FAQ: Baking Homemade Bread

No-knead homemade bread using the Bread in Five Method

Thank you to everyone to sent me baking questions on Instagram this week. There were hundreds of questions, so I’m compiling a few posts to answer as much of them as I can. This one focuses on questions about baking homemade bread and there are also posts about Cake Baking and Decorating, Meringue, Pie + Pie Crust, Vegan Desserts, Equipment and more.

If you have additional questions about baking bread, please leave me a comment and I’ll get to as many of them as I can!

FAQs About Baking Homemade Bread

  • What is the best no-knead bread? Well, the one from my book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, of course! In 2005 we wrote a book about baking homemade bread that would fit into busy schedules and was easy enough for anyone to make. Our recipe has become the gateway method into learning the craft of bread baking. Recipe here.
No-knead Homemade bread in a Dutch oven, made using the Bread in Five Method
  • Any tips for preventing a thick, hard crust on the bottom of my bread done in a Dutch oven? Make sure you are using a heavy gauge Dutch oven and that it isn’t too close to the bottom heat element in your oven. If you are still getting a thick, hard crust, you can put a pillow of foil down, like this.
An active sourdough starter in a jar
  • We were gifted a bread starter! What’s the secret to getting a light and holey loaf? Time is really the trick. A slow rise and proper handling of the dough. It isn’t difficult, but it does take patience. I haven’t written extensively about sourdough, but my friend at Heartbeet Kitchen has and I like her no-fuss method. RECIPE HERE.
  • Foolproof way to ensure you don’t kill your yeast? Hot water is really the only thing that kills yeast. When mixing the dough, make sure your water is lukewarm or cooler. Store your yeast in the freezer if you don’t bake often. 
  • If I store yeast in the freezer, should I bring it to room temp before using? No need, it will come to room temperature instantly.
  • How do I prevent white flour sticking to raisins in a bread recipe? Add the raisins after the dough has mixed a bit, so there isn’t flour that can cling to the nooks and crannies.
  • I have your Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book and love it! Will you have an episode on sourdough bread? Thank you so much! I have bread episodes based on my book, but not sourdough, YET! It is a great idea and one I will pitch to Magnolia Network.
  • My rise on the master dough recipe for bread is smallish. The bottom seems more dense than the top? You may just need to let the dough rise longer. Here is a lot more information about dense loaves.
  • I have a hard time judging when dough has “doubled in size” any tips? It somewhat depends on the recipe, but the dough should rise and if you press your finger into the dough it should leave an impression. If you poke it and the dough expands to fill that hole, it is still rising. With my Breadin5 recipes we just have the dough rest for 2 hours and it will flatten slightly on top when it is fully risen. Use a container that has measurements on it, or mark where it was when it started so you can easily see when it has doubled in size.
  • Differences in yeast: rapid rise, instant, platinum? Rapid rise or instant yeast can be used right away and will dissolve and activate the instant it is mixed with dough. Granulated active yeast is meant to be “activated” by mixing with liquid before adding to dough (In my Breadin5 dough we just dump it all in together and it works because it’s such a wet dough). Platinum yeast from Red Star has a dough enhancer enzyme that creates a stronger and stretchier dough, it can be used just like a quick rise yeast. 
  • When I take the tub of bread dough out of the fridge, should I let it warm up? You can use the dough right away, no need to let it warm. If the dough is hard to stretch or roll, you can let it sit about 15 minutes and try again.
No-knead Homemade bread using the Bread in Five Method
  • Tips for shaping sourdough bread? Mine always seems to go flat when I try to shape it. If it is going flat, it is likely over proofed or you just need to be super gentle with the dough once it has risen. I don’t post about sourdough much, but you can find excellent tips from Heartbeet Kitchen.
  • How do you freeze bread dough? I usually drop it into a doubled up large zip-top bag. Dough will take on the personality of your freezer, so double bagging is key.
  • What is the best way to store leftover homemade fresh bread? The bread and its crust are best the day the bread is made, but if you have some left over, just be sure to avoid plastic. A cloth or paper bag are good options.
  • How do I make bread that isn’t dense? No matter the recipe or technique I follow it always is. This can be many factors, including type of flour, the recipe, temperature of your kitchen, and timing. Here is some information that may help.
  • What book would you recommend for a sourdough beginner? Starter and all! New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford; Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish; Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa
  • What is the best yeast to use? I most often use granulated yeast from Red Star. I buy it in bulk at Costco and store it in the freezer.
No-knead Homemade bread using the Bread in Five Method
  • What happens if you overproof bread dough before it goes in the fridge and what do you do? It is really the second rise, after you’ve shaped your loaf, that you need to be concerned about. I have left my bucket of dough on the counter all night and then refrigerated it without harm (if it has dairy or eggs, you need to toss it and start again!). I don’t recommend this, but it happens to the best of us.
  • Why is milk powder sometimes used in bread recipes? Can it be substituted with liquid milk? Dry milk powder adds richness, tenderness, caramelization and can aid in the rise of the dough. There is instant dry milk, which reconstitutes in the water and there is a product by King Arthur Baking, which is specifically for baking and should be added to the flour. My mentor Rose Levy Beranbaum swears by the KAB product and she knows a thing or two about the science of baking. The dry milk powder (both kinds) are more concentrated than using regular liquid milk.
  • What’s the best gluten free flour and bread? In my Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book I create my own flour blend because I couldn’t find a commercial blend that made the bread I loved. The closest I’ve come in a pre-mix is from Better Batter Flour.
Bread Baking Equipment

Bread Baking Equipment

With my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method, you don’t need a lot of equipment to get started on baking homemade bread. Check out my Amazon list of Bread Baking Equipment for all the things I use in my own kitchen.

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38 thoughts to “FAQ: Baking Homemade Bread”

  1. Zoe, I have been baking bread now for 3 days. I love the 5 minute recipe. But I am having a problem with my crust. I am using my dutch oven and my top crust is too hard. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Happy Holidays! I just made your Cranberry RaspberryStar Bread dough, it rose beautifully, and I have divided it and placed in the freezer as you stated. This will be for Christmas Day brunch…your recipe states to “thaw in refrigerater for 24 hours before use, then allow usual rest and rise times”.

    Will you please tell me what you mean by usual rest and rise times after thawed in fridge? I am new to bread baking, and thought it already rose and rested.

    Thanks so much in advance! Can’t wait to present and taste this!

    1. Hi Terri Lynn! This refers to the rest and rise on baking day. So once you’ve assembled the star, it has a rest/rise time before baking. Cheers!

    1. Hi Lucy, are you referring to recipes on this site? Or on her show? I’d love to help if I can!

  3. Hi, I was wondering if there’s a small batch recipe for the master dough or will just using half the recipe work?

  4. Hello, I have no idea if this will go anywhere, but I noticed your bread stone in your oven on your show. I was wondering, where did you get it?? I’ve been searching and searching and can’t find a stone like it. Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Rhonda! Zoë uses baking stones from Emile Henry and Baking Steel. I hope this helps!

  5. Thanks. I have purchased Bob’s Red Mill organic flour to try next time and will use a larger container for better accuracy.

  6. I just purchased your book for using healthy grains and made the master recipe. The book says that the master recipe can be halved or doubled. I attempted to cut it in half because I have a four quart container for storage, not large enough for the full batch. However, it did not work out with the ratios of flour to water. I was using flour from sunrise Mills. How can I get measurements for making half of the master batch?

    1. Hi Karen! We know that Sunrise Flour Mill flour has a different protein percentage than Gold Medal, which the recipes were tested with, so you will need to reduce the water a bit or increase the flour, testing it as you go. In the master recipe found here you can reduce the water from 680g to 624g for better results. You can find additional resources at artisanbreadinfive.com and Jeff answers reader questions over there as well, so if you’re not able to troubleshoot, that may be a good option!

  7. My husband and I have watched Zoe baking bread in a dutch oven, and watched again and again. In this episode she states to preheat the oven for making her boule in a Dutch oven. Can you please share at what temperature does she bake the bread?

    1. Hi Leona! Are you referring specifically to the olive boule from the episode? If so, you can find the recipe here. She preheats at 500 degrees for this loaf, then lowers the oven to 450 to bake. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Tara, you can reduce the salt (even all the way down to no salt), but it will affect the texture if you reduce it significantly.

  8. I have been watching the Bread course on the Great Courses and I love your master recipe. However, there is nothing about the time to let the dough rest after taking it from the refrigerator. I took some of the master out of the refrigerator and it was, of course, cold. Should I bring it to room temperature before shaping and and resting? This may be a stupid question, but it doesn’t work right if it is used right away. Thank you so much, I love your recipes and how simple this recipe is to use for so many things.

      1. I made a batch yesterday. After the dough had been refrigerated and I was ready to portion out the dough to shape and to continue on, I found the dough to be very sticky even with flouring the surface. Lots of sticky dough remained on my hands. When that happens, should it be kneaded even though this is a ‘no knead recipe’? Still trying to recognize under-proofing, over-proofing, under and over kneading and how to then correct moving forward .

  9. I’ve just tried your bread dough for the first time and the flavor is great – I even heard the crackle when I took the last loaf out. My problem, however, is my loaves have come out looking odd. I’m assuming when I slash it – I’m either too shallow or too deep. On the last one – two of the slashed looked correct after baking but then the end of the loaf really bulged out so the loaf was more triangular shaped than anything else. Any help?

    1. Hi Gail, this is likely happening from not letting the dough rest long enough. Try letting it rest an additional 30 min. on top of the 40 after you shape. It could be that your kitchen/dough is a bit chilly and the dough just needs a little more time. I hope this helps!

  10. I have made several loaves of bread from your master recipe, but mine never rise as much as yours. I am using the Red Star Platinum yeast. Obviously my technique is not quite right. Suggestions??

    Also, on one of your shows, you pulled out a large container that you use to store your baking and pastry tools and equipment. Where can I purchase one like yours? I’m having no luck finding one on the internet.

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Tommie Ruth, it could be that the water you’re using isn’t quite warm enough or the temp of your kitchen is a bit chilly. You can try letting the initial rise go a little longer and the rise before you bake go a little bit longer as well and see if that helps.

  11. Can I bake the bread dough in a bread pan rather than a round on a baking stone. I like to have “loaf-shaped” bread for sandwiches and toast. If yes, at what temp and for how long. Will the crumb be different?
    Thanks so much!

  12. I thought of a question after Zoe made the “call” for questions. What happens if I don’t add the steam when baking? And what would happen if I added steam when making my tried and true whole wheat sandwich bread recipe I’ve used for years? I guess I’m asking what is the role of steam when using or not using when baking breads?

    1. Hi Gwen! You should be able to use any granulated yeast that is gluten-free. We do know that all Red Star yeast products are gluten free EXCEPT for the Platinum product. Cheers!

  13. I love your book and I make bread every week. My question is why my dough wouldn’t rise after shaping the the dough. Doesn’t matter which bread I make, Baguette or artisan or others. Thank you for your help

    1. Hi Mastaneh – So glad to hear you enjoy the Bread in 5 method! During the 40-minute rise on the counter before heading into the oven, you actually shouldn’t expect to see much rise. The rise comes more from “oven spring” with this method. You can read more about it here. I hope this is helpful!

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