I love love love making bread. Love it. I love the way the yeast smells as it ferments. I love the way the dough feels when I’m shaping a loaf. I love the smell of fresh bread right out of the oven. And most of all I love the taste and texture of good homemade bread.

I’ve been experimenting lately with different breads. I’m not going to lie, it can be hard, time consuming, and tiring. But these experiments are well-worth it in my opinion. So, I wanted to put together a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Below are links to a few of my stand-by, basic (read: easy/cheats guide) bread recipes as well.
French Bread Loaf

bread dough

Fast Acting Yeast:  This is one of the most readily available yeasts at my local shops. And, like the name implies, it makes the bread-making process…fast. Simply whisk the yeast into your lukewarm liquid (usually water, milk, or a combination of the two) and wait 10 to 15 minutes for the yeast to “bloom.”

When the Yeast “Blooms”: Means that the yeast has activated and has produced enough gas to create a frothy, foamy look.

Dough Hook Attachment: Another kind of “cheat’s trick” is to not knead by hand. Yes, I know, who can resist the awesome squishiness of bread dough? Well the good news is that you do get to play with it once it’s proofed. Depending on what shape you want (loaf, rolls, sandwich buns, or even pizza), you’ll definitely have the chance to get your hands doughy during that process. But utilizing that dough hook on a stand-mixer takes out a lot of the sweaty work and, for me, ensures a smooth and elastic dough — the kind that will give you light, fluffy bread.

When the Kneading is Done: You’ll know when to stop kneading (or in this case when to turn off your dough hook) because the dough will be elastic and smooth. Even when working with a looser dough, like a brioche which yields a “shaggy” (or slightly wetter) dough, the dough should be able to pull away from the hook fairly easily.

This bread dough is elastic and smooth. There are no lumps or bumps on or in the dough, so it's ready to rest and proof.
This bread dough is elastic and smooth. There are no lumps or bumps on or in the dough, so it’s ready to rest and proof.
This bread dough is not done kneading. Too bumpy.
This bread dough is not done kneading. Too bumpy.

You can also tell when the dough is ready to proof by practicing the slap test. When you slap the dough, it should be firm, yet springy.

Baking the Bread: Again, the baking time and method will depend on the style of bread you want to create. For bread with a crunchy outside and soft center (like the rolls pictures above or the loaf pictured below), place an oven proof dish filled with ice on the bottom rack of your oven. This will create steam and give your bread the crunch-factor.

This recipe can make 2 french-style loaves (8 - 10 inches)

Lastly one of the best ways to test if bread is done is the tap test. When you tap the bottom of the bread — whether it’s a loaf, roll, or flatbread, it should sound hollow.

Ready to Bake: Are you ready to bake? I’ve got a few easy bread recipes for you to check out!

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

Light Brioche Buns

Easy French Bread Recipe

Your Turn: What are some of your favorite bread recipes? Got any good tips & tricks to share with your fellow bakers? Let’s talk about it in the comments. Happy baking.

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