I love baking and so I’d like to share with you a few personal tips I’ve learned along the way….you would be surprised how these may change the way you bake bread! =)
1) Consider using a “starter” if you are always baking bread. If you can get your hands on a starter when making fresh bread, it makes all the difference in the world! My mother-in-law recently gave me a starter that was passed on to her and I tell you, the flavor it adds to bread! The older the starter, the more pungent it is. Or, consider making your own?
—-If you currently use a starter, mix the starter along with the water in a mixer on the lowest speed for a few minutes until the starter is well diluted and frothy. THEN add the flour, followed by the salt, etc. Mixing the starter by itself with water in a mixer ensures uniform dilution, no hidden globs.
2) The great debate: Dry yeast or Fresh compressed cube? Here in Italy, most all bread is baked using fresh yeast. When making pizza, I always use fresh yeast. I find the crust being tastier. When making bread however, I use my starter, and only when using my bread machine do I use dry yeast. Now when visiting family in California, I can never find fresh yeast, so I use dry yeast. However, the quality of the yeast plays a big factor when baking bread, so if you have to choose between the two, go for fresh yeast!
3) Do you make your own Kefir cheese? (….see my post). Keep the whey (the liquid that drains from the yogurt). You can use whey instead of water when making bread! It will make your bread moist, compressed (less airy), and with a hint of a sourdough-like taste. I do this whenever I make kefir cheese and it’s to die for! Not to mention the bread lasts a bit longer because of the bacteria found in the whey.
4) Do not use cling film or saran wrap when covering the bowl to let dough rise or proof. Why? I’ve found it doesn’t seal well. Use a kitchen garbage bag or heavy duty plastic grocery bag! My dough usually rises much faster and higher =) Simply place the bowl of dough in the bag, cover the bowl with a large plate or saran wrap, and then tie the bag tightly.
5) When forming loaves, do not skip the step of slashing slits on the top. The bread will crack nicely and form crusty ridges that give an artisan look! Otherwise, the bread may crack along the sides in an effort to allow the steam to escape, making it difficult to cut the bread later on when serving.
6) When slicing freshly baked bread, wait until it cools completely or it will cave in…..and hold the bread on it’s side if you are having difficulty slicing it.
7) To keep bread fresh when in the bread box, wrap it in a kitchen towel before placing it in a plastic bag or container.
Hope you enjoyed these tips and let me know if any of these work for you =)