8 Necessary Tips for Baking Bread
No disrespect to that loaf you just bought at the supermarket, but once you learn to make bread at home, your life will change. It's a task that may seem daunting. Kneading. Pulling. Waiting. Baking. It's a process that will become second nature over time, but the toughest part is actually just sitting down to do it. Follow these tips for bread that comes out right every time.
1. A slick solution for dough
Working with high-hydration bread doughs that are extremely wet can be messy, especially when it comes to prying the sticky mass from the mixing bowl or food processor. Spraying both sides of a spatula with vegetable oil spray allows you to effortlessly scrape the dough from the container.
2. Off the hook
Lightly spraying the dough hook with vegetable oil spray before mixing bread dough prevents dough from edging up the hook and makes cleanup a breeze.
3. Preventing a sticky situation
Spraying plastic wrap with vegetable oil spray before using it to cover a bowl of rising dough is sometimes necessary to prevent sticking. But keeping the plastic from clinging to itself during spraying is a challenge. Here’s one solution.
1. Drape the plastic over the bowl and spray it.
2. Quickly flip the plastic over, so the sprayed side is facing the dough. Cover the bowl with the plastic.
4. A solution on the rise
Covering dough while it rises prevents it from drying out. Plastic wrap is a standard choice, but you can also reuse bags from the produce section of the supermarket. The long bags easily cover a loaf pan, and they are food-safe.
5. Putting a lid on your dough
Many bread recipes call for the rising dough to be covered with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out and to protect it from drafts. For a more economical alternative, try a glass pot lid (tight-fitting is best, but any lid that covers the surface is fine). Just as with plastic wrap, the transparent lid allows you to gauge the dough’s progress.
6. Tracking dough rise
Not every baker owns a dough-rising bucket with markings for tracking the rise of dough, but any baker with a large, clear container can improvise one with this trick: after adding the dough to the container, mark its height by placing a rubber band around the container. This reference will make it easy to judge when the dough has doubled in volume.
7. Keeping a record of rises
To keep track of which step you’re on when making a bread recipe that calls for several folds and rises, jot notes with a marker on the plastic wrap covering the bowl of rising dough.
8. Bread slasher tips
Often when you slash the top of a loaf of bread prior to baking it, the blade will snag a bit of dough and drag it out of shape. To avoid this small annoyance, spray the blade lightly with vegetable oil spray, so it will travel through the dough smoothly.