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What You Knead to Know: Making Your Own Bread

Use a digital scale.

Weighing out ingredients—particularly flour—is far more accurate than using volumetric measurements (i.e. your imprecise measuring cups). “Exact measurements are an absolute must,” says Chef Dominique. “A milligram here or there can be a disaster.” Convert recipes without weights by weighing as you go—we promise you’ll thank yourself next time. “And really, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read your recipe start to finish before you begin. And follow the timings exactly, too.”

Experiment with different types of flour

Base this on the type of bread you’re making. Some flours that are higher in gluten will help to give you a better rise. Take bread flour, for instance. With a protein content of approximately 14 to 16 percent, the high-gluten flour is your go-to flour for yeast breads, which are breads that use yeast as a leavening agent (French bread or sourdough, for example).

Know that you can substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour (and vice-versa) using a 1:1 ratio—and if you want to try using bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour in recipes for yeast doughs that call for all-purpose flour, your breads and pastries will get an extra little lift. Try using bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose in our No-Knead Onion Rolls, Basil Beer Bread, or Foolproof Whole Wheat Bread.

Avoid over- or under-kneading your dough

It sounds obvious, but this is a huge mistake many make when baking bread from scratch. Here’s a simple way to check that you’ve contributed enough elbow grease: you should be able to stretch your dough out 2 to 4 inches without it breaking apart.

Watch your oven

If your baked goods have been consistently coming out too light, too dry, or are taking longer to bake than the recipe says they should, it’s possible your oven isn’t properly calibrated. Make sure the internal temperature is exact by enlisting an oven thermometer, and keep an eye on your bread while it’s baking to make sure it doesn’t start to burn.

Use the right yeast—and store it properly

Most bread machines require ‘fast-acting’ yeast, so double check what the recipe requires before you start baking. Make sure the yeast has not expired, too, as old yeast will not work as well.

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