Even the best cooks do not know how to bake bread in the oven. People often choose store bought convenience over the simple joy of fresh baked bread. However, homemade bread is healthy, does not contain unnecessary additives that stores use and tastes better than bread that was sitting on a shelf for days. Baking bread is a fun activity to do with family and is a great treat to bring to parties.

Preparing Dough: Yeast Is Key

Many people who enjoy cooking are scared of making bread because of the yeast. Making the yeast rise is critical to the process but is not difficult when starting with a straightforward recipe and being patient. Test the yeast by adding some to hot water. If the yeast dissolves and the water starts bubbling, then the yeast is active and useable. Mixing ingredients properly is important, and most instructions mix solids, liquids and yeast separately before gradually combining them. The time required for kneading is also important, and dough should be smooth and elastic. Finally, the product should be left out, covered and greased while the yeast rises. Dough that is ready will be twice as large and more firm.

Shaping

Dough is not like cake mix and cannot be placed in a pan after mixing. It must be pressed and shaped before it is ready. Fortunately, this step is fun, and kids will love to help shape the bread. Bread must be punched to remove air which creates more yeast. Smooth the remaining dough into the impression made when punching the bread. After doing this several times, dough should be covered in a light layer of flour and shaped. Follow the pattern in the recipe to ensure it will bake properly, but do not be overly critical on first efforts. Work on following instructions and getting the taste right before worrying about presentation. Let the dough rise again before baking. It will double in size again but rises faster as there is more yeast.

Baking

The baking process is similar to other oven baked good and only requires observation. Follow the recipe for baking time, preheating and temperature. All ovens vary, so watch for bread that has risen and is golden brown. Bread should sound hollow when knocked and needs to be removed from the pan to prevent overcooking.

Getting Creative

After learning how to make the dough and baking bread that tastes good, special touches can be added. Dough that is ready can be molded and shaped to create many looks. Strands of dough can be twisted around each other to create a crisscross pattern, knifes can make slashes and grooves to add a professional look or rings can be made for variety. Instructions are available, but anyone can experiment with technique.

A surface makeover is just the beginning when baking. Shaping the bread adds flair, but trying different ingredients adds flavor. Popular additions include fruit pieces, glazes or adding spices for new tastes. It is important to adjust cooking time and ensure that bread still rises properly when adding elements. Shaping bread and adding ingredients allow any baker to invent recipes and show off delicious breads.

A Quick Fix

Many people want the rewards of homemade bread without the toils. Baking bread can be a relaxing hobby or a profitable talent, but not everyone has time to prepare bread. Those who are busy but do not want to sacrifice taste use bread makers. These machines make it easier to combine ingredients and knead dough, and less attention is needed when the bread is baking. However, bakers should take precautions with new machines. Every machine has different parts, cook times and requirements. Follow instructions and be familiar with a bread maker before trusting it completely. Users may need to adjust the times for their recipes, tweak ingredients or accommodate for other quirks. This ensures the quality will compare to hand made bread, and the device can run on its own when users are familiar with it.

Homemade bread tastes delicious and offers many options whether done by hand or in a machine. Families will love making, sharing and eating these treats.

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