Breadmaking 101

I have made bread in the past, a super easy Cuban loaf much like this recipe was my go to way back then. The bread making has ramped up considerably in my house since my children got me a fancy stand mixer for Christmas. I’ve been averaging an attempt at a bread-like substance every three or four days. Here’s a thread on my one big failure. This thread is for general advice on bread making. Tips and tricks. Things like that. Hopefully Doper experts will jump in to help.

Here are a few questions I have to start things off: Can I prepare a dough ahead of time and store it for baking later? The Hawaiian Rolls I made were tasty but too dense. Would more kneading have lightened it up? Less flour (the dough was on the sticky side, less flour would have made it difficult to deal with)? How would using bleached or unbleached flour affect the bread? How 'bout bread flour? What difference does it make to the bread if you use milk instead of water? Or an an egg? The difference between letting the bread rise once or twice or three times? When is a dough “shaggy”? Is there no end to all my questions? Now? How 'bout now?

Just about any advice will be appreciated.

Super-noob here but since no one else answered I’ll share my experience.

Storing dough for tomorrow: generally yes, in my experience, for a short time. Some breads even call for resting several hours in the fridge. Beyond a day, you’ll get mixed results. I’m not sure why.

Too dense – yeast might have been a little bit inactive. Is your yeast old? Or too much salt killed the yeast. Humidity and the temperature of the kitchen also affect rising. Too cold, too dry = no rise. Little yeast bastards only work under certain conditions :). As far as I know, kneading has nothing to do with lightness. Kneading works the dough into a consistent formation. Usually too much handling is the enemy of lightness.

ETA: I have not noted any functional difference between bleached and unbleached flour, except for the color.

Resting a dough overnight or really up to about 24hrs actually adds flavour as it allows the wheat to fully absorb the liquid.

I prefer to do this at the dough ball stage rather than the shaped stage as I find that when the dough is warming back to room temperature preshaped doughs get a little wonky as pieces warm in different spots.

If you’re interested in the science behind bread making and in learning more about different reactions, the protein levels in different flours and other cool stuff I highly recommend Peter Reinharts books. I have 3 of them and I love not only the recipes but the why stuff works sections.

Thanks, Hello.

The yeast was good. It proofed and rose twice. Would have liked a much airier consistency to the finished product.

I suggest you try no-knead bread:

You need to make a shaggy dough and I know you questioned that: Just a wetter, stickier dough. I typically make the dough at night for use the next night. The bread is excellent…a bit sourdough’ish. I’m going to get some sourdough starter going again and try to use it for the yeast.

The one problem I’ve had with this style bread is that the loaf sometimes sticks to the dutch oven. make sure dough ball is covered in flour. And I don’t do anything with a towel like they say: I just use the same mixing bowl.

That just says the yeast was alive. Not how alive it was. It still could have been inhibited by age or salt or cold. But long story short, if it was too dense, then there wasn’t enough yeast action proportional to the flour.

If the recipe was written by a Hawaiian person then they calibrated the yeast to a very warm, very humid natural climate. if you try to make the same recipe in Boston in the winter its going to be too dense, even if you force the rise with heat and spray it down with water, it’s just not the same.

I prefer Mark Bittman’s 30-minute Bread which is from his book The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. For some reason his no-knead recipe that takes hours and hours of rising took the world by storm and this very simple bread is forgotten. :frowning: You do knead it a little, but don’t have to fool with weird, sticky dough textures.

I’m not a professional baker, but I do make a lot of bread and have done for many years. In answer to some of your questions, to the best of my understanding:

Kneading develops the gluten, which creates a chewier, sturdier loaf. While it’s true the less handling is better for pastry doughs, that’s not generally the case for bread doughs. In pastry, you should handle dough less for two reasons: First, because you don’t want to develop the gluten strands, and second, because you don’t want to warm the cold ingredients (e.g., butter) with the body heat from your hands. With bread doughs, the more kneading, the more the gluten strands are developed.

Milk makes dough more tender, eggs make dough more rich. Lots of great doughs are quite sticky, and that’s a particular challenge. It just takes time to work out how best to deal with them. Many bakers use well-floured cloths to move their dough around. At the least, keep your hands well floured.

To keep bread from sticking to the bottom of a Dutch oven if you’re using the quick 'n dirty no-knead bread recipes, do any of these things or a combination of them: Season the hell out of your Dutch oven; place a piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan; sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal. I use cornmeal a lot for two reasons: First, it keeps the loaf from sticking, and second, it imparts a lovely flavor to the finished product.

I usually let bread rise a couple of times, depending on the recipe. My understanding is it develops better texture for having risen more than once.

Hope some of this is useful information to you. :slight_smile:

I must be doing something wrong with these, because while I can make standard breads no problem, these things ALWAYS come out soggy in the middle. I don’t really recommend them, though many people seem to have good results.

You can’t store yeast dough more than maybe 24 hours in the fridge, generally, but the results of that 24 hours can be very pleasant.

If bread came out too dense, there are… lots of possibilities. LESS kneading is one. More rising is another possibility.

Bleached/unbleached flour is mostly a question of “do you like chemicals used to bleach your flour or not” :stuck_out_tongue: The only time I’ve heard of it making any difference is with cake flour, where bleaching apparently makes a lighter cake. I’d avoid bleached flour otherwise.

Bread flour has more protein and therefore forms gluten better, allowing better structure for your bread, but making it less tender.

Adding some fat in the form of milk can help make a bread more tender and possibly rise higher. Another way to make bread more tender is to sub in a little potato flour. I wouldn’t suggest adding eggs to bread unless the recipe calls for it - egg breads tend to be denser, but can be quite delicious. Challah and Greek Easter bread are both eggy breads.

I’ve not really encountered any breads that are risen three times. Almost all yeast breads are risen twice - I’m not sure exactly what the logic is, but I believe it mostly involves giving the yeast its best chance to work.

“Shaggy” dough is dough that kinda sticks in “strands” to the bowl and/or your hands.


Yes. :wink:

You might want to check out; I learned pretty much everything I know about baking from them.

So, if I wanted warm rolls for dinner, I could make the dough in the morning, let it rise twice and then stick it in the fridge until dinner time? Should it sit out for a while before going in the oven?

Exactly. Or if you want rolls for breakfast, you can make them the night before and put them in the fridge. Though actually, I think most recipes I’ve read that do this suggest that the “8 hours or so in the fridge” step more-or-less replace the 2nd rise, because the yeast is still going to be going during that time, it’s just going to be doing its job slower.

They MAY need a little sitting/rising time after the fridge depending on if they look risen enough, or they may just need a couple of extra minutes in the over to warm up.

You can actually even FREEZE rolls before baking if you want:

If it is to rise twice, you can generally freeze it between the first and second rise. (i.e., let it rise once, quickly semi-deflate it and make it into the shape/container you want it to eventually bake in, stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to bake it, take it out of the freezer, let it thaw/rise the second time, bake). It tends to work - not as perfectly as made all at once, but pretty well.

You can prep the dough ahead of schedule. The way that I’ve always done it was to put it, unformed, into the fridge between rises. I have no experience with freezing it.

Your dense Hawaiian rolls were likely over kneaded.

Bleached or unbleached is personal preference with bread. Just make sure to use bread flour. I like White Lily or King Arthur.

Milk in a bread recipe usually results in a more tender loaf, as mentioned above. Eggs a denser loaf. Some breads only require one rise. Two are pretty standard, although I’ve made a couple of recipes of no-rise that turned out pretty well. Shaggy has already been explained.

For reference, try out any of Bernard Clayton’s books 0671602225 - Bernard Claytons New Complete Book of Breads by Clayton, Bernard - AbeBooks They explain some of the science, a lot of practical stuff and have some really good recipes.

The only one available on Kindle is The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, I am now reading all about Bernard’s love of teaching.

Check out a used bookstore (B&N and Books-A-Million will both order any still in print too, if they don’t stock them) if you don’t mind dead tree books. I learned so much from my mom’s, that Dad actually bought them for me several Christmases. He liked testing the results. :slight_smile:

I don’t have specific advice, I just want to throw out there that I’ve gone wild for making pumpkin yeast bread. I add cinnamon and raisins, so it’s like a breakfast bread. Seek out a recipe; you won’t regret it!

Stand mixers are great for batter breads. The general idea of a batter bread is to mix up the contents minus about half the standard portion of flour, so instead of sticky dough, you work the gluten in a wet batter. Then, after the batter has become stringy and stretchy (full of activated gluten) you add the rest of the flour before letting it rise. Our own Chefguy has posted an amazing herb and parmesan batter bread here and I’ve also googled up a cinnamon raisin version which is delish (I can’t find it again, but I have a printout at home if anyone’s interested).

My experience is that I really like the no knead bread sometimes. You have to heat the dutch oven really hot before you drop in the dough. You can also let it rise on parchment paper, gently set the dough down, and then a half or so before finish take off the parchment paper.

The 5 minute per day is pretty decent for having dough around ready for a second rise.

Simplistically, both the no knead and 5 minutes per day involve using a small amount of yeast and refridgerating the dough so it has a really slow rise time. This adds flavor and is really easy.

I find the 5 minute per day type tends to rise decreasingly well after about a week. But no fear, I generally make some kind of cracker out of dough that’s been sitting in the fridge for too long.

I also tend to use a stand mixer to mix both the no knead and the 5 minutes per day until all the ingredients are mixed. Depending on what storage container I use, sometimes to the no knead and/or 5 minutes have some clumps of not really mixed in flour. So I knead in the stand mixer for a couple of minutes.

I find both types really easy to make and pretty tasty for a lot of things.

For rye/pumpernickel, this is what I’ve been working on (well did it once with promising results and making the second one now):

True rye is done with a very low temperature bake for a long time and lots of steam (or so I understand). The above recipe hacks that into a couple of hour bake, the rye really caramelizes so both the taste and color come out with just the rye. This is really dark, heavy, dense rye bread if that’s what you want. Curious if anyone else likes rye and what they think?