The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My first real attempt at baking bread...

awloescher's picture

My first real attempt at baking bread...

About two months ago, I decided I wanted to try baking bread.  I began perusing, a site I have begun using quite extensively since I really began cooking a lot a half year ago.  I found a recipe for "Amish White Bread", and as it had good reviews, I decided to try it, just for a sandwhich bread.  It went very well, considering the fact that I hadn't really taken much time to learn about bread baking.  After the bread had undergone its first rise, I discovered that the outside of the risen dough was a little dry.  After it had proofed, the outside of the dough was again just a little dried out.  I formed the two loaves, popped them in the oven, and had to take them out about ten minutes prior to the end of the prescribed baking time. 

The two problems I encountered came from me allowing the dough to dry out, I believe.  The loaves both had an enormous crack along the side and top, and as I found out when cutting and eating, there was a little portion inside each loaf that was not quite done. 

Now, these didn't prove to be too big of problems, however.  My wife LOVED the bread, despite the very small vein of almost-baked dough.   As for the cracks, although they were more accidental and pronounced than the natural cracking that (often purposely) occurs from the oven spring, they weren't a big deal.

Needless to say, I was hooked, and had to learn more about this (then) mysterious process of baking.  So the next day I went to the local bookstore, bought their only book on bread baking (The Art of Baking), and checked out two books from the library (Daily Bread and Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads).  Within about a week I had read through all three, and here I am...baking away! :)



ehanner's picture

Looking at your profile description, I think you are going to like it here. This is a friendly place where we share ideas and techniques freely. In the end the skills you will learn with your hands will prove to be the most valuable. I look forward to seeing some of your work.


richkaimd's picture

I just posted this to another newbie.  It might help you.

Here are some suggestions for using this website to get better at baking:

1.)  Practice, practice, practice.   Then describe your successes and failures to us.  You never know what you or we will learn.

2.)  Read this website as often as you can.

3.)  Watch all the videos as soon as you can.  Regardless of how new you are to baking and how unrelated to your baking level when you watch them, something will be remembered.  Then you'll know what's there on the video list for you to watch and learn from in the future.

4.)  If you're reading this, you obviously think you can learn by reading.  Consider buying a text book as soon as possible and read it.  There are many excellent texts, but most are too advanced for beginners.  The best one I know for beginners is Dimuzio's Bread Baking.  It is short and to the point.  Texts are intended to teach a beginner from the ground up, unlike cook books which have no such obligation.

5.)  Find a way to learn the differences in the hand movements, feel, and smells of Northern European (low hydration) doughs and Southern European (high hydration) doughs.  There are many differences between these two dough categories, differences that are best learned in a hands-on way from a mentor or teacher.  Mentors can be found using this website by posting your general geographic area and making a request to meet and bake with someone who knows a lot about the kind of baking you want to learn.   Teachers are available at cooking schools.  One of my best experiences was a four hour class in French breads.  It turned my baking life around!

Happy baking!


bakerdan's picture

You're on the right path. I am fairly new to this site but find it very helpful.

You may want to check out Michael Kalanty How To Bake Bread (on Amazon). He wrote this book based on the 6-week bread course he teaches in San Francisco.  Like Dimuzio, he is a teacher, so spends time on the details.