TROUBLE-SHOOTING BREAD DOUGH

Anyone who cooks and bakes very often is likely to have entertaining stories to tell about cooking activities that went wrong. I’m no exception to that rule.

Because baking bread involves a degree of what some call “art,” there’s bound to be some recipe flops here and there. What we want to avoid are regular disappointments with how the dough rises or how our bread tastes.

Like any other skill, each of us will have unique details in our approach to baking bread. Those individual abilities will emerge over time.

However, there is also quite a bit of science behind bread baking. We know for sure that yeast expels carbon dioxide as it feeds off sugars. That’s what makes bread dough increase in volume.

We also know that yeast is more active in a temperature range between 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) and 112 degrees. At temperatures of 115 or higher, the yeast dies.

This information helps us refine bread baking methods to achieve high-rising loaves that look beautiful and taste fantastic!

If your bread-baking efforts aren’t as successful as you’d like, here are four tips that may help you identify what’s hindering your success and giving you more “entertaining” baking stories than you really need!

  1. Dry, dense loaf: this may be caused by using too much flour. In my earliest bread baking days, I thought bread dough should have no hint of stickiness when it was ready for the final rise. The dough shouldn’t be so sticky that you have to scrape it out of the pan. However, it’s okay if it sticks to your hands a bit. You want adequate moisture for the yeast to do its final work and for the bread to be soft. If it seems necessary to add flour during the final kneading, do so sparingly and just a tablespoon or two at a time.
  2. Dry, dense loaf: It’s also possible that you’re packing your measuring cup when you measure flour. Spoon flour into your measuring device and level it off with a knife or other utensil. You can also weigh flour (a skill I have not yet mastered). Keep in mind that different types of flour have different weights when measured. Check out King Arthur Flour’s Ingredient Weight Chart on their website for details.
  3. Dough deflates when it’s time to bake it: This indicates that the dough sat too long, and raised too high before it was placed in the oven. It’s also possible the dough was too wet and didn’t hold its shape when it was moved.
  4. The loaf flattens when it’s sliced: Be sure to use a sharp knife when you slice bread. A serrated edge works best for me. Don’t press down on the loaf as you slice. Let the knife gently cut down into it. Depending on the type of bread you’re baking, the loaf may need to cool a bit longer before slicing it. I know! What a challenge for those of us who love bread straight out of the oven!

 

STOCK UP ON HOMEMADE BREAD MIX

Looking for a way to keep bread baking in your summer schedule?

By preparing dry recipe ingredients ahead of time, you can quickly stir up bread dough and keep healthy, wholesome bread on your table.

You can take nearly any bread recipe and create a mix that helps you streamline your baking process. Here are two recipes to help you get started.

WHITE BREAD MIX

Container: My number one container preference for bread mix is a wide-mouth glass canning jar. You could also recycle a jar that once contained spaghetti sauce, pickles, etc. Make sure your jar will hold 4 cups.

Measure and sift together:

3 ½ – 3 ¾ cups all-purpose or bread flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt (I recommend Himalayan pink salt)

Measure but DO NOT add to flour mix:

1 ½ teaspoons yeast

Place measured yeast in a small plastic container or bag and put it in the jar with the flour mixture.

Store the mix in the refrigerator or the freezer (freeze if you won’t use it up within three months).

When it’s time to bake the bread, you’ll need:

1 cup water

1/3 cup milk

¼ cup sugar (can substitute honey or maple syrup)

3 T butter or oil

Find full baking instructions at here: https://bakeyourbestever.com/soft-white-bread.

 

 

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD MIX

To store, I recommend using a jar, as noted above. In summer, whole grain loaves of bread are especially prone to turning rancid, so be sure to store this mix in the refrigerator or freezer.

 

Mix together and place it in the jar/storage container.

3 ½ cups 100% whole wheat flour (I recommend white wheat for the flavor)

1 ½ teaspoons salt (recommend Himalayan pink salt)

1 T Gluten (optional)

Measure, but DO NOT add to flour mixture.

1 ½ teaspoons yeast

Place the measure yeast in a plastic storage container or bag and put it in the jar.

When it’s time to bake the bread:

1 ¼ cups water, ranging from 105 to 110 degrees

¼ cup sugar, honey or maple syrup

2 T butter or oil

Read full baking instructions at here: https://bakeyourbestever.com/whole-wheat-bread/.

 

If you find you have time to bake multiple loaves of bread that you can freeze, all my homemade bread recipes freeze well. You might consider measuring out all your dry ingredients ahead of time and setting up a streamlined baking process. Here are some tips:

  1. If you don’t mix dry ingredients ahead of time, start assembling all your recipe ingredients to ensure you have the supplies you need.
  2. Set up a separate area in your kitchen – on the counter or an extra table, etc. – for working with wet ingredients and dry ingredients. This just makes it easy to keep all dry ingredients together, and all wet (remaining) ingredients together as you prepare the contents of each loaf. It’s less likely you’ll forget to add something.
  3. If you don’t have enough bread pans to use a different one for each loaf, you can easily rotate between two or three pans. Plan to soak the pan in water for 3 or 4 minutes after your baked loaf is removed.
  4. For easy access, recipes can be attached to your fridge with a magnet or otherwise set up so you can easily read them without stopping and picking them up. My recipes are enclosed in plastic sleeves to help keep them clean.
  5. You might consider mapping out and writing down the timeline for each loaf, as in what time ingredients go into the bread machine, what time the first dough should be ready for the final rise, etc. This can help avoid under- or over-kneading, under- or over-baking loaves.
  6. Check your bread machine for instructions about run time and any need for cooling down between operations.

TOO BUSY TO BAKE BREAD?

Don’t you believe it!

We have so many bread baking options and tools that nearly anyone will be able to make bread baking work with your schedule.

The first step: decide which type of dough preparation best fits your time schedule and tastes.

When I began my bread baking journey, I wanted to know how to make delicious bread in a short time. Through trial and error, I learned how to use my bread machine for a hands-off dough mixing/kneading process that allows me to bake picture-perfect loaves in about 2 hours. Since I work from home, this process easily fits into nearly any day when I have either a morning or afternoon to mix up the dough, raise it and bake it. I can make white bread, whole grain bread, six-grain bread, dinner rolls, sweet rolls, etc. all with this same easy process.

But maybe your routine takes you away from home, and maybe no two days are exactly the same. If that’s the case, you can make use of mixing dough and refrigerating it until you’re ready for a final rise and baking. Refrigerated dough will probably take 60 to 90 minutes to raise and be ready to bake. Generally, a two-pound loaf of bread bakes within 30 to 35 minutes.

You can shave the mixing time in half when you create a “bread mix” by measuring out and sifting together all your dry ingredients (except your yeast) and keeping them on hand till you’re ready to bake. Refrigerate for freeze your mixes so they don’t become stale. When you’re ready to mix dough, prepare the liquid ingredients, add the dry ingredients and mix it all together.

If you want the health benefits of sourdough bread, you can mix/knead your dough in 15 minutes, place it in a bread pan and allow it to rise for approximately three hours, then bake it for 30 minutes. This type of bread baking is completed over a span of about four hours. It delivers a delicious, soft, moist bread that adds some beneficial gut bacteria to your diet. It is also easier to digest than breads baked with commercial yeast.

One other sourdough bread baking option involves using a recipe that calls for lightly kneading your dough two or three times throughout the day. These types of bread typically have a strong flavor because the dough ferments throughout the day. For those who enjoy the tang of a strong sourdough taste. Once ready to bake, the dough requires 30-40 minutes baking time.

Among the ways I help speed up baking time is to begin by laying out all my equipment (bread machine, measuring cups, measuring spoons, digital thermometer, spatula, etc.), then gathering all the recipe ingredients, and then start mixing it all together. This helps me avoid measuring mistakes or leaving out a recipe ingredient.

There’s no question that, in the beginning, baking bread might take you somewhat longer because you’re learning a process that fits you, testing out different recipes, etc. What you’ll find in the long run is that baking bread is one of the healthiest, most rewarding tasks you’ll ever do for your family and yourself!

Don’t wait any longer – start baking your own bread!

 

VERY EASY SOURDOUGH STARTER RECIPE

I have to laugh at myself for thinking that keeping a sourdough starter on hand would be too complex and time-consuming. It’s neither!

And the photo here illustrates the high rise this type of “starter” can provide for baked goods. Since I’ve had no experience with sourdough in the past, I still used commercial yeast in this loaf, too. In a few days, I’ll try using just the sourdough starter. I think it will work fine!

Here’s the super simple sourdough starter recipe:

½ cup flour (any variety)

1/3 cup water (use filtered water or allow your water to sit on the counter overnight, so the chlorine evaporates)

Don’t skimp on the water, or your mixture will be too dry and not ferment properly.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the flour and water. Do NOT use a metal spoon. Silicone or wood is preferred.

Once mixed, place the flour/water in a glass container. A quart jar works very well. Wide mouth is ideal, but regular mason jar works, too.

Cover the jar with either a paper towel or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band or the jar ring. I use a screen that fit inside my jar lid. You just have to keep the jar open so the fermentation can progress.

Let the mixture sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: You may or may not see bubbles in your starter. Either way, mix another 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water and add it to the starter, leaving it at room temperature.

 

Day 3: By now you should see some bubbles. Each day from now on there should be more and more bubbles and the starter should expand in volume. Today, remove ½ cup of the starter (this should be about ½ of what’s in the jar). Store the starter you removed in a covered container in the refrigerator. Replace it with another well-mixed batch of ½ cup flour, 1/3 cup water. This is called “feeding” the starter. Continue to store at room temperature.

 

On days 4-5-6-7, you can “feed” the starter 2x/day, removing one-half cup and using the same ½ cup flour and 1/3 cup water to replace it. On day 7, the starter will be ready to use to bake bread.

 

Use the amount of starter called for in your bread recipe (my recipe is at this link: https://bakeyourbestever.com/2876-2/), feed your original starter, then store it in the refrigerator, unless you plan to use it again within the next 24 hours. At this point, you only need to feed your starter once per week if you’re not using it.

 

Each time you feed the starter and remove the 1/2 cup, that’s called discard. You can use the discard in recipes such as pancakes, biscuits, bagels, muffins, etc. (watch for these recipes as I test them.) Here’s a delicious pancake recipe for two. If you need to make more pancakes than this, you can easily double the recipe. These were not only delicious but filling and made an awesome low-cost breakfast!

 

1 c. flour

¾ t baking powder

¼ t baking soda

¼ t salt

2 T sugar

2/3 c buttermilk (I use a powdered version)

½ c sourdough (let it come to room temperature or sit out overnight)

1 egg, beaten

2 T butter, melted

 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the buttermilk, sourdough, egg, and butter. Combine the two mixtures. Take about ¼ cup batter per pancake as these really raise high and become thick. Cook until bubbly on top; flip and finish cooking. Top with syrup, honey, etc.

 

Over the coming weeks, I will share additional sourdough recipes and insights I gain through this venture.

 

HOW TO MANAGE BREAD DOUGH TEMPERATURE

Did you know there’s one simple tool that could revolutionize your bread baking forever?

that tool? It’s a digital thermometer.

 

If you’re thinking that the last thing that you need in your kitchen is another tool, no worries. Digital thermometers are generally about the length of an everyday spoon and less than 2 inches wide.

 

When it comes to cost, some digital thermometers cost as little as $5.

So how will this simple tool make help you improve your bread baking? By verifying the temperature of the liquid used to dissolve your yeast. At a temperature range between 105- and 110-degrees (Fahrenheit), yeast thrives and produces a light, high-rising loaf of bread. Once your liquid falls within this temperature range, you can be certain your yeast won’t be killed by liquid that’s too hot. You’ll also know that it’s warm enough to start working in your dough once you’ve combined all the ingredients.

 

If you use an instant-read thermometer, it will take you about two seconds to check the liquid temperature. If you opt to use a less expensive model, it may take up to 10 seconds. The step adds very little time to your bread baking process and contributes greatly to the quality of your loaf.

 

So, what kind of digital thermometers should you use in baking bread? There are numerous types to consider.

 

  1. The least costly digital thermometer that I’ve come across, $5.49, will work just fine for this task. Since it’s being used for a few seconds each time, it’s likely to last for many years.
  2. Higher priced digital thermometers range from $10 to more than $30. The one I currently use cost $13 and has worked just fine for the past two years. If I find I need to replace it, I will try the less costly option to see how it holds up.
  3. Instant-read thermometers are very convenient, but much more costly. Prices often begin at the $80 range. While the convenience is nice, it’s not necessary to accomplish the task of verifying the liquid temperature.

 

If you’ve never used a digital thermometer in your kitchen before, you may find that you like it and can justify paying a higher price for one. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

 

Whichever model you select, I highly recommend implementing the practice of checking your liquid’s temperature, especially if you’ve struggled to produce satisfactory loaves of bread. This step, in combination with the use of a bread machine, took my bread baking results from disappointing to amazing.

 

And what role did the bread machine play? Since the mixing and kneading take place in a canister, you can warm the canister before placing your ingredients inside it. This helps maintain that ideal temperature range you set up by checking your recipe liquid. Your bread dough will start at an ideal temperature range and remain there until it’s baked in the bread machine or, you prepare it for the final rise to bake in your oven.

 

If you decide to bake the bread in your oven, warm your bread pan before coating it and placing the dough in it. Complete the final rise inside your warmed oven (just don’t leave the oven on during the rise time) or in an area where you can manage the temperature to help keep it warm (90-100 degrees is ideal).

BREAD MACHINE RICE BREAD

RICE IN BREAD DOUGH?

Substituting cooked rice for part of the flour in my bread dough was an entirely new concept for me until I found a recipe noting that rice “makes delicious bread that is moist, flavorful” and has an interesting texture.

My go-to bread machine recipe has always been quite moist and soft. However, when I decided to try using some leftover rice, I found that rice does indeed produce a very soft, moist bread. Be aware, though, that, for some reason, it doesn’t toast very easily.

Here’s my Bread Machine Rice Bread recipe:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour (may need to add some additional flour)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ cups water

3 Tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 ½ teaspoons yeast

1 egg

1 ¼ cups cooked, cooled rice

3 Tablespoons butter (you can soften or melt this or cut it in chunks when you add it to the canister)

Heat the water to a temperature range between 105 and 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) (or use hot tap water that’s in this temperature range). Dissolve the sugar in the water; add the milk. At this point, check the temperature of the mixture with a digital thermometer. It should be a minimum of 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) and not more than 110 degrees (Fahrenheit). If it’s too cool, warm slightly on the stovetop. If it’s too warm, stir it to cool it down.

Once the water/sugar/milk mixture is in the desired temperature range, dissolve the yeast in it. Set the mixture aside.

Blend the flour and salt thoroughly and set aside.

Beat the egg slightly; set aside.

Before you place the yeast mixture into the bread machine canister, warm the canister with hot water. This helps maintain an ideal temperature range for yeast activity.

Once the canister has been warmed, pour out the water you used. Place the yeast mixture in the canister, followed by the flour mixture, then the beaten egg, cooked rice and butter.

Set your bread machine on a mix/knead cycle of mix/knead for 15 minutes, rest for 20 minutes, mix/knead for 15 minutes. If your bread machine can’t be programmed for this cycle, simply set timers so you know when to start and stop the machine.

Once this cycle is complete, you can either bake the bread in the bread machine or place it in a bread pan (ideally 8.5×4.5). Prepare your bread pan by warming it (if your kitchen is somewhat cold); then use non-stick spray, butter or some non-stick ingredient to coat the pan. Place the dough in the pan and set it in a warm place to rise. Your oven, heated to at least 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), is a great place to raise bread dough. Don’t leave the oven on while the dough rises. Cover the dough with a light towel to help keep it from drying out while it raises.

It will take approximately 30 minutes for the dough to rise. At that point, remove the dough from the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit). Bake the bread dough for 30 minutes. Once you take the bread out of the oven, immediately remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack.

To store the bread, use a plastic bag or bread keeper. Unless you plan to use it within 24 hours, always store homemade bread in the refrigerator.

THE GIFT OF BREAD!

Since homemade bread is a somewhat rare commodity today, you may have family and/or friends who will appreciate receiving a homemade loaf.

Depending on how many people make it to your “homemade bread gift list,” you may need to produce multiple loaves in short order. Within 8 to 10 hours, you can make at least 6 loaves of bread using my “streamlined” method.

Step 1: Inventory your ingredients. Make sure you have enough flour, sugar, and yeast on hand to make as many loaves as you need. Here’s a typical ingredient list for 6 2-pound loaves of bread:

  • Flour – an average of 3 ¾ cups per loaf = 22.5 cups. A five-pound bag of flour will make an average of 5 loaves.
  • Sugar – generally, a recipe for this loaf size will not call for more than ¼ cup of sugar per loaf. For 6 loaves, you’ll need 1 ½ cups of sugar. If you use another sweetener, multiply the amount for one loaf by 6.
  • Yeast – my recipe for a 2-pound loaf calls for 1.5 teaspoons of yeast. To ensure you have enough yeast to make multiple loaves with your recipe, multiply the yeast amount by the number of loaves you’re making.
  • You’ll also need salt and either butter or oil in your recipe.
  • Depending on your recipe ingredients, you may need milk and/or some additional ingredients (i.e., potato flakes to help keep the bread soft).
  • If necessary, measure out each ingredient so you can verify that you have what you need.

When baking multiple loaves, it helps to assemble all your ingredients in one place to speed measuring activities. You may also consider measuring all dry ingredients one or two days before you’re ready to bake. You can combine flour and salt but keep sugar and yeast amounts separated until you’re ready to use them.

If possible, set up an area close to your oven where the final rise can be completed. Once you start baking the loaves, the area around your oven should be warmer than the overall room temperature, which means the dough will rise more quickly.

To keep track of what stage each batch of dough is at, you can set timers (I use both the microwave and an old dial-type timer) so you don’t forget to put the dough into a loaf pan or into the oven. You’ll also want to time the bake time for each loaf (generally 30 minutes). A sheet that lists “Loaf 1,” “Loaf 2,” etc. can also help. Before you begin, estimate the time each batch of dough will be ready to put in a loaf pan and the time you expect it will be ready for the oven. This can help you accurately track each batch of dough since you’ll be able to work on other things as the process progresses.

It will be helpful to set up an area where each loaf can thoroughly cool before you bag it. If you don’t have enough cooling racks to accommodate all the loaves, you can suspend the loaf between two objects, with each edge of the loaf (set them up lengthwise) on boxes, pans, even plates. Just make sure heat can escape from the bottom of the bread, or it will become soggy.

Bag each loaf as soon as it’s cool. You can decorate the bag with stickers, ribbon, even wrapping paper if you like. Since homemade bread has no preservatives, be sure to store the loaves in a cool location (equivalent to a refrigerator) until you share them. You may also consider including a note about how to store the bread to keep it from spoiling.

Happy baking!