Bread was the most frustrating thing to make in the Thermomix. It would always be dense, doughy and too heavy. It was edible but it was nothing like the lovely soft fluffy bread you can purchase at the supermarket or bakery.
After a lot of experimenting I have found a few tricks to ensure the end result is soft and fluffy. These tips can also come in handy if experimenting with other types or doughs where the final products is a little denser intentionally.
My new (daggy) catchphase is “Bake it til you make it!”. Making good quality bread and bread products is an art. It takes a lot of experimenting, knowing your ingredients and method as well as knowing your oven to create great bread. Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts are flops. I lost count of how many loaves I got wrong before I starting getting them right. Lets just say my freezer was well stocked with breadcrumbs made from the unsuccessful attempts.
I’m not a bread expert at all and do not want to give the impression that I am. I have just found that this combination works for us and how we like our bread with help from a variety of resources including bakers.
Know your ingredients
- Bakers flour or “strong flour” is essential. It is a high protein flour designed specifically for making bread and doughs so will give you a much better end result. Use good flour. Your bread will be only as good as the ingredients that go in to it. Flours can vary from brand to brand so you many need to experiment and see what gives you the better result.
- You can purchase a variety of gluten free flours for bread making (or make your own). Its important to know that each brand differs in what makes up their GF flour as there is no one universal recipe. If one brand doesn’t work for you try another. Different ingredients will give different results.
- Real bread has only four ingredients – strong flour, water, yeast and salt. Anything else is seen as an “improver”. I used to swear by store bought bread improver but have been able to make great bread without it as long as I kneaded and proofed as directed further down. I have read that a lot of people prefer not to use bread improver and will use dissolved vitamin c tablets or chia seeds as a bread improver. I have not tried these. Its worth noting that there are some really good bread improvers on the market now. Your local health food shop or online bulk foods sites stock a great range and can walk you through each brand.
- At a recent cooking class I learnt that fresh yeast makes for a lighter and more elastic dough. Fresh yeast will give the bread a better result once baked and taste much better. If you can find this I recommend using it over dried yeast however it can be hard to source and can sometimes be a little expensive for everyday baking. Note: Fresh yeast has a short shelf life. Ensure you store it correctly.
- When using dried yeast, always store it in the fridge or freezer.
- Ensure the yeast is active otherwise your dough will not rise. To test: add 1 teaspoon sugar to 1/4 cup warm water. Add a teas of yeast to it and let it stand for 10 minutes. If the yeast foams the yeast is active. If it doesn’t you need to discard and buy new yeast.
- Temperature of water is important. I always use lukewarm regardless of what the recipe says. If its too cold the yeast wont activate and hot water kills yeast. Room temperature water is always a safe bet. You can heat your water in the tmx to 37 degrees before adding the remaining ingredients if desired. Do not go over 37 degrees.
- If you live in areas with very hard water, boil the water first and cool to 37 degrees before using.Salt
- Salt in a natural flavour booster and is essential in bread. I’ve learnt that it also helps the flour absorb the water. Without salt your dough will be stickier then normal. How interesting is that!
- We often believe that it is important salt and yeast do not come into contact with each other. This is generally only true for fresh yeast as the salt can break down the properties and structure of fresh yeast causing it to deactivate. To be on the cautious side I ensure yeast and salt don’t come into contact regardless if its dried or fresh.
- I always add my ingredients in this order: water, yeast, oil, flour, salt and other flavourings.
The importance of kneading
- We don’t knead enough. A lot of thermo cooker recipes call for 2 minutes of kneading. This really isn’t enough time to get the gluten working and stretched. Kneading is extremely important as it helps activate the gluten in the bread. You are wanting a nice elastic dough. To get this you knead to knead it – see what I did there?! Genius.
- I always knead the dough for 6-8 minutes regardless of what the recipe says. Bakers will knead for 10-15 minutes minimum.
- You know your dough has been kneaded enough when it has a lovely smooth finish to it. You want it to hold its shape and once poked you want it to bounce back into shape quickly. It should pull away nicely from the sides of the bowl and not sticking.
- A good way to test if your dough has been kneaded enough is what many bakers call the “Window test”. You should be able to stretch your dough so thinly you can see light through it without it tearing.
Rise and shine!
- Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling film or in a bread mat to rise.
- When leaving dough to rise, ensure the area it is rising in isn’t too hot. It can kill the yeast and cause the dough to collapse during the cooking process.
- I leave the dough to rise in my car or in a warm room for at least an hour minimum or until well and truly doubled.
- Once your dough has doubled in size, knock it down with your hands to release some of the gases that have built up in the rising stage.
- I then shape it into my desired shape or place in to my tin, cover to avoid a skin from forming and let rise once again for what is known as a second rise. This can be anywhere from 15-60 minutes. You want it to double in size.
- It’s not uncommon for my dough to rise for two or more hours when days get busy. These are always the lightest and fluffiest loaves/rolls. Please see the below note however.
- I have read quite a bit about over proofing. This has never occurred for me and I sometimes leave dough for many hours. To ensure you don’t over proof, cook your dough once it has doubled in size after the second rise. Do not let it rise more than double. If you feel you have over proofed the dough, knock it down, reshape it and let it rise again until double. This should rectify it.
- At a recent cooking class I learnt that gluten free flours and wholemeal/grain flours need a longer proofing time. They will need almost double the time compared to white doughs.
- You can place dough straight into the fridge from the tmx. Place it into the fridge in a flat disc shape. This ensures it cools evenly in the fridge and rises evenly. When you are ready to cook with it, remove it from the fridge and place it back into the tmx bowl. Knead for 6-8 mins and then let prove as above.
- Ive read a lot that its best to put straight into a hot oven rather than a cold oven and letting it get to temperature. This will allow for an even bake and crust to form. See below tip.
Bake it til you make it!
- When baking the bread, you can place an oven proof dish filled with water at the bottom of the oven for the first 15 minutes. The first 15 minutes is where the bread does most of its expanding. You could just spray some water into the hot oven using a spray bottle. Either way will work. The steam helps the bread form a nice even rise and crunchy crust. This will help your bread from bursting or uneven top.
- Make sure you cook the loaf/rolls long enough. Doughy loaves or rolls are often because the bread hasn’t been cooked long enough. If your bread resembles scones or damper pop it back into the oven for longer. It should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom if cooked through.
- If you want a crunchy crust around the entire loaf, once cooked remove dough from tin and place onto the oven rack for 10 minutes to crisp up the base and sides.
- Remember that each oven does vary. You may need to experiment with temperatures to see exactly how your oven cooks.
Storing your hard work
- Fresh bread goes stale very quickly as it doesn’t contain any preservatives. Store the bread in an airtight container in the pantry and eat on the day of baking or the next day. You can freeze bread for one month.
- Too dense and doughy: It may be undercooked. Pop it back in the oven to cook a little longer. Other factors can be that it wasn’t kneaded and proofed enough.
- Bread isn’t rising: Your yeast may be dead. Use the steps above to test it.
- Bland in taste: You may have missed adding salt.
- Crust bursts: Oven may be too hot or heating unevenly. I find in some oven I have to regularly turn the tin or tray once the crust has formed.
- Bread collapsed when baking: You dough most likely over proofed.
- Crust is too soft and pale: Your bread may be undercooked. Your oven may not have been not hot enough as well.
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