Homemade bread is very forgiving, but some mistakes are hard to overcome. By knowing what these mistakes are before you make that next loaf, you can avoid working hard to make the perfect loaf that ends up letting you down.
Using the Wrong Yeast
When making bread, always follow the recipe, because substituting ingredients can cause your bread to fail. For example, if your recipe calls for a particular type of yeast (such as active, rapid-rise, compressed or bread-maker yeast), make sure you use that type, since the entire recipe is based on the rising action of that yeast. Using the wrong type can cause your bread to rise too much or not enough. Breads that fail to rise enough tend to be tough and chewy, and those that rise too much will be crumbly and almost impossible to cut.
Not Kneading Enough
Kneading helps develop the gluten, helps the bread to rise and distributes the air bubbles throughout the dough. If you fail to knead the bread enough before letting it rise, you will have a sticky mess that is almost impossible to shape into loaves. Plan on kneading for at least 10 minutes. You have done enough kneading when the dough is elastic and your hands come away clean from the dough ball.
Temperature plays an important part in proofing the yeast and rising the bread. Proof yeast in water that is approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a bit of sugar (following your ingredients) to the water, stir and then add the yeast. When the level in your bowl or cup has risen to twice the original size, your yeast is proofed.
Rising bread needs a room temperature of about 80 F. A colder temperature will slow the rising process, and a higher one can give the bread a sour taste.
Undercooking or Overcooking
Bake bread in a hot oven until it has turned golden brown. Refer to your recipe for temperature and approximate times. When you pull the loaf from the oven, remove it from the pan and thump the bottom of it with your finger. If the bread sounds hollow, it is done. If not, put the loaf back in the pan and cook for an additional five or 10 minutes. Overcooked bread will be dry and crumbly, so begin checking your bread about five minutes before the time listed in the recipe. Since some ovens cook hotter than others, the bread may be done cooking before the given time period.
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