A warm environment is required for both making your dough and for whilst it is rising. A large plastic storage container with a lid – big enough for the dough to expand inside - is also useful.
2. In the summer, the water temperature should be tepid and in the winter, the water should be warmer.
The dough temperature will be reduced by contact with colder kitchen work surfaces. A smooth dough with a temperature of approximately 30°C is desirable. Weather conditions also affect yeast - in very hot weather, the yeast might work too quickly. If it is really cold, the yeast might not activate as effectively and your loaf will have less oven spring and volume, resulting in a smaller than normal loaf.
3. If using a dough hook, ensure that you do not over mix the dough.
Ten minutes mixing is ample; over-development of the dough can lead to ‘sagging’ and the loaf not rising in the oven.
4. It is important to keep the dough out of any drafts when resting and proving to ensure that the dough does not develop a skin.
If the dough develops a skin on its surface this will hamper the moulding process and potentially cause large holes inside the loaf. It might be beneficial to place the dough inside a plastic container with a lid to protect it during the resting and proving processes; this warm sealed environment will ensure that a skin does not form. The shaped dough can also be placed into a bread tin and then back inside this plastic container for the final proof. If the dough looks ‘dull’ in colour it is possible that a skin has developed on the surface of the dough.
5. Steam is the key to making a crusty loaf.
You can achieve this at home if you place a heatproof dish in the bottom of the oven for 5 minutes. Place the loaf in the middle shelf of the oven, then add a quarter of a cup of water (or handful of ice cubes) to the dish, before shutting the oven door.
6. Bread stales fastest at fridge temperature and loses its crustiness.
So once cold, bread just store it in a sealed plastic bag.
7. It is possible to freeze bread dough after shaping, within an oiled plastic bag.
This will normally last about a month. Fresh yeast can also be placed in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.
8. Don’t know what happened? If you recognise these signs, here are the answers.
If the top of the baked loaf is cracked and blistered it is likely that the dough was too tight (stiff) due to insufficient water and not enough time spent mixing – meaning that the gluten did not develop sufficiently. If you’ve got holes within the interior of the loaf, you didn’t knock it back enough. And if it doesn’t rise? It could be the proving time, but often a lack of rise can also be caused by using an out of date packet of yeast or a sachet that has been open and left for too long, causing it to deteriorate in quality and performance. Poor yeast will not give off the necessary carbon dioxide for bread making.