Learning to bake bread

Home Forums Baking — Breads and Rolls Learning to bake bread

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      Hello, I can see that this site is for experienced home bakers and I hope that there is room for a rookie. I used to bake the usual cookies, cakes and pies, the easy stuff, when my family was still at home. Now I am trying to learn how to bake bread. I only have questions at this point but already have learned a lot from reading your posts. Thank you!

      Spread the word

        Welcome back, Blanche,

        You actually started one of our most informative baking bread threads about five years ago. I went back and re-read it just now. Wow! If anyone wants to re-read that thread, just click on "topics started" next to Blanche's name, and the thread will come up.

        There is always room here for rookies! We all love to bake bread. Personally, I think the world becomes a better place when people bake their bread, since it teaches paying attention to detail, going through a process to achieve a goal, being willing to adapt, and practicing patience.

        I was an English professor before I retired, which meant that I was teaching writing skills, not just literature. Too many students wanted instant results, but writing is a process that requires some of the same skills as bread baking, and those skills are developed over time.

        Joan Simpson

          Welcome back Blanche we learn stuff everyday!

          Mike Nolan

            Welcome back!

            I have a chess book with the title "Every great player was once a beginner".

            That's true in baking as well, in fact there are so many aspects of baking I don't know well that I often feel like a beginner.

            We try not to be judgemental here, there are many ways to bake a good loaf of bread, and what works for one person might not work for another.

            And we can offer a lot of suggestions, but don't be surprised if some of the suggestions seem contradictory. We've all had our failures in the kitchen, too.

            As the regulars here know well, I'm an engineer by training, and I tend to be rather experimental about my baking, trying various things to see which work better for me. Some I keep using, others I don't.


              Welcome back! It's always good to have more voices and different experiences and we stretch and try new things. Sometimes having people ask me why I am doing what I do because it makes me think. I have a nine year old who loves to bake with me and she is constantly pushing me and it is fun to see this through new eyes. She has not come around to bread yet but I have a cookbook to give her the next time she gets a present that I hope will change all that.

              So ask us questions but tell us what you're doing too. We'll learn from you no matter how much you think we may know.

              For bread, my one piece of advice for people starting out is do as much by hand as you can. If you can mix your dough by hand, do it. If you can stretch and fold and shape by hand, do it. You'll learn how things should feel.

              Mike Nolan

                One of the real challenges for new bread bakers is becoming confident with the basics. I know someone who tried to make a complicated whole grain bread for her first bread, her results were less than what she was hoping for, though to me that was not unexpected and it took her a while to get up the courage to try again.

                When she did try again, I suggested she try PaddyL's 'Clonmel Kitchen Double Crusty Bread', (recipe in the favorites tab here), and it was much more successful.

                We had someone from Brazil staying with us for a while, I had him make the Austrian Malt bread while I watched, and he was pleased with the result. That recipe is also in the favorites tab here.

                My son took up baking during the pandemic and was using the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book, which produces fairly good breads without huge investments in time. He's kind of backed off a bit since then, but he's also found a really good and fairly new bakery, their eclairs are some of the best I've had.


                  Thanks Mike. I pulled out Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day again after not looking at it in years. It does do a nice job of breaking things down and giving you basic recipes that you can use for multiple, different breads. It also has some good shaping instructions. For whatever reason YouTube does not work well for me. I work better from print and pictures.

                  Mike Nolan

                    I'm kind of a hands-on person, in-person works best for me but usually involves significant expenses and travel. Zoom classes can be great or lousy.

                    YouTube is kind of hit-and-miss for me, some videos are easy to follow and others are not, maybe they're just badly shot and poorly edited. Ones with a music track are distracting if not annoying.

                    Most of what Jimmy Griffin posts is good, but he has a tendency to show something up to the point of baking but not the finished product, which seems odd. But there are a few of his videos that I've watched several times, just to hear his Dublin lilt. 🙂


                      Thank you for the responses. It looks like I need to read through all the comments from a few years ago before I ask any questions. I'm sure the answers are in there. I gave up on baking pretty quickly and have been buying Dave's Killer Bread, Good Seed or Ezekiel Bread. But the cost has increased so much that I can buy a 5-pound bag of KAF white whole wheat flour for the same price as one loaf of bread. So I'm back at it. Mike, I am going to try your idea of using honey and water to keep seeds stuck to the loaf.

                      Mike Nolan

                        Our 'daily bread' changes periodically, currently it's semolina bread, but in the past it has been honey wheat bread (an adaptation of my mother-in-law's recipe that is in the favorites tab here), the Clonmel Kitchens Double Crusty Bread or the Austrian Malt bread, both are also in the favorites tab.


                          How goes the bread baking? Any attempts?


                            I have tried different methods at different times. White breads, wheat breads, sponge methods, direct methods, refrigerating between steps. Here is some general advice
                            1) Start with a small simple recipe. One loaf not two or three. White flour not wheat or rye.
                            2) Have a fall back for dealing with disasters. Taking it out to feed the geese works great. Bring a friend who will listen to your complaints, or you can listen to theirs.
                            3) If you are using a white flour recipe, reserve 1/4 -1/3 of the flour and mix it in by hand when kneading. You might need more flour or less thats normal.
                            4) If you partially knead the dough and get tired or bored, cover it up and let it rest than finish kneading. Its easier to knead with 15 minutes or half an hour of rest.
                            5) Reread the directions before every attempt.
                            Be prepared to do the same recipe several/many times to learn how it should work. Don't expect perfection -- something new can always go wrong.

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