Does baking with yeast intimidate you a little? Do you have no idea where to begin? I started baking at such a young age that it was more fun for me than scary. The best advice I can give is just try it! Start simple and choose a recipe with a few basic ingredients and go from there. I’ve compiled some of my bread baking tips for beginners to help you get started.
- Instant yeast: Do yourself a favor and pick up some instant yeast. Instant yeast has a finer texture and can be mixed directly into dry ingredients, no “activation” required. It works so well and helps your bread rise quickly. If you only have active dry yeast, you can still use it. Just make sure to “proof” it with a little water and sugar. Put your yeast in a small bowl with some of the liquid from the recipe (often warm water) and a little bit of sugar or honey. The sugar helps activate the yeast. Wait about 5 minutes for the mixture to foam. You will notice bubbles forming and a beautiful yeasty smell…that is your clue that it’s working! You can do this same process with instant yeast…but you don’t have to. Save yourself the 5 minutes and pick up some instant.
- Water or liquid temperature: When I first started baking, I would stress a little about the water temperature and “killing” my yeast. Now I know by feel a good temperature for water. Put your hand under the water. If it feels warm enough for a baby or toddler’s bath…that is the temperature you want. More technically, water at 81-100 degrees F is the best temperature for your yeast to start the fermentation process. If your water reaches 120-140 degrees F or higher…that can kill your yeast. That’s a pretty big temperature range, so don’t worry about it too much and just make sure your water is warm…not hot!
- Kneading dough: I grew up in a kitchen without a Kitchenaid mixer (I’m pretty sure my parents still have their old hand mixer that’s over 30 years old) or a Bosch machine. Basically all that was available to knead bread was my two hands! Once you combine the ingredients (I like to put my liquid in first, then add the yeast, sugar, salt and flour at the end), go ahead and mix them together. If you are using your hands to knead the dough, don’t be afraid to go to town pushing, folding and turning the dough as you knead. Keep some extra flour on hand to incorporate in as needed. I like to push down with the palm of my hand and then fold the dough back over the top. This is activating the gluten in the dough to help hold it together. You’ll want to knead the dough for about 5-10 minutes. Using a mixer you will knead for around 3-5 minutes. Your dough should form a nice ball, still slightly tacky but not sticky.
- Rising: I always put about a Tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a bowl and transfer my dough to that bowl as it rises. This helps it not stick to the sides. Also be aware of the temperature of your kitchen. In the winter I like to leave our fireplace on to help the heat rise in our house. Cover your bowl of dough and put it under a light or near some heat source if possible to help the rise time.
- Start simple: If you were learning to crochet something, you wouldn’t start with the most difficult pattern. The same goes for bread baking. Start simple. Choose a recipe with only a few ingredients and learn the process. Yeast is predictable. Learn how it works and enjoy the process. You can do this!!! Message me if you have any questions and I’m happy to help you troubleshoot. Check out my recipe for easy white dinner rolls to get you started.