1. Make sure your yeast is really fresh. Test some in warm water with a little sugar if you are doubtful about its age. It should start to bubble within a few minutes, if not, discard it and buy a new pack.
2. Put your bread into the oven when it's fully up to temperature. If you put it in too early it will not cook properly. You'll get a doughy, unpleasant texture for your pains.
3. Make sure that you allow ample time for the bread to rise. But don't leave it rise too long. It should approximately double in size. If you leave it too long the bread may be too crumbly.
4. Always allow the bread to rise twice - if you don't you are likely to get a brick!
5. Use fresh ingredients as far as possible. Flour goes stale fairly quickly, especially wholegrain flour; the fats in the germ go rancid.
6. Use enough water. If the dough is too sticky at first, leave it for ten minutes. If the moisture isn't absorbed by then add a little extra flour. Too little water leads to a tough loaf.
7. For a softer crust, cover the bread in a damp tea towel when it comes out of the oven.
8. Work with room temperature ingredients. Yeast loves a warm environment and bread will rise more quickly and completely when ingredients are at room temperature rather than cold. Exotic flours are often stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Using chilled ingredients will significantly slow the yeasts' ability to leaven bread.
9. A convenient way to bring chilled flours to room temperature is to measure flour(s) for your recipe and place in a bowl on the counter the night before baking. For perishable ingredients, like eggs and milk, set on the counter for about 2 hours before preparing your recipe.
10. High protein content in flours add structure and flavor to bread. Sorghum, millet, amaranth, millet, teff, gluten-free oatmeal and buckwheat are alternatives to whole wheat flour.
11. Dry milk, buttermilk and whey powder will add protein, texture, volume, flavor and nutritional value.
12. Eggs will naturally boost the rise and volume of bread. They also add moisture, flavor and protein.
13. Soda water and beer contain carbon dioxide bubbles that promote volume in bread loaves.
14. Add 1/8 tsp powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to dry ingredients. Yeast thrives in an acidic environment. Ascorbic acid also acts as a natural preservative, increasing the shelf-life of your bread.
15. Olive oil adds wonderful flavor to breads. Another benefit of using olive oil in bread recipes is that it adds moisture, a tender texture and extends shelf-life of your breads.
Some of our favorite bread recipes so far:
Photo Credit: Julie T Cecchini