Sue’s Kitchen on TAFN bread Cooking techniques and preparation methods. Blind Chef Sue offers advice and guidance for baking fresh bread, including what to do if things go wrong.

Making Bread

Enjoy the appetising aroma of home-made bread, with the added satisfaction of knowing that you have made it, from natural ingredients, right from scratch.

Please don’t be disappointed if the first loaf you produce isn’t quite what you expect
it to be, the loaf you make at home probably isn’t ever going to be the same
size, or the same shape as the mass produced bread you buy from the
supermarket. However, this will be of no detriment as the flavour will be far superior.

I am only going to give the guidelines for basic bread here.
Once you have mastered the traditional, you can then go on and experiment with the many other sweet and savoury
methods, as they are all derived from the same basic principles.

Choosing The Right Ingredients

Always remember to use the correct ingredients, as shown in
your recipe, white strong plain bread flour gives a light, airy texture, if you
use half and half white and whole-wheat strong bread flour, it will give the taste and texture of brown bread without being too heavy.
Using all wholemeal or stone-ground flour will result in a very heavy, doughy bread that will not rise as much. Combining white strong bread flour with
flour containing grains, such as granary flour, rye flour, spelt wheat flour, will create either crumbly or interesting textures and nutty flavours.

Cereals such as Oats, barley, bran, etc, will add nutritional value as
well as extra flavour, but before adding them, consult your recipe instructions,
if you add too much it will result in heavy bread.
Don’t forget to include a little sugar, (ordinary granulated) will be
fine as this will feed your yeast and start it working as well as giving structure to your loaf. It is necessary to use a small amount of fat
too, either butter, margarine or olive oil, dependent upon your recipe, which
will produce a moist, slightly crumbly bread and improve its keeping properties. A little salt should be added to bring out the flavour of the bread, but never add more than the recipe
recommends, as it will change the flavour and stop the rising action of the

Yeast produces carbon dioxide, when it is given several things, warmth,
time, food and moisture. Traditional
active, dried yeast is sold in granular form, either in drums, small packets or sachets, labelled “fast-acting”, be sure to add the right amount for your

Making The Bread Dough

Always remember to use the correct ingredients,
as given in your recipe, weigh out all the dry ingredients accurately, into a large
mixing bowl, not forgetting to add the small amounts of salt and sugar which perform such an important part in creating a good end result. Rub the small amount of fat in to the dry
mixture, adding just enough lukewarm, tepid, water to enable the mixture to
come together into a ball without leaving any dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, use a round bladed knife, not your hands, you are aiming for a smooth,
soft, but not a sticky dough.

The temperature of the water you use is very important, if its
too cold it will take a long time for your dough to start to rise, or (prove),
if its too hot you will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise at all.

Kneading The Dough

Now that you have made your dough, the fun starts, as you have reached
the kneading or (knocking back) stage before its put to rise for the first time. Lightly flour your work surface, don’t use too much as it will dry out the dough and
change the texture of the bread. form the dough into a ball, make your hands into fists and press your knuckles
firmly down into the dough, you will feel it flatten, lift up your knuckles and repeat the process. Bring the dough
back into a ball with the palms of your hands, give the dough a quarter turn, clench your fists and knead it again, pressing your knuckles down hard into the
dough a couple of times. Carry on doing
this, so that you are kneading, reforming the dough into a ball, giving it a quarter turn, then kneading it again for a good ten minutes. You’ll
know when you have finished, as you’ll be exhausted, smile.

As you continue kneading, you will feel the dough becomes smoother and more elastic, you may even hear the
air bubbles popping as you work as the gluten in the flour expands.

Putting The Dough To Rise

After you have completed the kneading, or (knocking back) process for the first time, lightly flour the inside of your mixing bowl, drop the ball of dough
inside, cover the bowl completely with either lightly greased Clingfilm or a tea towel so that the dough doesn’t dry out, before putting it to rise, (prove), in a
warm place, until it has doubled in size. somewhere at room temperature is fine, or in an airing cupboard, but not on top of a radiator or in a low oven
as too much heat will kill the yeast and the dough won’t rise at all.

You will know when it has reached the correct stage, as the dough will have spread out in the bowl and it’ll feel
light and airy if you press it gently. If
you listen very carefully, it is possible to hear the dough clicking as the yeast gets to work. Leave it for around an hour and a half before you check it,
remembering to cover it again if you have to leave it for a bit longer.

Before you bake the loaf, it is necessary to knead it again, to equally
distribute the gluten in the flour, giving the yeast time to do its work properly, ensuring a better, more even end result. Flour the work top again,
tip out the dough, reform it into a ball, I know it seems a shame to push outall that warm air, but don’t worry you won’t do any harm, knead the dough again,
following the technique as given above, for a couple of minutes. There is no need to overwork it at this stage.

Lightly grease your loaf tin, or baking sheets and transfer the dough, gently patting it down so that it stretches out
into the edges and corners of the bread tin, or, if you are making bread rolls,
break the dough into small balls, making the right number, as given in your recipe, put them onto your greased baking sheets quite a way apart, slightly flatten their tops with the palm of
your hand, before covering the tins and putting the dough to rise in a warm
place again for another three-quarters of an hour or so. At the end of this time, the dough should
have risen a good way up the inside of the tin, or expanded upwards and outwards if you are making rolls.

Baking The Bread

It is important to remember to pre-heat the oven before cooking your
risen loaf or rolls. Bake it according
to the recipe instructions, setting a kitchen timer or remembering to time it accurately. When it’s almost up, and you have already
begun to enjoy that wonderful, indescribable aroma of home-made bread, there is
a really good way of making sure that the bread is cooked through properly.

Remove the bread from the oven, take the tin to your worktop and set it down safely. still wearing oven gloves,
turn the tin upside down over the worktop, with one hand supporting the top of the loaf while the other, gently pulls the tin away from the underneath. It should come away quite easily, if not, just
wriggle the tin from side to side a little bit. Put the tin on one side. Still keeping the loaf upside down, take
off one oven glove and feel the bottom of the loaf, it should feel firm and crusty, try tapping it with your fingers, if it sounds hollow it’s cooked. If the loaf is soft, moist and spongy and sounds dull, put it back into
the tin and cook it for a further 5 minutes and repeat the process again. Don’t leave the loaf in the tin to cool or
it will go soggy.

Important Points To Remember

  • Home-made bread doesn’t contain any of the preservatives that shop bought bread has, therefore, it will not keep for more than two or three days
    in an airtight container or bread bin.
  • You can freeze it, but remember to let it cool completely first.
  • Bread always slices better when it is cool.
  • Some bakers and flour producers swear by the “fast acting” yeast products, others prefer the naturally active dried yeast, the choice is yours,
    however, the fast acting products are most often used in bread makers or in quick bread recipes when the dough is only put to rise once.

Common Problems And Solutions

  • If your loaf has a sunken top, the dough was too wet, either reduce the amount of liquid by 1 tbsp, 15 ml, or increase the amount of flour by 2 tbsp, 30 ml.
  • If your loaf has a domed top, the bread has risen too quickly, reduce the yeast by 1.5 ml, 1 quarter tsp, or increase the salt very slightly.
  • If your loaf has an uneven top, too little moisture has been added. Add 1 tbsp, 15 ml, water, or, reduce the flour by 2 tbsps, 30 ml.
  • If your bread contains large air holes, there is either too much liquid, or liquid has been added when it’s too hot, measure accurately and be careful to add only tepid water.
  • If your loaf is too brown, too much sugar has been added, so reduce it slightly.
  • If the loaf is too heavy, not enough liquid was added, increase the amount of water by 1 to 2 tsps, 15 to 30 ml.