The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie to baking bread

  • Pin It
roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Newbie to baking bread

Hello All,

I am Roopa. I love to cook and bake too.. I bake cakes, cookies and bread sometimes too.. But the bread comes out dense inside and not soft. I am looking for help on how to bake breads that are soft inside (like the ones bakery makes or sold in stores) and a good crest outside.

I also dont have a bread machine or any other accessories other than the oven in the apartment (I have a oven with manual controls) ...

Looking forward to comments and help from all you folks out here..

Thanks

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

Learning to bake bread from the beginning without instruction is a brave act.  This website can be a lot of help.  Read it often.  My experience suggests that you use this website as an adjunct to learning from real experts.  Use a textbook written for a beginner.  My favorite is DiMuzio's Bread Bakin.  It takes you from the beginning on up to being a quite good baker.  To get there, he suggests exercises that can be done to cement his text into your hands and mind.  I don't think working from a bread cookbook is in any way as good as a text.  Some are OK, but most are not methodical enough for a beginner.  Also, there are texts for those with lots of experience.  DO NOT BUY ONE YET.  They're are a lot too complicated for you as a beginner.

Even though you are a beginner you should watch all of the videos from this web site and youtube if only to give you an idea of what's out there.  Then you can go back to them later when you are baking something relevant to a particular video.

Finally, practice a lot.  Then post your experiences and read response.  This is a good web site for that kind of communication.  Just remember that as a beginner you cannot really be expected to know good advice from bad.  Always compare the content of comments to the advice in your text book.

 

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

For the best chance of getting help you need to tell us what recipe you are using, and what kind of flour.  If the recipe is copyrighted, don't type it here verbatim.  Just type in the ingredients and a rough idea of how you made it.  For example, how long you kneaded the dough and how long you let it rise, etc.  The name of cookbook and recipe will be helpful to those who may have the book and be familiar with the recipe.  If it is a recipe that you invented yourself, that is fine too.  Just tell us what you did so we can make suggestions.  Don't be dismayed if you get suggestions that contradict one another.  People usually make suggestions based on the type of bread that they make themselves, and not all breads are made in the same way.

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Thank you for the responses!

What I tried to make was a herb bread. My family likes it, but I am not satisfied with the final result. I feel the bread turns out dense and not very fluffy. I would like it to be fluffy. Please help me if my ingredients or method is wrong. I did not refer to any cookbook for this.

  • Bread flour 31/2 cups
  • Dry active yeast - 1 packet (I bought this from Target...)
  • Sugar   - 1/2 tbsp
  • Salt - 1/2 tbsp
  • Fresh herbs (Peppermint, basil, thyme)
  • Milk - 1 cup

 

Method:

  • In a wide bowl, I make a well in the center. Warm some milk and add sugar and yeast to it and mix well. Cover the well with the flour and let it aside for 20 - 30mins.. I saw froth coming out of the flour mixture.
  • Now, addded all the other ingredients and mix well into a soft dough.... Brushed it with a little Olive oil and set it aside for 2.5 hrs or until the mixture doubles in quantity..
  • Once this is done, kneaded the dough to return to its original size and grease a baking dish and bake the bread for 30 to 35 mins at 350F in the oven.

For baking, My oven is a manual controls oven. I do not have a kitchen thermometer :-) ... I just use a bread pan. Grease it with cooking oil. Place the dough and bake.  I am attaching an image of the bread I made.

Also, I have read about spritzing the oven. What does that mean and how do I do it? Will it help my bread turn out fluffy or soft in the inside?

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

The bread needs a second rise before baking, after you put it into the baking dish.

You need to knead the dough for a while before the first rise. You want gluten to develop, which is what makes dough hold in the little bubbles given off by the yeast. This is not like making muffins or cake, where they say not to mix too much. The reason for not mixing the batter for muffins and cakes too much is that if the gluten developed then the cakes and muffins would be chewy. For bread, you want the gluten to develop.

Secondly, don't knead the dough between the first and second rises. This will destroy the small bubbles that were formed during the first rise. You want to flatten it gently, then form the loaf. Then let it rise for about half as long as the first rise, or until the center of the loaf is about an inch above the edge of the dish. Don't let the edge of the loaf rise over the edge of the dish before you bake it.

Depending upon the weight of the 3.5 cups of flour, you may want to add some water to the dough but you can tell if it is okay by how it handles when you knead it.

Spritzing is a way to get humidity into the oven so your bread can expand before the crust gets hard. If the crust gets hard, the dough either will not expand, or it will crack down the center as your bread did. I wouldn't worry about the spritzing until you get the rising and kneading worked out.

msbreadbaker's picture
msbreadbaker

Can you let us know if you have any success using the ideas given to you? It would be helpful to know what worked and how you made out. You took such nice pics, please do it again with your new results. Good luck! Jean P.

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

I am making the bread today :-) .. I have incorporated all the suggestions of kneading and S&Fs in this... Need to wait and watch now :-) .. Looks like the dough is happily resting during its first rise :-)Will let you all know how it turned out.. Ofcourse with a picture :-)

Once again, thank you everyone... You guys are awesome !! Hopefully, the bread also turns out as awesome !!!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

You can use the search button on the upper left to find out anything and everything about bread.

From your description, I think you need to develop more gluten in your bread before letting it do its first rise in the bowl.  You can do this by kneading for 10 minutes after you mix it or you can do stretch and folds every 20 minutes for and hour and a half  (There are videoes on how to do S&F's) .  Either way works.  After it doubles, then you can handle the dough easily, press out the air doubles gently and shape the dough into a loaf for the 2nd rise to double in the tin (there are videos on shaping too).  Proper gluten development, dough handling and shaping will lead to a nice bread that is not dense.

Hope this helps.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

...

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Thanks guys for the replies...

So, if I understand this correctly, here is what I need to for baking my herb bread:

  • Mix the ingredients and knead for 10 mins.
  • Allow the mixture to rise for 30 mins or until double in size.
  • Do 1 S&F 2-3 times and shape into a loaf.
  • Place this loaf in the baking dish. Allow it rise again in the dish itself.
  • Bake in the oven.

Is my understanding correct? or should the S&F be done in regular intervals of 20 mins? How many times should 1 S&F be?

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

usually mix the ingredients and knead for 10 minutes then allow to double in size regardless of time then gently degas, shape into a loaf and place in the tin to rise and double a second time.  Or

You cna mix the ingredients together and do Stretch and folds every 20 minutes or so.  The dough will tell you when you have done enough turns for each S & F.  When it tightens up then stop, don't tear the dough,  and let it rest covered in a well oild bowl for 20 minutes before doing another set of S & Fs.   The dough will relax as it-rests and allow you to do some more.  You can tell when you have done enough S&F's say after 4 sets of them, the dough should be smooth and have a firm structure that will hold the gas in.  A wetter dough will usually require more sets to develop the gluten well enough.  After the S & Fs are complete say in an hour or hour and a half.  Let the dough develop and ferment in the covered oiled bowl for  another hour or so until it nearly doubles say 70-80%.  Then shape it into a loaf and let rise in the tin until doubled and or passes the poke test.

Kneading or S&F's will work.  I prefer S&Fs since it gives me a more open crumb.   Somtimes I combine them by  kneading for say 4-5 minutes and then let the dough rest for 20 minutes and then do a couple sets of  S&F's  before allowing the dough to develop..  At that point you can retard the dough by placing it in the fridge over4night which allows you to bake the next day by shaping the dough and putting it into the loaf pan to double - after it warms up for an hour  or so to allow shaping.

You will get the feel of dough after awhile and know what it needs and when it needs it.  Experience will come in short order with practice.

Happy baking.

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

I think many of us had false starts baking bread as we so often got dense loaves.  The fundamental problem, I think, for the beginner, which I certainly was about 2 years ago, is not having a wet enough dough. 

The first problem is using cup measures for flour rather than weight.  The amount of actual flour in a cup of flour can vary by over 100% depending on how it was packed, how you handle the scoop, etc.   I was reminded of this recently while I was using a cup measure to flop flour into a bowl on the scale.   I wanted to use equal amounts of the two flours I was using.  A cup of flour out of the new paper bag of flour weighed over twice as much as the flour out of a partly emptied plastic bag of flour that had been manhandled during the making of previous loaves.

The next problem is adding too much flour in the process of kneading in an attempt to follow the recipe's instructions for preventing the dough from sticking while kneading.  A non-sticky dough is usually too dry for a fluffy bread.

I really crossed over the hump of making doorstops and bricks when I started to weigh the ingredients and followed the stretch and fold method shown at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/stretchandfold.html.  

One very important piece of knowledge I gained after making a loaf using Mike's stretch and fold instructions was what a dough was supposed to feel like when fully developed.  The time between stretch and fold cycles allows that development whereas a beginning kneader tends to stop kneading too soon -- at least I did.

And, as my friends in the previous comments said, you will accumulate great gobs, piles, and mountains of knowledge as you hang out on this site.  The search box works great for reading about specific stuff.   And after you've been here awhile, you'll start to develop your own formulas for making bread that is exactly what you want -- like my recent conquering of a fluffy, non-sourdough rye that, as my neighbor says, reminds him of his New Jersey childhood with every slice.  I've since made it several times, both with light rye flour and with dark, to good effect.  Here's the recipe and a description of how I came to it: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/28962/i-finally-got-my-fluffy-rye-tee-hee

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Yes, you are absolutely right! I always use the cups and never the actual measurements... I dont have a kitchen scale :-) .. But if my bread turns out good, I will invest in buying a scale for my kitchen :-)

Colin2's picture
Colin2

I would put in a plug for following the lessons on the lower right of http://www.thefreshloaf.com/ and suggest watching some of the bread videos: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/keyword/video.  Don't worry about all the details in them; just think if it like watching Grandma in the kitchen for a while.

Bread-making is like cooking of any kind in that you need to learn look and feel -- you can only approximate that with timings and measures.  Practice will teach (a) how a dough should look/feel as you mix it up (b) what it looks/feels like when it's fully kneaded (c) how it looks/feels when it's ready to go into the oven.  These things will vary from recipe to recipe as well.

Oh, and a manual-control oven is fine, and you absolutely don't need a bread machine!  Happy baking.

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Dear all,

The bread I baked today did not come out well. First of all, the first rise was not perfect! The dough did not double in size. It was the same as when I placed it after kneading. Maybe I messed up the ingredients!! I tried the wholewheat sandwich bread recipe posted on this website. I halved the ingredients as I wanted to just bake 1 loaf while the recipe gave ingredients for 2 loaves...

I also feel I did not do the kneading properly the first time. What I did is

  • Miz the ingredients. Kneaded the wet dough in the bowl itself rather than on a lightly floured surface as the recipe stated.
  • Placed the dough in the bowl for the first rise . The bowl was covered with a plastic wrap. I let it rest for 1.5 hrs
  • The dough did not rise. Should have I waited more? I dont know
  • I did 1 S&F 3 times and turned the dough into loaf shape and placed in the baking dish covered again with a plastic wrap.
  • I let the dough sit for more than 3 hours.
  • Baked the bread for 45 mins in 375F
  • The resulting bread was just a lump of dough turned brown.

I think I committed many many mistakes starting from the ingredients to the way I handled the dough...

I will try again tomorrow and correct all my mistakes :-)

 

 

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Assuming that you did not forget the yeast, the lack of rising may be because the gluten was not developed.  When you are done kneading, the dough should feel "alive".  It should feel like a blob of living material, rather than a lump of flour and water.  I can't describe it better than that.  Gluten is the one thing that mainly sets bread off from cake and cookies.  It is a chemical change in the dough, brought about by the action of working the dough.  It never happens with a cake batter unless you mix the cake batter for too long, which is why cake recipes say not to mix more than absolutely necessary.  You can actually feel the change in bread dough when the gluten is forming.  The dough "comes together".

Without gluten development the bread will not rise, because there is nothing to hold in the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast.

Stretching and folding is a replacement for kneading.  People tend to use S&F with wetter bread doughs, which are very messy to knead in the traditional manner.  Wetter doughs tend to lead to bread with large holes, which are prized for a particular type of bread.  People making this type of bread will always recommend more water in the dough and the use of S&F instead of kneading, because it is what they do. 

If the dough feels like potter's clay, it needs more water, but not much more.  Just one or two tablespoons of water will make it miraculously begin to knead smoothly.  If the dough smears off on everything it touches, including your hands, it is too wet.  You can make bread from this type of dough but it is called ciabata, and does not rise much.  Just one or two tablespoons of flour will correct this.

S&F is done during the first rise.  Kneading is done before the first rise.  There is no kneading or S&F done after the first rise, because this would destroy the structure of tiny balloons that has formed in the gluten due to the action of the yeast.

If the first rise never happens, the rest will not go well.  At that point, it is time to examine your dough and decide whether it lacks "aliveness", and also whether you think you might have left out the yeast.  You can work on it again, in either case.

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

Dear All,

Thank you for all your advises and suggestions....

I finally had success with my bread... I baked 2 loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread!!! My Family just loved it! I had made hoagie sandwich using the bread today.. I will paste the pictures taken at various stages... You guys tell me if it looks OK or if there needs to be a change incorporated into my recipe..

BTW, I used this recipe

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/16345/whole-wheat-sandwich-bread

I did not make any change (as I did last time :-) )... The only change was that I added a lil butter in addition to vegetable oil for shortening. I also measured just 31/2 cups of white flour instead of 4 as I felt the dough was stiff enough... Again, I would have used some more for kneading...

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

We knew that you could do it.  *smile and wink* 

Now that you have bread that works, you can try making changes such as adding herbs to make the bread you envisioned originally.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

liked the bread so much...its beautiful.  Very nice baking roopa.  Glad you were so successful.  You are already gettiung a feel for the dough and what it should be like.  Only a million loaves to go now :-)

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

The second loaf turned out to be better than the first.. Maybe I waited long before I sliced it :-) ... But overall very happy with the way it turned out!! Still excited about it!! I made sandwiches this morning for all @home and felt soo good when they were saying its awesome!!!

From the slices that were not uniform and the ends, I made herb bread crumbs.... I will store this and use it for my other recipes...I will surely try variations of bread now.. I dont think I will any longer buy breads from stores :-)

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

You need to buy store bread occasionally or eat the rolls when you eat out to remind yourself why you make bread.  I find a loaf every two or three months is about right.  Yesterday, the bread at an Italian restaurant was singularly disappointing.  I wanted to run home, make a loaf and bring it to them yelling, "No, no!  THIS is what one dips in olive oil and herbs!   Not that mushy tastless stuff!  Yuck!"   But I know I would end up in the local version of "News of the Weird" and that would be more unpleasant than the bad bread -- or maybe not.

It sounds like you are over the hump in bread making.  Congrats.

Claude's picture
Claude

I'm very happy to say that I haven't bought bread or eaten bread in restaurants or which I haven't made for over 40 years now and find I don't want to eat anything mass produced or made other than by me.  :>)

roopa hemanth's picture
roopa hemanth

The next time I plan to make herb bread... But want a more air in the bread and a harder crust.... Does anyone know how we can achieve that? What changes do I need to make in the above recipe to achieve that?

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

crust in the summer,when the humidity outside and inside the bread attacks the crust with water vapor as soon as oit starts to cool, is nearly impossible.  For a more open, airy and harder crust I don't use a high protein bread flour. I use a lower protein AP flour.  We up the hydration some more (ciabatta's can be 80 to 90%). do more S& F's for a longer time.    Don't worry it will come together eventually.  There are lots of videos on how to handle high hydration doughs. 

Use maximum steam for 10 minutes to improve the oven spring when you bake, bake at a higher temperature and bake the inside to 208 - 210 F.  You can also add a egg yolk glaze to the bread too and it will make for a harder, darker and more shiny crust - good too if you want to stick seeds or other things to the outside of your bread.

Hope this helps.

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

You might want to reduce the amount of oil, or even leave it out entirely, to make a harder crust.  Adding oil tends to make a softer bread.