If you’ve been on social media lately, chances are you’ve seen a bunch of people who know (and maybe some slightly more famous ones you don’t) trying out bread baking. I, for one, am very much team bread baking (all the time, not just when we’re looking for things to do while we’re staying at home), but I’ll admit that I was pretty surprised that it seemed like all of a sudden we’d all collectively decided that bread baking was the official social distancing hobby of choice.
Bread Baking Tips
If you’re a seasoned baker, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing, but if baking bread at home is brand new to you, there are some tips that can help you navigate your initial few loaves, until you get a bit more comfortable with it. First things first: if you don’t have a kitchen scale, add it to the top of your list for when you can run to the kitchen store in (hopefully) a few weeks or months. If you’re a bit ahead of the game and already have one, consider using it. In my opinion, it makes baking bread a bit easier. Measurements by weight are a bit more precise than the ones by volume that Americans are used to, so use that to your advantage if you can.
Most bread recipes require that you add water (or another liquid) to form your dough. When it comes to bread, the temperature of the water is way more important than you might think. If it’s too hot, it’ll kill the yeast. If it’s too cold, the yeast may not work to its full potential either, according to Bob’s Red Mill. (The one caveat, per Cook’s Illustrated, seems to be if you’re making a dough that’s going to ferment for awhile in the fridge. In that case, ice water is a good way to go.)
And if you’re going to bake your bread in a French oven or Dutch oven, make sure that the handle on the lid is heat-safe at the temperature you’ll be baking. You don’t want a melted or burnt and completely ruined lid on your hands.
Other than that, bread baking is, in my opinion, sort of a trial-and-error process. It takes time, and recipe writers oftentimes can’t give you super exacting instructions on how long it’s going to take for your loaves to proof or rise. You have to use your best judgment. The best advice I can give is to follow the instructions you do have as best as you can and then to remember that you’re trying something new to you—don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get a bakery-perfect loaf your very first time. There’s always next time.