Five Steps to Artisan Bread
- Double check your ingredient amount. Extra or not enough of one item in most bread recipes can drastically impact the crust and grain of the bread. Most professionals measure out their ingredients before they add them (called Mis en place in French) to avoid these kinds of problems.
- Mixing in fruit and nuts can add a great texture to the bread, but sometimes if they’re too heavy they’ll sink to the bottom of your bread as it bakes. Ways to help this are: coating dried fruits in flour before mixing them in, using a drier bread dough, and making sure not to over-mix the dough.
- If a recipe tells you to use warm milk or water, make sure to use warm milk or water. Yeast in bread can be very sensitive, and it does better in warm temperatures rather than cold. Boiling milk or water, too, will kill yeast activity which stops bread from rising. Quick Tip: Test the temperature of your liquid on the inside of your forearm, similar to testing a baby's bottle. If you can't feel the drop on your skin, the temperature is just right.
- A little humidity in the final stages of the baking process is one of the things that gives dough it’s characteristically dark crust color. To achieve this effect at home, set a tray of boiling water on the oven’s bottom shelf as you bake.
- Know your oven’s temperature. While the dial might say its 450° inside, the actual temperature may vary by up to 15°. It’s always a good idea to periodically check your oven’s temperature manually so you know how much to adjust a recipe.