.  Grab a chunk of dough about the size of a golf ball or baseball and try to stretch it out to the size of a flashcard.  If you can stretch it out to the size of a flashcard and it doesn’t tear at all, and you can hold it up to the light and see some brightness coming through, you have created an excellent dough.  Bread bakers call this the windowpane test.

If your dough is sticky, like glue, add some more flour and continue to knead.  Your dough can be a little tacky, but not so sticky that it’s leaving your hands a huge mess.  Also, if your dough ripped during the windowpane test, you need to continue to knead it until it passes the test.

Once you’ve passed the windowpane test, it’s time for the first rise.  Grease a large bowl, pat your dough into a ball and plop it into the bowl.  Flip the dough over so it is coated lightly with oil on all sides.  Spray cling wrap with oil and put it on top of the bowl.  Cover the cling wrap with a hand towel that was been wetted with hot water and then wrung out.

Let this sit until the dough has doubled in size- it takes about an hour- longer if you’re using whole-grain flours.

Once your dough has doubled, punch it down to get rid of the gas inside.  Shape your dough however you want.  Braid it, shape it into a loaf and put it into a greased pan, or shape it into a round and put it on a cookie sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal.  You can also make it into rolls or mini loaves- whatever you want.

Cover the shaped dough with the same cling wrap and towel as before and let rise again until doubled.  It shouldn’t take quite so long this time- 30-40 minutes. 

Bake according to the recipe. 

If you want a harder crust, do nothing after baking.  If you want a soft crust, brush it with butter or olive oil once it’s come out of the oven.

Feb. 5, 2011 6:58 am
Very nice instructions...I could picture every step! thanks for sharing, CP. :-D
Feb. 5, 2011 9:27 am
Fantastic instructions! You've inspired me to get out the old KA and go to work. This is a great guide for new bakers.
Feb. 5, 2011 9:56 am
KA and french bread...Thank you!
Feb. 5, 2011 9:56 am
Thanks Lynna and Val. I actually wrote this for my sisters, but decided to post it here in case it could help anyone out. Thanks for commenting!
Feb. 5, 2011 9:59 am
very clearly written, great 101 directions. I just bought some new yeast and was planning on baking some bread today in fact.
Feb. 5, 2011 10:04 am
Good job CP. The one thing I will add is that some doughs are really sticky - like Ciabatta Bread dough. With that bread you want the air holes - too much flour and you won't achieve the open crumb.
Feb. 5, 2011 10:04 am
Beware folks - yeast is addictive!
Feb. 5, 2011 10:05 am
I don't have a bread machine or KA so I assume I mix the dry ingredients and wet and then combine adding flour until it is the right consistency and then knead by hand?
Feb. 5, 2011 10:11 am
French bread sounds good, bd- especially with a little brie. Yum! Avon- Thanks. When I started making my own bread, it seemed all instructions assumed that you had some experience, which I didn't. I learned so much from the ladies here at AR.
Feb. 5, 2011 10:13 am
BN, I was hoping you'd stop by and add to what I'd written. Addictive is right! Today I'm making bread that nobody can touch so that I have day-old bread for bread pudding tomorrow. :)
Feb. 5, 2011 10:15 am
Shanon, these same instructions apply to making bread by hand as well. I wrote it referencing a KA because this tutorial was actually intended for my sisters, who use KA mixers.
Feb. 5, 2011 10:16 am
Awesome job and great information! Here is a link to some other bread info and good for you ingredients. --->
Feb. 5, 2011 10:17 am
I saved the link because so many people ask for making dough in the KA! I do not so I appreciate you doing this Citrus Punch!
Feb. 5, 2011 11:00 am
Wfdm, That is a great blog you posted as well. I buy my bread ingredients in bulk, too, but from the Amish grocers a few towns away. If you have any nearby, you should check them out! They have every type of baking ingredient you could ever imagine- and the prices are unbelievable! Every time I go, I pick up a new type of flour to experiment with. Their 50 lb. bags of bread flour are around $20.00 and the quality is excellent. Thanks for posting a link to your blog- we can point people in either direction now. LOL :)
Feb. 5, 2011 1:13 pm
Citrus Punch, thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU!!! I don't know why I have a such yeast phobia...seems like everyone I know has a bread machine and for some reason that makes me think I can't possible succeed without one! Thanks for convincing me otherwise. After I get the kitchen cleaned up after the Super Bowl (which could take days!) I'll get down to business!
Feb. 5, 2011 1:43 pm
Really? You are so lucky! AND only $20! Amish Country is about 90 minutes away but too far without some major planning for me! Would love to know more about what you find there!
Feb. 5, 2011 5:23 pm
I want to use up some yeast I've had a while and need some advice on freezing the dough--do you have any suggestions regarding doing this?
Feb. 5, 2011 6:40 pm
Wyatt, I used to have a bread maker, but didn't love it. It's just a matter of personal preference though. You can definitely make great bread with or without one. Good luck!
Feb. 5, 2011 6:44 pm
Wfdm, I can't even begin to describe to you how awesome the Amish grocery store is. There are two of them within 45 minutes of me and they are both great. They sell dried spices for pennies- any spice you can imagine. The flours and grains are the most impressive part to me- the selection is enormous. They buy them in bulk and then bag them- everything in the store is sold by the pound, and extremely reasonable. They have seven grain flour, semolina, rye and pumpernickel flours, buckwheat flours and so many more that I don't even know what to do with. If you have a reason to get anywhere near one, I think you should check them out- you'd be in heaven. I'll post some pictures in the next couple of days to share some of my lucky finds.
Feb. 5, 2011 6:46 pm
Bterry- here is a site with tips on freezing dough. I don't freeze dough, because I enjoy the process of making it a couple of times a week. It may sound strange, but making bread is a comforting process to me. Anyway, here's the site- good luck!
Feb. 6, 2011 7:13 am
Nice blog, CP...Just a little fyi...yeast doesn't need sugar for proofing...a true french bread has no can just proof it in warm water and a bit of flour...
Feb. 6, 2011 7:13 am
Citrus~ You really hit home when you said this was posted for people afraid to use yeast. Well, that's me. At last, I can finally use my KA mixer with bread hook with confidence. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!
Feb. 6, 2011 8:26 am
Thanks, Eake. I'm by no means a bread pro, so I really appreciate others adding to the discussion. :)
Feb. 6, 2011 8:27 am
Suzie, I'm glad it inspired a little confidence. That was my goal. Before I started baking bread regularly, I was pretty intimidated by yeast. Now I bake all of my family's bread and it feels like second nature. I can't imagine ever going back to buying bread at the grocery store!
Feb. 6, 2011 3:17 pm
If you working with a sticky dough, that should be sticky, oil your hands and work surface instead of flouring. This way you will not add too much flour..... When working with whole wheat flour I like to mix it with my liquid and let it rest for a while before I add my other flour. Whole wheat needs longer to hydrate than AP or bread flour..... Some breads, like ciabatta, have very wet dough. This is what produces the big, custardy crumb, don't be tempted to add more flour if you can work with the sticky dough..... If you want a very crisp crust toss a handful of ice cubes into the oven when you put the bread in. The steam will help it crisp up..... If you are really afraid of working with yeast, start with AP flour and a simple French bread recipe. This way you won't be worried about wasting expensive ingredients... CP this was a terrificly well written blog!
Feb. 6, 2011 3:33 pm
BSM, I did not know about putting ice in the oven for a crisp crust. That's an awesome tip! I'm glad I posted this blog, I have a feeling I'm going to learn more than I shared. :)
Feb. 7, 2011 6:03 am
Yes, you can also use a pan of water for the steaming, CP. Some bakers suggest spraying the oven with water but you have to watch you don't get water on the oven door glass! It will crack. I use a cast iron pan and ice cubes because thin pans will buckle and warp when tossing the ice cubes in.
Feb. 7, 2011 10:15 am
Wfdm, Cast iron pans are the best, aren't they? I have a skillet and a dutch oven that I love so much. Also, I realized that I already have posted pics of Amish buys a few blog entries back if you'd like to take a look. I went to Southern Iowa last summer and posted pics of their products and Stringtown's products. Stringtown is the dry goods store that I visit most frequently because it's the closest.
Feb. 7, 2011 9:03 pm
OMG! Thank you for directing me to your blog! This is exactly what I needed! Now that hook for my mixer can actually get used! It has only been laying in the drawer for 10 years! LOL! Thank you again!
Feb. 7, 2011 9:09 pm
Megan, I'm really glad I could help. The Amish White Bread recipe on this site is a great bread to try out- it's a pretty straight-forward recipe and it produces impressive results. Good luck!
Feb. 8, 2011 5:44 am
What a great step by step description to take the fear out of bread-making. Stuck in the big freeze in Texas last week, I had a lot of bread-making time, and actually posted a very easy one rise farm house bread recipe on this site. It's a great beginner bread, because it uses RapidRise yeast and only rises once: gives almost "instant gratification" for an impatient bread-maker. I, too, find bread-making very theraputic and usually bake at least two times a week or so...Greaat blog!!
Feb. 8, 2011 6:13 am
Will tiptoe back thru your blog now :) Thanks! I love our Amish country... Will definitely have to plan a trip!
Feb. 8, 2011 7:40 am
great blog CP, I like to allow WW flour or any grain flour to sit for a bit too. I also often do a 3 rise. Mix all the ingredients, let it rise to double, punch down, let it rise to double, THEN shape and let rise again, then bake. This makes a very fluffy bread without vital wheat gluten. I have done it this way for years, then when I was trying new recipes on here some breads were rising almost too much. I later realized it's becasue a do a triple rise.
Feb. 8, 2011 11:14 am
Aunt Zibba, I just read your blog and I love it. Canning is something I have no experience with. I intend to start my first garden in the spring, so I'm very excited about that. I may have to hit you up for some advice!
Feb. 8, 2011 2:15 pm
RG, I'm going to try your triple rise method the next time I do a whole grain bread. Thanks for the tip!
Feb. 8, 2011 3:59 pm
This is the best step by step recipe basic for yeast breads. Thank you! It's fool proof if you just follow the directions. Yeast breads are a mystery for many of us. This is a great help!
Feb. 8, 2011 5:55 pm
Do these instructions work for bread made with "starter"?
Feb. 8, 2011 6:05 pm
Hi Oma, thanks for the kind words- I'm glad you found my blog helpful! Dianna- no, these instructions are not intended to be used with any type of starter. Starters are a whole different ballgame. That does give me an idea for a future blog though!
Feb. 8, 2011 6:14 pm
With these instructions.....the sooner the results are okay, but not great. I really look forward to whatever help you can give. I may even have to try regular yeast bread. Thanks so much
Feb. 8, 2011 7:02 pm
Hey, CP, I am happy to share canning tips!! Hard to believe that I have canned for almost forty years!! I started as a teenager with my grandmother and I turned 55 this year. YIPES---where does the time go??? Anyway, there is NOTHING more rewarding than opening a can of homemade marinara in February---and you don't have to add a single THING!! I make a lot of pickles, relishes, jellies and tomato-based stuff. If you have a garden, unless you have 37 freezers, canning becomes a necessity! Maybe I can take the worry out of that for you like you did bread-making for so many!!
Feb. 9, 2011 3:53 am
Hi, I'm new here. These seem like great instructions. I dont' have a KA but I know how to compensate so I'll give this a try. I just discovered another easy way to make bread. It's Jim Lahey's "No Knead Bread". Made the first loaf tonight. I did make a few mistakes and it still turned out great. This is such a forgiving recipe so don't worry about trying it if you've never made bread before. If you follow the instructions it should turn out great. Here's all you do. Mix 3 cups of regular flour, 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast (yes...that is suppose to read 1/4 teaspoon yeast), and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Just swish the flour around with your hand to get it mixed together. Add about 1 1/2 cups of room temp water. Again, swish around with your hand. The dough will be wet and sticky. If the dough is too dry add a little more water. You don't want a dough that holds together tightly like kneaded dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 12 to 18 hours. I set mine in the oven overnight with the oven light on because we turn the heat wayyyy down and the house gets quite cool over night. After at least 12 hours or so check the surface of the dough to see if the top is covered with bubbles and it has expanded. Remember, this is a very forgiving process so don't worry about it rising for 15 hours, 18 hours, or even a little longer. What ever works for your schedule. For me 15 hours works well. Flour your work surface. Turn the dough out of the bowl over the work surface. It will be sticky so sprinkle the surface with flour but not too much. Just enough flour so the dough doesn't stick to the board or your hands. Fold the dough over itself a few times...sort of like folding it in half one way and then the other. After a few folds get a cotton dish towel. Generously sprinkle the dish towel with flour or corn meal. I really prefer corn meal. Pick up the dough and lay it on the cotton dish towel. Generously cover the top of the dough with flour or corn meal. Fold the towel over the dough. I inverted the large bowl over the towel too just for added protection but make sure the towel is loose enough so the dough can expand. Let it rise for about 2 hours. The dough will double in size. About half an hour before the dough is done rising turn your oven on 450 degrees F to preheat. Now you need a heavy pot with a lid that can go in a hot oven. I use a cast iron chicken fryer that has a lid. You can use an enameled cast iron pan, pyrex roaster, or a cast iron dutch oven. As long as it has a lid and can bake in a hot oven. If using a cast iron lidded pot you can put it in the oven while it's pre-heating. I set the lid on the oven rack next to the pot. From what I've heard about newer Pyrex glass and ceramic I'd let the oven reach 450 degrees before putting that in the oven. In any event, the pot has to be as hot as the oven to bake the bread. When the oven and your pot are at 450 degrees F and the dough has risen, carefully and gingerly take the round raised dough out of the dish towel and plop it in the hot pot. Yep, just plop it in and put the lid on top. You don't have to grease the pan. Bake the bread in the covered pot for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and then bake another 15 to 30 minutes or until you have a really nice brown crust. I baked a loaf tonight and it was sooo good. It's time consuming but it's effortless in that you don't need to do any work kneading or mixing with machines. This is Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread method and it's easy as pie. Good luck!
Feb. 9, 2011 6:00 pm
Citrus, The bread tutorial is great!! It will help lots of people!
Feb. 10, 2011 6:34 am
Thanks so much for the instructions. I made bread a few days ago, using the KA mixer and wasn't sure about the "puddle of dough on the bottom of the bowl". I should have added a little more flour! I'll know for the next batch!
Feb. 10, 2011 8:04 am
Thanks Maureen! Angie- glad I could offer up a new tip for you. :) lakelady- You summed up how I feel about baking bread. It is time consuming, but it actually doesn't require much work for something so rewarding. There's nothing like homemade bread, is there?
Feb. 10, 2011 9:44 am
Very good blog!!!! Having made bread with my KA for some time now and had to learn by trial and error. I can attest to your steps and descriptions perfectly from my experience and my eventual success. So all of you reading this blog are lucky to have this easy to follow tutorial!!!!
Feb. 10, 2011 7:29 pm
What I love about making bread is that you can take your basic bread dough and easily change it to suit your mood. Add a little garlic, oregano and cheese and you have a great dinner bread. Chunks of cheese and some pizza sauce added with the last knead and you have a great pizza bread for snack time. Then my favorite, sweeten the dough very slightly and use it to make up some cinnamon rolls. After the last rise, roll the dough out to a rectangle and brush with softened butter. sprinkle liberaly with cinnamon sugar and roll securely along the long edge. Cut into 1-2" pieces using a piece of string or dental floss and put into a well greased pan with edges touching. Let rise in a warm place, 30 minutes or until doubled in size. bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, watching for the bottoms to brown and the centers to set. Let cool slightly and if desired frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
Mar. 3, 2011 5:46 am
Thank you for posting bread 101. I followed your instructions and my bread came out perfect! You have helped me in my bread making learning skills!
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Citrus Punch

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Wilton, Iowa, USA

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About Me
I'm a stay at home mom with a terrific husband and three sweet sons. I come from a big, crazy, loving family and am very close to my five sisters. Family is the best.
My favorite things to cook
I like to make anything. I like to bake and cook and I especially love making new (to me) ethnic foods and baking bread.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mom's chicken & rice soup with biscuits, Christmas baking, the "nothing but homemade" rule for family gatherings.
My cooking triumphs
I am a good baker. Not cakes and cookies type baking, but I do well with yeast breads and enjoy thinking up new bread recipes.
My cooking tragedies
We don't talk about those- it makes me cranky.
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