8 Essential Tips for Making Homemade Bread, According to an Expert Baker

Bake bread at home with zero intimidation factor.

Fact: There is a direct correlation between temperatures dropping and the time I spend shoveling slice after slice of warm bread into my mouth. Am I alone? And no disrespect to your store-bought loaf, but few things are better than homemade bread straight from the oven. It's easy to make mistakes, but the task will become second nature over time—thanks to a few easy bread-making tips.

We asked Chef Dominique Moudart, expert baker at Le Cordon Bleu London, to share his insight into making the perfect loaf. As a member of the Association Ouvrière des Compagnons du Devoir, Chef Dominique traveled across seven regions of France to explore the local bread varieties and production methods, gaining a comprehensive knowledge of artisan bread making. He also holds a French Master Baker diploma. Here are Chef Dominique's essential steps for baking bread at home.

01 of 08

Use a Digital Scale

Weighing ingredients—particularly flour—is far more accurate than using volumetric measurements (i.e., your imprecise measuring cups). "Exact measurements are an absolute must," says Chef Dominique. "A milligram here or there can be a disaster."

Convert recipes without weights by weighing as you go—we promise you'll thank yourself next time. "And really, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read your recipe from start to finish before you begin. And follow the timings exactly, too."

02 of 08

Experiment with Different Types of Flour

Base the type of flour you use on the type of bread you're making. Some flours that are higher in gluten will help to give you a better rise. Take bread flour, for instance. With a protein content of approximately 14 to 16 percent, the high-gluten flour is your go-to flour for yeast bread, which uses yeast as a leavening agent (French bread or sourdough, for example).

You can substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour (and vice-versa) using a 1:1 ratio. If you want to use bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose flour, your breads and pastries will get an extra little lift. Try using bread flour as a substitute for all-purpose in no-knead onion rolls, basil beer bread, or whole wheat bread.

03 of 08

Avoid Over - or Under - Kneading Your Dough

It sounds obvious, but many new bakers make this huge mistake when baking bread from scratch. Here's a simple way to check that you've contributed enough elbow grease: You should be able to stretch your dough out 2 to 4 inches without it breaking apart. If this aspect of bread making isn't your strength, consider a bread recipe that requires no kneading at all. For example, the much-talked-about rustic sourdough boules loaves in Dutch ovens are often the no-knead variety.

04 of 08

Watch Your Oven Temperature

If your baked goods have been consistently coming out too light, too dry, or are taking longer to bake than the recipe says they should, your oven might need to be properly calibrated. You can use an oven thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is exact and keep an eye on your bread while it's baking to make sure it doesn't start to burn.

05 of 08

Use the Right Yeast—and Store It Properly

Who knew there were several types of yeast? Most bread machines require "fast-acting" yeast, so double-check what the recipe requires before you start baking. Make sure the yeast has not expired, as old yeast will not work as well.

06 of 08

Season the Dough With Salt

Salt's not just important for flavor: It has many chemical interactions with flour and yeast that give good structure and texture to the bread. "Don't be afraid of salt," Chef Dominique says. "You want just enough so that the bread isn't bland, but taste the dough to ensure you're not using more than you need."

07 of 08

Always Warm Your Milk

Before mixing milk into the dough, warm it slightly—but only slightly. You want the milk just warm enough so that the yeast isn't slowed down by the fat in the milk.

08 of 08

Use the Poke Test When Proofing the Dough

Proofing is the final resting of a loaf of bread before it goes into the oven. Over-proofing dough (i.e., leaving it for too long) can limit the rise of the bread because, eventually, the bread will sink back down. Under-proofing will have a similar effect. Make sure you put it in the oven at the right time by giving your loaf a soft poke with your fingertip: It should leave a slight indentation and slowly spring back.

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