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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.