If there’s one thing everyone’s doing during quarantine, it’s baking bread. Flour and yeast are flying off the supermarket shelves as everyone from novice to professional bakers are tackling feeding sourdough starters and proofing sticky dough overnight.
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And while there are some who swear by the laborious process of kneading bread dough—as is often done by the professionals—you can still make excellent bread, without having to knead the dough first, and without needing a plethora of uncommon tools.
We spoke with Emilie Raffa, the mastermind behind the bread-baking blog The Clever Carrot, whose blog provides excellent instruction on making sourdough bread, for her tips on making no-knead bread at home. While sourdough is her specialty, she’s also well versed in the no-knead variety as well; her cookbook, “Artisan Sourdough Made Simple,” offers recipes for both sourdough and no-knead loaves, confirming that bread baking doesn’t have to be as hard as it may seem.
Artisan Sourdough Made Simple (for Kindle), $9.99 on Amazon
“The biggest myth about bread baking is that it’s hard and time consuming,” Emilie says. “Like any new craft or hobby, it just takes practice. My best advice is to find a practical, no nonsense recipe and dive right in.”
Keeping that in mind, check out Emilie’s five tips that will help transform you into a master bread baker.
Always Weigh Ingredients
If you’re a baker and don’t own a scale, it’s time to invest in one. Weighing ingredients, like flour, will be more accurate if you use a scale rather than volume measurements—and you won’t have to worry about your bread coming out squat and dense.
Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale, $14.25 on Amazon
Opt for High-Quality Flour
If you want your bread to boast intense flavor, then you’ll want to use high-quality ingredients. Emilie likes working with King Arthur flour.
Don’t Make Unnecessary Swaps
Unlike cooking, which is easier to riff on and swap ingredients if you invariably run out of something in your pantry, it’s essential to follow the directions in baking, especially when it comes to baking bread. “If the recipe calls for bread flour, instead of all purpose, follow the instructions,” Emilie says. “They’re not quite the same. If you substitute, the results will vary.”
Give the Dough Enough Time to Rise
Sure, we all want to eat hot bread immediately, but bread dough needs its sweet time to rise. Make sure to let it sit in a warm place for a couple of hours—better if overnight. “Don’t rush the bulk rise,” Emilie says. “Watch the dough and not the clock.” Not letting the dough rise enough will result in a dense bread otherwise.
Bake Bread in a Dutch Oven
Loading dough into a round vessel, like a Dutch oven or another type of oven-safe pot with a lid, is one of the best tools to use to end up with bakery-style bread at home. The Dutch oven helps retain heat and guarantees your bread won’t spread. Emilie recommends the Challenger bread pan, a rounded cast iron pan that can hold anything from batards to baguettes.
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