This article isn’t a typical one of which there is hardly a shortage, on the internet. So, how could you cook or bake without a recipe you’d ask. Well, cooking is not always about a recipe, but more about the art of cooking.
That is what this blog will contain every now and then, amidst tips on other topics* as well.
In this journal entry, I’d like to offer the finer points/techniques to enhance a baking process. My tips are meant to boost a beginner’s confidence in baking bread, a process I learnt the hard way or should I say after having burnt my fingers?
Google up a bread recipe or borrow your aunt’s. Then remember these tips.
- Mistake 1: The first and often common mistake by new/inexperienced bakers is to soak yeast in hot water. Well, how hot is hot supposed to be? Good question. To be safer than sorrier, try to not soak the yeast in boiling hot water as it will kill the yeast, nor do so in very cold water as it will let it sleep (in other words, won’t let it rise). Warm water is good, but if you don’t know how warm is warm supposed to be, simply use plain room temperature water.
- Mistake 2: Most of you have some ingredients stored in the refrigerator and forget to bring them out far before the baking process. Note that ALL ingredients should be at room temperature.
- Mistake 3: At times you may be tempted to assess the quantity of baking ingredients. Remember, however, that the ingredients must be measured with clockwork precision unlike those in cooking recipes which give room for flexibility.
- Digital scales serve the purpose, for small measurement units. Health Sense Chef-Mate Digital Kitchen Scales give an accurate reading, in my opinion. Available online on Amazon and similar online shopping websites.
- Mistake 4: Don’t know when the yeast is ready to mix with the dough? A sign when it is ready is when it begins to bubble/turn frothy.
- A commonly used and suggested brand of yeast sold in India is Bluebird.
- Mistake 4: Have you stored your yeast in the refrigerator and forgotten to thaw it before baking? Remember that Bluebird yeast is a dry yeast which may be used and stored outside. If stored in the refrigerator, it will take that much longer to thaw before it’s added to the milk.
- Mistake 5: Forgot to store your yeast in the refrigerator? Confused about which yeast has to be refrigerated and which hasn’t to be? Fresh yeast may also be used in baking bread but this type of yeast has to be strictly refrigerated soon after use (in the icer, at that). The same goes with flours and nuts.
Mistake 6: Have you kneaded the dough in a rush or not known when to stop or continue the kneading process? While kneading the dough, remember that the more it’s stretched the softer the bread gets.
- Mistake 7: If you’ve happened to pour in more water than is required, the dough is bound to get stickyish. Don’t fret, just sprinkle some dry flour and rub it into the dough but take care to not get enthusiastic about it.
- Mistake 8: Have you baked bread when the dough isn’t soft? So, when do I know that the dough is getting soft enough? When it stops getting stuck between the fingers!
- Mistake 9: Have you kneaded the dough too stiff? If the dough seems a bit stiff, sprinkle in a few teaspoons of water to soften it a bit.
- Mistake 10: To avoid a messy kneading board, use a dough cutter to scrape up the dispersed flour. Use the dough cutter to make angular cuts in the dough before baking.
- Mistake 11: Wonder why the dough hasn’t risen despite having followed the recipe steps well? When covering the kneaded dough with a damp muslin cloth, do ensure that it isn’t fitted around too tight to come in the way of it rising.
- Want to double the quantity of produce? Easy. Double the quantity of ingredients exactly!
- Mistake 12: Wondered why the bread didn’t bake in the stipulated time? Most recipes will have indicated this, but it would do well to remember to always pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes prior to baking.
- Mistake 13: Wonder why the bread overbaked despite getting everything right? Check if yours is a strong oven or otherwise. If so, reduce the pre-heat and/or baking time by 2-5 minutes.
- Mistake 14: Burnt your bread? Remember that when the bread’s done, the first thing you’ll notice is the aroma of freshly baked bread. Similarly, when the bread’s overdone, your nose will be the first to guess that. Not funny.
- Mistake 15: Many of you would be unsure if your bread is ready. If unsure about this, simply tap underneath the bread – if it sounds hollow it means it’s done!
- Mistake 16: Have you not adequately baked the inside of the bread and served it just like that? If the bread is overdone on the outside and not sufficiently baked on the inside, reduce the temperature a notch and bake for a few more minutes.
- Mistake 17: What if the opposite occurs and the bread is burnt on the outside but half-baked inside? Wrap it up in foil and bake again. At a lower temperature. Or without turning on the oven, if the degree of heat is high.
Mistake 18: Happily used fresh herbs in your bread and then regretted it? If you prefer using fresh rosemary in your herbed breads, try using less than the stipulated quantity of dry herbs.
Mistake 19: Couldn’t resist the temptation to slice up the bread as soon as it’s baked? Cool freshly baked bread on a wire rack and try to resist the temptation to slice it up soon after it is done.
- Mistake 20: Vexed that juices of fresh canned fruits ruined your bread? Do play around with the toppings using assorted herbs, garlic, loads of grated cheese, sundried tomatoes, toasted nuts, and so on. Do, however, take care to drain off the juices well before mixing!