Just a few years ago, every time I attempted to make yeast bread, results were – at best – mediocre. I got better with time (see above photo – a loaf of my own bread.) I am at the point now where I make most of my own bread. A couple of things that I learned through practice, trial and error:
- When you are a beginner, accurate measurements and following directions are key. You will learn what looks and feels right, and can wing it a bit more when you become proficient at baking.
- Weighing ingredients results in better bread, particularly where the flour is concerned. When measuring flour in cups rather than ounces (or grams), I always ended up with too much flour.
- Without experience, it is especially important to follow directions.
- You can make bread without a mixer.
- There are methods other than kneading that result in the formation of gluten. They are related to time and hydration (moisture).
- Preferments improve flavor.
- There are many videos that explain and demonstrate making various kinds of bread, from basic to intricate.
This video explains alternative techniques for gluten formation (stretch and fold, and lamination), and a preferment (in this case, a Biga):
A couple of other tips:
- I use instant yeast, which can be mixed directly into your dry ingredients, without proofing.
- I keep most of my yeast in the freezer. It stays good for months and months. I also keep a small amount in a jar in my refrigerator. I buy SAF red package yeast in 1# bricks. SAF also sells a gold package yeast that is designed to be used in sweet doughs.
- I use King Arthur bread flour and all purpose flour.
- Good tools to have: A decent scale to weigh ingredients, and an instant read thermometer to check the temp of liquid ingredients and finished loaves.
A good sandwich bread recipe (prompted to the 4:02 mark).
When I am really lazy, I make this bread in a bread maker without a preferment (poolish.) I add liquids first, then dry ingredients and the yeast last (increased to 2 tsp), adding the preferment amount of flour and water to the total.
I think that home bread baking is an important skill to learn – particularly in these times when supply chain problems cause shortages. If you have a supply of flour, water, salt and yeast, you can make bread!