Steam is the key to making a crusty loaf – you can achieve this at home if you heat a dish in the oven (then add water/ice cubes) leave this for 15 minutes and then add your bread to the oven. Alternatively you can use a hand held spray and spray the oven sides.
You can try to revive it by taking it back to a very small amount (about a teaspoon) and start feeding it again. If there is a layer of mould on the top of the starter, it might be harder to revive – but is worth scraping off the mould first before starting to feed it again.
Yes - in very hot weather, then the yeast might work too quickly. If it is really cold, then your dough may not knead as well, the yeast might not activate as effectively and your loaf will have less oven spring, resulting in a smaller loaf than normal loaf.
Yes - dough can be frozen after its first kneading or shaping, within an oiled polythene bag. This will normally last about a month.
Fresh yeast has a moist putty-like texture and a distinctive sweet smell. It comes in blocks and is perishable so needs to be stored in the fridge. If you are struggling to find fresh yeast, you could try asking your local bakery or a supermarket in-store bakery and they might be willing to give you a small amount.
Dried yeast is a dehydrated version of fresh yeast. It needs warm water to be added to it before use. The advantage of dried yeast is that it keeps for longer than fresh yeast.
Fast action and easy blend dried yeasts are easier to use than regular dried yeast as they can be added straight into the flour.
Thoroughly dust your proving basket with flour – and shake off any excess - this should help your dough turn out okay. If you are still having difficulties, gently ease the dough out of the cracks using your fingers.
A dough hook is an optional part of many electric food mixers and processors and can be used to knead the dough.