Homemade bread is a talent and a work of art. We have dreams of living and working on our own homestead someday — baking a loaf of bread will be a daily morning task. I have a lot of practice to do! There are an endless supply of cookbooks and recipes at our fingertips – especially thanks to Pinterest. Over the years, I’ve discovered that the best way to create the perfect loaf of bread is to bake over and over. The aroma will fill your nose with a delightful fragrance and your hands will be able to feel when the dough is just right.
Always use fresh ingredients.
Fresh ingredients always make for better bread! Unless I’m toasting the bread, I like the crust to be firm while the center of my bread is soft and flavorful. Fresh-ground flour is not always an option but you’ll want to buy a fresh bag and keep it in the freezer. I prefer to use same-day eggs from our chickens.
Use the correct ingredients.
To avoid creating a chunk of dense bread, you’ll want to use the proper ingredients. Did you know the difference between the types of wheat flour? Be sure to purchase flour that is specifically labeled for bread-baking. Using a softer wheat flour is better for pie crusts or cakes.
Room-temp ingredients are best.
Remove the flour from your freezer and allow the portion you’ll be using to come to room temp. Check the directions for your active dry yeast to determine the temperature of the water you’ll use for proofing.
Measure. Then measure again.
I know we’re not building a house but we are creating a work of art when baking a loaf of bread. When I cook, I rarely precisely measure ingredients; however, when baking, I am exact. Too much flour will dry your loaf of bread out. As a newbie baker, I overused the flour because the dough was sticky but over time, I’ve learned that oiling my hands is a much better option. It makes the dough easier to work with since it’s not sticking to my hands and I don’t dry out my loaves.
Patience is a virtue.
Baking bread is not a quick process. If your home is cool, you can allow the bread to rise overnight; otherwise, you’ll want to start making your bread in the morning to be ready for supper. Allowing your bread to slowly rise — twice in your bowl and once in the pan — will result in a softer loaf.
You knead strong hands.
Kneading bread by hand is not one of my favorite activities; however, the process is one that you’ll grow to appreciate when your loaves of homemade bread continue to improve. The gluten can’t activate if you don’t knead for a long enough time frame. Sure, you can use mixers and bread machines, but there is nothing better than feeling the dough form under your own hands. You’ll know that you have successfully kneaded your dough when you can stretch it thin enough to see light through it without the dough losing its shape.
Not all recipes are created equal.
At 22, my mom gave me one of the best gifts in the world – a 1960’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. The one featured below is the new and updated version; however, I’m a stickler for using the original book. I have made numerous recipes from this book and not a single one has failed me to this day! Recipes I’ve found on Pinterest have turned out to be major fails but this book is tried and true. Start looking for one at the library, in your grandma’s kitchen, or yard sales. You won’t be disappointed!