Bread’s wicked ways: my favourite tips and tricks so far

My bread-making experience is one month older than this (very new) blog. So this is simply a summary of my journey so far. Experienced, I am not. With that caveat, here are my favourite tips.

First, a general principle: paying more attention to what the dough or starter is actually doing than to the timings (or other precise guidelines) given by the recipe. The recipe is a record of what worked for the author with their local temperature, humidiity and favourite brand of flour. Results elsewhere could be very different. That is why simple tricks to measure dough activity are so helpful, and why recipes that describe the state of the dough well are much more useful than those that don’t.

Tips that work for me

  • Make sure starter is happily doubling in size after feedings before baking with it. Poor yeast = poor bread.
  • Bertinet’s method for kneading very sticky dough.
  • The Windowpane Test to see if dough has been kneaded enough.
  • The Poke Test to see if dough has proved long enough.
  • Instead of proving sticky doughs wrapped in floured cloth, use floured clingfilm.
  • You can open the oven door in the second half of the baking time.

Tips that don’t

  • Greasing the bowl to stop the dough sticking to it.
  • Don’t do that thing where you substitute baking paper for plain A4. It’s not even a thing, I know, I know. But I tried it and it totally doesn’t work.

Below: Hungarian braided kalács! It’s come out of the oven, but too late to tuck in, alas.

Image

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