About 10 days ago, Holli, a reader, made a comment on the Soaked Whole Wheat Bread recipe that it just never filled her pan like Tara’s pictures showed, and she wished I had more of a how-to on bread making. She suggested a video, but I don’t have a video camera. So there are a ton of photos here — almost 40. Just click on any of them to see a larger version!
And I decided to do the first really detailed how-to on bread making with regular white bread. I know it’s not exactly what she asked for, and I’ll do one on the whole wheat bread shortly, but white bread is a lot more forgiving.
If you haven’t made bread before — or haven’t been satisfied with your results — I strongly suggest that you first perfect white bread, then move on to using other types of flour. It’s easier to get the dough consistency correct with white, and once you know what it should feel like, it’s easier to duplicate when you try other recipes.
Basically, I can think of three likely reasons that a loaf doesn’t turn out as anticipated:
- The yeast is partially or totally dead. My method makes sure that it’s good by “proofing” it — details below. It’s important to note that you can’t use no- or low-calorie sugar substitutes in yeast bread. The yeast needs real sugar (or molasses or honey, etc.) to live and grow.
- The recipe may have been designed for a smaller pan. Many recipes specify a 4 x 8 inch pan, while the typical pan sold is 5 x 9 inches. We’ll start by measuring the pan and adjusting the recipe to suit the pan.
- Stirring and kneading too much flour into the dough makes the dough heavy and it won’t rise as expected. The photos and instructions show how to tell just the right amount of flour to add — and give tips on how not to add too much, particularly by stirring for a long time with less than the full amount of flour in the dough.
Above all, don’t worry too much about everything being exactly perfect. Relax! If you have good yeast, make the right size batch and don’t add too much flour, you’ll have a nice loaf. The exact stirring and kneading techniques are not nearly as important. I show you how I do it — but everyone is a little different, so don’t think you have to exactly copy every hand motion I make. It’ll be fine, really.
Here, I’m using my very basic recipe for White Bread, but I use the same technique for lots of other recipes. The only one that is somewhat different is the “Soaked” Whole Wheat, but even there I’m looking for the same dough consistency when kneading and also considering what size pan I have compared to the size in the recipe.
This is a pretty long article, I know, because of all the photos and the detailed directions. But hang with it — print it out or make a PDF with the buttons below — and we’ll make a really nice loaf — easily!
Remember, click on the photos to enlarge!
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And please, leave a note in the comments as to how your loaf came out. Better yet, post a photo on TBG’s Facebook page for everyone to see!