Today’s guest post is from Rhiannon Abbott over at The Epsom Bakehouse. She is a passionate home baker who, at the end of 2012, decided to turn passion into business and open a bakery from her home in Epsom and writes a blog with some great tips over on her business site. Here she shares 5 great tips for baking bread at home.
Dough not rising? Not sure on kneading? Whether you’re completely new to baking bread or just want to brush up your skills, Rhiannon Abbott from The Epsom Bakehouse, shares five simple tips that will help you get baking great bread at home.
1. Don’t mix the salt and the yeast
Why? Because in direct contact, salt can kill the yeast. And then, right from the start, there will be no chance that your dough will rise.
So, to avoid this error, get into the habit of always weighing out your yeast separately to your salt and adding them separately to the bowl. Without water, dried yeast will not absorb the salt, but by developing this habit you’ll ensure you don’t inadvertently kill your yeast when you add in the water.
2. Should you knead on a floury surface?
In short, no. Unless you’re making a very wet dough, don’t flour the surface as extra flour will dry your dough out. Embrace the sticky and get kneading. Use a little olive oil on the surface if it’s still too sticky for your liking.
3. Find the best spot to prove your dough
Yeast will work more quickly to produce gas and rise your dough at a warmer temperature. Therefore, if you want to speed up the process, choose a warm spot for your dough to prove in. However, be warned! If it’s too warm, it will kill the yeast. A safe temperature is one below 30C (90F). Direct heat from sunny windows, radiators and even in airing cupboards may be too warm, and may also dry out your dough. The best warm place to leave your dough is covered, in a bowl, on the side in a warm room.
4. Be patient! Time = flavour
You don’t need to hang around whilst your dough rises, so give it all the time it needs and get on with something else. Given time, bread dough develops even more fantastic flavours. Try doing your first rise in a cooler place for a few hours, or even in the fridge overnight. Cover the dough well to stop it drying out.
5. Test your bread with a tap on the bottom
Bread is baked at high temperatures, usually over 200C. How will you know when your bread is baked? It should have a deep-brown crust and the base, when tapped, should feel thin and taut. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the base. If using a tin, the loaf may look undercooked when you take it out of the tin. Pop the loaf back in the oven, without the tin, for 5 minutes to firm up the crust.
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