With many of us at home more than ever before, baking bread has seen a serious revival. Crusty, chewy, soft, bouncy, totally delicious and 100 per cent comforting… however you like your bread, there is nothing stopping you from making some show-stopping loaves in the comfort of your own home.
We spoke to Kami Ramini from Thermomix in Australia for some top tips on making bread like a pro.
“Just like most things in life, with the right tools, the most complex of tasks can become really quite simple. When it comes to bread-making, even novice bakers can get involved by keeping it simple and starting with the basics,” says Kami. “You’ll soon find you’ll never want to go back to the pre-packaged varieties or even artisan loaves which taste incredible but can seriously set you back budget-wise.”
Because bread is such a simple recipe in its essence, it really pays to invest in quality ingredients. You’ll still be saving by the bucket-load compared to artisan breads in the shops. Buying in bulk can really help here too.
Firstly, be sure to choose baker’s flour, as this has a higher gluten content than regular flour and is what will give you the bite and chew you’re expecting. Of course, if you’re keen to try flour-less or grain-free breads, then there are heaps of options too. Have a look at our recipe platform, Cookidoo for inspiration as to ingredient swaps to use there.
When we’re baking traditional breads though, including both salt and sugar as the recipe requires, is essential. The salt not only adds to the flavour but it also contributes to the structure of your bread. Meanwhile the yeast in your bread needs sugar to activate successfully and give you that beautifully satisfying rise.
When it comes to yeast, make sure you measure it properly and follow the steps for activation as laid out in the recipe. A great tip is to keep dried yeast in the freezer to prolong freshness and do an activation test, if you haven’t used it for a while. Simply add some yeast to warm milk and sugar, if it doesn’t bubble up, it’s lost its rising properties.
The need to knead
Kneading is such an indispensable part of the bread-making process, but it’s really delicate too – as over or under kneading can result in heavy, dense breads (and aching muscles if you’re doing it manually!). This is one of the reasons using the knead function with a Thermomix helps make bread-making foolproof.
A great trick if you’re kneading manually, is the “windowpane test”. Once you’ve kneaded your bread and you’d like to know if it’s ready to proof (which means resting it to allow time to rise), you simply stretch a piece of dough between your fingers. If it rips and will not stretch easily, it needs more kneading. If it stretches enough to form a translucent window, it is ready to proof.
Patience in the proof
Much like kneading, correct proofing is key to creating that perfectly baked bread. Be sure to pay attention to the proof cue (i.e. “until doubled in size”), as opposed to the suggested proof time in a recipe, as this will differ massively depending on the ambient temperature. It’s also great to use a proofing basket to help with getting that perfect shape.
Another great tip for when you’re short on time is to place your dough in the fridge overnight to slow down the proofing. You can then bake it the next day without having waited around for it to be ready.
Secrets for storage
As homemade bread doesn’t have any of the preservatives or additives found in many store-bought breads, its pantry life is considerably shorter than its pre-packaged counterparts. So, it’s a great idea to enjoy your bread freshly baked for one or two days, and then slice and store any leftovers in the freezer ready to thaw and/or toast when you’d like some. We slice and store ours in sealable silicon bags in the freezer, which makes it really simple.
All recipes are available on our recipe platform www.cookidoo.com.au. You can purchase a proofing basket, sealable silicon bags and a whole heap of other home baking items via www.themixshop.com.au. Also check out our latest recipe collection, Sourdough At Home, for heaps of beautiful sourdough recipes, including how to make a sourdough starter.