Athlyn Green enjoys discovering innovative cooking tricks and sharing them with others.
Making Homemade Bread is Easy, Once You Know How
I Love Homemade Bread But... Isn't it Hard to Make?
Many people would like to try their hand at making bread but the thought of actually doing so seems somewhat daunting. How do you make bread that turns out perfectly every time?
A little know-how goes a long way. Before you try your hand at bread-making, it helps to follow some simple steps to ensure that your first batch of bread turns out just right.
We will discuss questions you may have, common problems that can arise when making bread, and look at tips and tricks for fail-proof and delicious bread. You can make great-tasting bread, armed with the right info, and it's a lot easier than many people realize.
Is it hard to do?
It's not hard at all to make bread when you know how to go about it. Like any skill, once you do it a few times, it becomes easier.
Isn't it time-consuming?
A batch of bread dough can be made and set to rise in about half an hour. For seasoned bread-makers, this can be done in about 10-15 minutes.
Isn't working with yeast tricky?
As long as yeast is still fresh and your water isn't too cold or too hot, you won't experience problems.
What is kneading?
This involves using your knuckles to knead the bread dough. This helps to mix the dough so that no lumps or pockets of flour remain.
What the heck is heeling the dough?
Heeling involves using the heel of your palm to push in the bread dough. You normally turn, heel, and then turn the dough, and you keep doing this, heeling in towards the center, folding and heeling and working in a circle. Heeling is done after kneading, towards the end of your kneading time.
How to Knead and Heel Bread
Full-Length Apron--Before you get started, you'll need a good-sized apron to cover your clothes. Bread-making can be messy as you'll be working with flour and dough.
Large Bread Bowl--You'll also need a bread-making bowl. I prefer a large plastic tub because dough doesn't seem to stick as much to this type of surface; however a large steel bowl will also do. The main thing is to have a bowl that is large enough to accommodate your rising dough. A good-sized bread bowl is essential if you plan on making your own bread on a regular basis.
Dough Scraper--A dough scraper can make incredibly short work of counter clean-up. It removes stuck-on bits of dough and hardened flour. Depending on the style, a dough scraper can also be used to remove stuck-on dough from a bread bowl. Once you've used one of these, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it.
Tea Towel--Use this to cover your dough when you set it in your bowl to rise. When you've placed dough in pans for the final rising, cover with a tea towel. This prevents dough from forming a crust as it sits.
Anyone Up for a Nice Thick Slice of White Bread?
I added my yeast to my hot water and sugar but nothing's happening.
Your water should be warm but if it is too hot, it will kill your yeast.
When water cools, yeast can stop rising. What I do is place a bowl or pan of warm water underneath to give the yeast a boost, if needed.
My dough rose beautifully and then it collapsed!
Check the expiry date on your yeast. When yeast gets old, often the first tip-off is bread that collapses. No one enjoys tough loaves 1-2" high--these look unappealing and the texture is awful.
When you set your yeast, watch to see that it bubbles and foams. If it just softens, chances are that you need to replace it.
Additionally, do not set your loaves to rise in a chilly room.
I can't fit all my pans in my oven. Now what do I do?
Place surplus pans of dough into your fridge while cooking your other loaves. The dough will stop rising and these can be cooked as soon as your first loaves are removed from the oven.
My bread seems overcooked on the outside but undercooked on the inside. What's happening?
Your oven is too hot. Reduce your oven temperature. I always start my bread at around 325 degrees, depending on my oven, then I reduce my temperature for the last half hour of cooking time, depending on how brown my loaves are getting.
How long should I cook my bread?
Count on about an hour. You should check your bread and make oven heat adjustments, as mentioned. Much depends on how hot your oven cooks and whether you like your bread golden or prefer it darker.
My bread over-browned/burned on the bottoms!
Avoid tough-bottomed bread by double-panning ( use two bread pans). Also check that your oven rack isn't placed too low.
My oven elements just wouldn't shut off and my bread is burning.
Always leave spaces between your pans when placing them in your oven to allow for air flow. Never cook your bread with your pans touching. I've encountered this problem when there wasn't enough airflow between pans.
My top element came on and when I looked, the tops of my loaves were on fire!
While you may never experience this, I had this happen to me one time when my oven was malfunctioning. Talk about frustrating! I'd made a beautiful batch of bread and had remarked how perfect my bread was going to be. I was too stubborn to waste the bread so cut off the burnt tops and used the rest. I should have cut the inch-high remainders into squares for homemade croutons. As it was, we joked for years about our "bread flambe."
My bread is stuck to the pans.
Grease your bread pans with shortening or lard for best results. Oil may cause bread to stick. If the problem persists, do not wash your pans between batches so that they season (similar to what chefs do with cast iron pans).
If bread is stuck, it might be best to wait a bit so that it sweats in the pan from the heat, which can soften the loaf bottoms and make removal easier.
A metal flipper can be used to pry bread up from the pan. The flat flipper will help so that bread doesn't come apart.
I went to cut my bread--and it was full of holes!
Your bread dough rose too high. Even in the bowl, if you forget your dough batch and it rises too high, you will end up with holes.
Once your dough is in your pans, watch it carefully, as well. It will continue to rise after you put it into the oven, so it doesn't have to be "bread-sized" before placing it in your oven. A good rule of thumb is to let it rise about 1/2-3/4s of the way.
Why is my bread is too flaky? I cut it and the crust falls off. It's impossible to make toast with it.
Cut back on the amount of oil you use, if you want a softer bread that holds together. If you use the recipe that I've included at the bottom of this page, you shouldn't encounter problems.
People who use oil instead of shortening or lard may encounter this problem, as well. I prefer shortening, which makes for tenderer bread.
Some breads call for more oil, such as French bread because a flaky crust is desired but for everyday bread, this is not usually preferred.
Why is my bread dry as powder? Ugh!
When incorporating your flour, use less, for a moister bread. You work your dough until it no longer sticks to your fingers but if you continue to add flour, your bread will be denser. When you've made bread a couple of times, you will develop a feel for when the dough is just right.
Whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture, so if using whole wheat allow for this. I give tips below on how to make moist brown bread.
My bread seems claggy. I know I cooked it long enough. Why?
You may not have added enough flour to your dough. Dough will become less sticky as you add in the flour. You should keep adding flour and kneading until dough doesn't stick to your hands. It should become springy, resembling the feel of skin. This is why seasoned bread-makers go by feel.
The Right Type of Fat Makes for Moist Bread
Perfect Bread--Tips & Tricks
Choosing the Right Fat
Your fat makes a big difference to how tender your bread is. While I'm not a fan of hydrogenated fats and normally do not use them, there are times when I make exceptions and bread-making is one of them. Use either vegetable shortening or lard. Do not use liquid oils for homemade bread. I find this leads to dryer, tougher crusts.
Kneading & Heeling Bread
Kneading and heeling are important elements for good-textured bread. Invest the time when you are making your bread. This helps to develop the gluten.
If you are making a large batch and your arms get tired, place your bowl on the floor and use your upper body weight to offset the strain on your arms. Brown bread, because it is denser, is harder to knead.
How to Make Sesame Seeds Stick to Top of Bread
Once you've placed your bread dough in pans, wet your hand with water and run your hand over the top of each loaf, prior to sprinkling on sesame seeds. Smooth the seeds over loaf tops and press lightly.
Adding a Nice Shine to Top of Bread
Brush well-beaten egg over the top of your bread (can also be used to help make sesame seeds stick).
Adding Sifted Flour to Top Loaves
A nice touch for bread is to dust loaves with sifted white flour. This is often done in bakeries. Place your bread dough in pans and then sprinkle on a coating of flour. (You'll see I've done this with the round loaf.)
Avoiding Soggy Bottoms
Once you take your loaves out of the oven, remove bread from pans. If loaves are cooled in the pans, the bottoms will become soggy.
Lay out a dish towel and place your cooked bread loaves on their sides to cool. Rotate the loaves as they cool.
Allow loaves to cool before cutting. If you attempt to slice off pieces while bread is still hot (many of us like a thick piece fresh from the oven!), be prepared to have that particular loaf become misshapen.
It's a good idea to have large plastic bags on hand for storing your bread in, once your loaves have completely cooled. If you cannot fit whole loaves into the bags you have on hand, slice your loaves and store the slices.
If you don't care to store bread in plastic, cut it into slices, and store in rectangular containers.
Wonderful Sweet Ingredients
- Soft Cranberries--Add soft cranberries when making white bread. This makes for a great Christmas bread or can be used for seasonal buns.
- Cinnamon & Raisins--Add cinnamon and raisins for your own raisin bread
Ready to Try Making Perfect Homemade Brown Bread?
Once You've Mastered White Bread, Why Not Try Making Brown Bread?
Making brown bread is as simple as adding whole wheat flour when making your bread. You can use half white/half brown flour or add either flour in the amount of your choosing.
Ensuring a Moist Bread
Brown bread can become a bit on the dry side. To counteract this, use brown sugar or honey when making denser breads.
When I make brown bread, I usually check to make sure my dough is on the moist side. As I mentioned, if you use the right type of fat and don't use too much of it, you will end up with a nice, moist bread that isn't crumbly.
Bumping Up Nutrition in Brown Bread
Stirring in Whole Wheat Flour
Adding White Flour for a Lighter Bread
Adding Flax Seeds
Dough is Too Thick to Keep Stirring
Batch of Brown Bread Set to Rise
Plain or Naked?
Once you place your dough in pans, you can choose to leave your loaves "naked" but it's much more fun and tastier, too, to add toppings. This is another perk of making your own bread, you get to choose texture and flavor elements.
If you love a bread you can really sink your teeth into you might choose from some of the toppings listed below.
Toppings for Bread
sifted white flour
Bread Topped With Poppy Seeds & Set to Rise
Ready to Make Bread?
Good bread also results from a good recipe. Use the tips and tricks in this article to avoid common problems when making bread.
Check out my article, How to Make Hearty Homemade Bread. This recipe was passed down to me from my no-nonsense Scottish grandmother (Grandma Dot) and I get perfect bread every time.
This recipe is for a larger batch of bread. You will get 6-8 loaves, depending on how you size the dough before placing in your bread pans. For a smaller batch, simply cut the recipe in half--perfect if you want a loaf or two and some bread buns.
I hope you've enjoyed these bread-making tips. If you have any questions, please leave them below and I would be happy to answer you and add them to this article.
Mmm... So Good!
© 2011 Athlyn Green
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on October 27, 2012:
Brown bread does not rise as high as white, so I'm wondering if you simply need to make your loaves bigger? If the consistency of your bread seems fine, this might be the problem.
Do you use sugar when setting your yeast to rise?
If the bread seems heavy and flat, it still sounds as though you are having problems with your yeast, which may bubble but may not have enough "oomph" left to continue working. Make sure when you set your yeast to rise that your water is not too hot, which can kill it.
How much yeast do you use for how many loaves?
You could try adding some other flour when making your dough, such as rice flour, Kamut, or white flour, which may help your bread to rise.
The recipe link I included in my hub takes you to a recipe for failproof bread and you can use the same instructions for either white or brown bread.
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on October 25, 2012:
Some common problems with bread:
Doesn't rise: yeast is old or your water was too hot or you need to give it a boost with warm water in a bowl underneath. Yeast should bubble and foam.
Bread is full of holes: You've let it rise too high.
Bread is too flaky: Cut back on your shortening or oil.
Bread is dry: use shortening instead of oil and use less flour. Use brown sugar instead of white sugar.
Bread is claggy: You may need to add more flour.
I never measure how much flour to put in, I go by feel. When the dough has a spring to it and is no longer sticky, I know I've added the right amount of flour.
Kneading and heeling are the keys to good bread.
Brie Hoffman from Manhattan on October 25, 2012:
I just bought the yeast and I proofed it..put it in warm water, watched it bubble with a little honey. But the loaf doesn't rise enough it seems. It rises some but when I put it in the oven it stops rising altogether. I am so frustrated I can't tell you! This is like the 5th loaf. I've made white bread successfully but never whole wheat bread..not even once.
By the way, I put a thermometer in the oven today and it was fine..so it's not the oven (it works) and it's not the yeast..what could it be?
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on October 25, 2012:
Can you describe what is happening with your bread? Does it not rise? If so, your yeast may be old.
Brie Hoffman from Manhattan on October 24, 2012:
I am quite desperate. I have tried and tried and tried to make whole wheat bread with no success. The last time I tried was today. I followed the recipe from Peter Reinhart's book Whole Grain Breads for his Power Bread. I spent 3 days doing everything he instructed only to have the bread not turn out. I am wondering if there is something wrong with my oven. The last part of the instruction was to make sure the bread reached 195 degrees and when I stuck a thermometer in it ..it only reached 175 degrees. The oven is very old, could it be my oven?
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on December 31, 2011:
My bread recipe makes consistently good bread.
You can find the recipe link in this hub. I use this for both loaves and round bread.
I've never made Challah bread but usually when bread is crumbly this can be related to too much fat and/or the wrong king, such as oil. A bland taste could be adjusted with an increase in salt. If it /smells/tastes like yeast, you could try cutting back on it or adding more flour. Kneading is also important for the texture of bread.
akopolovich on December 31, 2011:
Thanks for the tips. I'm new to baking bread. I've tried it a couple times and have used several different recipes. They've come out okay, but not great. Today's Challah bread looks gorgeous on the outside. Somehow the inside of the bread always comes out the same - crumbly and bland and I can taste/smell yeast. I'd love to be able to get a chewy, flaky, airy, center. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Since the recipes are different and I'm following them exactly, it's probably something about the technique I'm using right?
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on November 30, 2011:
Many people want to make their own bread but are at sea when it comes to troubleshooting. It is my hope that this Hub answers questions about bread-making.
I remember my sister lamenting that her bread was crusty and pieces flaked off. I suggested she reduce her fat. Using more fat is a good options for crusty breads but not for bread that one wants to make sandwiches with.
SJKSJK from delray beach, florida on April 10, 2011:
Thanks for the good tips. I would try to make this.
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on March 05, 2011:
This is a new hub so it will be interesting to see how many votes come in over time. So many people want to make bread but do not know how to go about it.
For your yeast, you want water warm enough to activate it but not so hot that it kills it. Usually you activate your yeast in water with sugar, which also helps its tog grow.
You can "prove" your yeast first by testing it in warm water and sugar. If it bubbles and foams, it is suitable for making your bread with; if it does very little, it has lost its shelf-life and should be discarded.
chspublish from Ireland on March 05, 2011:
I see from your vote capsule that not many bake their own bread. It's a great thing to do. However sometime I have a failure - usually has to do with not keeping the right temperature for the yeast. I'm still learning and loving the bread. Thank you.
Emma from Houston TX on March 05, 2011:
Good tips on bread making,thanks
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on March 04, 2011:
Thanks for stopping by. My sister uses her bread maker to mix her pizza dough. Both methods render bread that is generally better tasting than the usual store-bought loaves.
Homemade bread has a different texture from bread maker bread. I find that usually the crust is softer; however, this can be worked around, depending on whether you use oil or shortening.
My bread recipe results in 8 loaves so for those with more mouths to feed, it might prove more practical.
When one only wants on or two loaves and is strapped for time, a bread maker can be a good tool.
Paul Edmondson from Burlingame, CA on March 04, 2011:
Gotta say. I usually go with the bread maker. Very easy.
Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on March 04, 2011:
Once you know how to make bread, it becomes an easy process. In the beginning, it is harder to get started. I'm glad you found this info. helpful. Let me know how your bread turns out!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 04, 2011:
Thank you for the very useful hints. My mother would sometimes make bread, which was always more delicious than store-bought bread, but my attempts at bread making haven’t been very successful. Your troubleshooting ideas are just what I need!