8 Essential Tips for Making Homemade Bread, According to a Master Baker

With zero intimidation factor.

Fact: There is a direct correlation between temperatures dropping and the amount of 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. While baking bread from scratch seems daunting at first, the task will become second nature over time, thanks to a few easy tricks.

We asked Chef Dominique Moudart, master 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 to baking homemade bread.

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 this 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 %, the high-gluten flour is your go-to flour for yeast breads, which are breads that use 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.

RELATED: Gluten Is Seriously Misunderstood—Here's Why

03 of 08

Avoid over- or under-kneading your dough.

It sounds obvious, but many 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.

04 of 08

Watch your oven.

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 not be properly calibrated. 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.

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 it well.

Salt's not just important for flavor: It has many chemical interactions with flour and yeast that give good structure and texture to 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 make sure you're not using more than you need."

RELATED: Give Your Baking a Healthy Upgrade With One of These White Flour Alternatives

07 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 on 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 small indentation and very slowly spring back.

08 of 08

Always warm your milk.

Only slightly, but just enough so that the yeast isn't slowed down by the fat in the milk.

RELATED: This Is the Healthiest Type Of Bread, According to a Registered Dietitian

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