The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New baker in Portland, OR

Haley's picture

New baker in Portland, OR

I've recently (VERY recently) started baking. I'm a newly wed and new college graduate with lots of time :) I've suddenly found myself feeling very domestic. But baking bread, reading about it, writing about it, kneading, mixing, and flouring have been slowly consuming my mind. So I've been trying to accomlish what seems impossible: maiking bread rise. I think yeast is my worst enemy. SO...for a young lady in Oregon who wants so desperatly to be a good baker who is "in-tune" with the dough...any advice, encouragment or good first time recipes for me??

pmccool's picture

Welcome to The Fresh Loaf, and to married life, and to baking. 

As far as advice, I've only been married 32 years, so am probably not yet qualified to offer suggestions in that arena. :-)

Regarding baking, I'd suggest that you start with Lesson 1 in the lower right-hand section of the first page of this site.  Or, you can click on the Lessons link at the top of the page.  No matter how you get there, work with that lesson until you are able to consistently turn out a satisfactory loaf of bread.  It's a simple bread that doesn't require a lot of fancy equipment, techniques or ingredients.  Failures, if they occur, will be inexpensive and another part of the learning process.  The one thing that this lesson (or any other lesson or cookbook) can't teach you is how the dough should feel.  That's a bit of knowledge that only comes with experience.  After you've made the bread enough times to know what works, and what doesn't work, then you can move on to subsequent lessons and add to your repertoire and experience.

If you want additional information, there's a book titled The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  The front section of the book goes into considerable detail about the process of making bread.  It's worth reading a number of times.  You may be able to find it at your local library.  Tempting though it may be, I'd recommend you don't launch into the recipes until you're feeling comfortable with the basics you learn in the lessons posted here.

Rose Levy Berenbaum has written a book titled The Bread Bible.  When you're at the point of wanting to branch out with different breads, Ms. Berenbaum's book is an excellent resource.  Her recipes are so carefully constructed, and her directions so thorough, that they are about as close to foolproof as can be.

One last suggestion: purchase an inexpensive kitchen scale that is able to measure quantities in grams and ounces.  It should also have a tare setting that allows you to reset the weight to zero before weighing the next ingredient.  You can find a number of models for less than $30.  Measuring by weight (grams or ounces) produces much more consistent results than measuring by volume (cups), particularly for materials such as flour.  Baker A's cup of flour may weigh 4 ounces, Baker B's cup of flour may weigh 5 ounces.  If the recipe calls for 8-10 cups of flour, Baker B will have half a pound more flour in the bowl than Baker A.  That can really skew the outcome of the finished bread.  If the recipe calls for 2 pounds of flour, then 2 pounds is 2 pounds, no matter which baker weighs it out.

Happy baking,


mredwood's picture

Welcome, There are many good bakeries in portland in which to draw inspiration. Follow the advice about lesson 1. You probably will want to go to a bakery and buy something yummy. . Then you probably will want to make it yourself. By the time you can turn out a decent loaf you will have many wonderful recipes you will want to try. Six months, a year you'll be saying "I like mine better". It can and will happen.  

This web site has book reviews and they are very good ones. Read them. Make notes. Go to Powells and look at the book there. Or get a library card. Go on line and order the book on hold for you. when it comes in you have 3 weeks to bake out of it. My Bread Bakers apprentice is so well used it's falling apart. 

BBA is a good book to learn from. Everything is explained. Like "tacky but not sticky"." Clears the side of the bowl but not the bottom". After using these word guides and weight measurements you won't want to go back to ordinary recipes. Weights and good instructions spoil you. 




Pain Partout's picture
Pain Partout

Haley... I have only been married 36 years.  Fortunately, I was introduced to truly great bread in Quebec many moons ago.  Bread books, especially older volumes,  make baking sound soooo "religous/complicated". Sounds intimidating.  It needn't be that complicated.   The Fresh Loaf is a great place to start poking around.  The recent book, Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day, could convince you that making bread does NOT have to be an "all-day-slave-affair".  Big fridge is a must though, with some of these "retardation methods".  Good yeast does count.  Go with SAF.  Pop it in your freezer to keep it lively. Good quality flour also counts.   Go have fun,... and have a great time trying to cope with new hubby, college, creating a home,..etc, etc. 

noonesperfect's picture

I think the key is that you don't "make" bread rise - you have to wait and let it rise when it wants to.  Assuming your yeast is alive and happy, if you wait long enough, your dough will rise.  Temperature is the next variable - the cooler the area where you put the dough to rise, the longer it takes.  I've had dough take nearly 5 hours to rise in a cool room, where it took only 2 hours in a 75 degree room.

What have you tried so far? 

Dragonbones's picture

Yeah, I used to have the same problems with yeast, but recently bought BBA and started watching the videos on this site, and my breads are finally succeeding!

1. Make sure your yeast is fresh. Don't skimp on this.

2. Watch some of the videos available through this excellent site, to see how wet and sticky dough should be (of course this varies by recipe, but for years, my greatest error was adding way too much flour all the time)

3. Be patient while waiting for the dough to rise. It may take longer than what the recipe says. 

Oh, and congrats! :)