Humbled by bread: this week’s lessons

I’ve made the same simple white loaf three times in the past week and still haven’t gotten it quite right. Perhaps it’s due to the cold weather, my impatience, my inexperience, or all three. So instead of sharing my secrets for how to bake a perfect loaf, I am humbled to share the lessons I’ve learned while making my rookie mistakes.

bread 2

Lesson #1: Warmth or sunshine is not enough for a yeast dough to rise. I put the dough in its covered basin and plunked it on my sunny, breezy afternoon porch. Now, if you read good breadmaking advice (which I did) and then follow it (which I didn’t), you will realize the importance of choosing a location that is both warm and draft-free. That batch felt those drafts and languished low and cold.

bread 3

Lesson #2: Don’t make bread when you’re rushed or impatient. On days I started baking in the late afternoon, I didn’t give the dough enough time as I rushed to get it in the oven before dark. If you don’t allow proper time for kneading, rising, and baking, the bread’s quality will suffer. After that mistake, I realized that if I’m bothering to make homemade bread at all, I might as well do it right and not rush.

Lesson #3: The loaf should sound beyond-all-doubt hollow. When you take that beautiful golden-brown loaf out of the oven, flip it over, and give it a thump, it should sound definitively hollow. If it doesn’t, put it back in, find something else to do for a few minutes, and come back to check again.

Despite my misadventures this week with low-sitting dough and trying to beat the clock, nothing beats cutting off a warm slice of fresh-baked bread and tasting that delicious crunchy crust. You just can’t get in a store.

What are your best breadmaking tips or advice?

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5 thoughts on “Humbled by bread: this week’s lessons

  1. Great Blog! Very easy to read and informative. I don’t have any tips as I am still a beginner myself and make many mistakes but hopefully we both will get better with time!
    Stopping by from livingsimplewiththejanegirls.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My bread turns out best when I measure ingredients by weight. I don’t always have that patience but I should. You’ll get better flavor by allowing the dough to rise slowly in a cool spot, especially if it’s sourdough. Flavor develops over time. If I can get myself together enough to let the dough rise overnight (in winter) in the cold corner of the kitchen and bake it off first thing in the morning I get excellent flavor and a bit of heat from the oven.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book that changed my life about bread (not to mention vastly improved results) was how to make bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. I followed the directions to a t for the white bread and it is like the most miraculously beautiful thing I’ve ever eaten. I also made the bagel and croissants recipes and WOW. The big thing that is different in his recipes is that instead of meet his recipes is that instead of kneadng for 10 or 15 minutes straight, you knead it 9 times, cover it and let it sit for 10 minutes, and repeat four or five more times. Seems to do the trick!

    As far as letting bread rise, I luckily have a bread proofing feature in my gas range but still usually just do what my mom always did, which was wrap it in a blanket and set it next to a sunny window …or if it’s winter just put it in bed under the covers !

    Liked by 1 person

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