Baking the perfect loaf of bread is an art, an art only a select few bakers manage to master. It takes exceptional skill and years of experience to get perfect fluffy and slightly flaky of the bread in your first attempt. I have a related guide on best baker's rack.
We present to you some tried and tested tips to make your bread less dense more delicious. These tips discuss the baking process right from choosing the right flour to the temperature of the oven.
Table of Contents
7 Steps to Make Bread Less Dense
Step-1: Choosing the Right Flour for Bread
This is perhaps among the most obvious points but we’ll stress on it nonetheless because it is just that important. The type and texture of the flour play a major role in determining the quality of bread that comes out of the oven.
Now, the whole wheat flour (usually red in color) has the hardest, most dense composition. The bread you bake from this flour would also turn out to be equally hard and dry. To get a lighter, sweeter texture, we suggest you opt for the white flour.
Step-2: Sifting Flour
The packed flour that you find in the supermarket aisles, though cheaper and more easily available has got nothing against whole wheat.
Preparing your own flour from scratch is any day better. For starters, it is a healthy alternative to the preserved and processed flour. And secondly, whole wheat flour has a unique taste that the machine-processed flour cannot replicate.
After you have prepared the flour, you need to sift through it to remove the impurities. Cleaning out the bran or the heavy parts makes the flour lighter, finer and easier to digest.
Step-3: Bread Dough Rising
The yeast or fermenting agent can make or break your bread. A fairly young sourdough starter is basically the many organisms that are present in the flour.
First-time bakers, there’s no need to freak out, these microscopic creatures bubbling actively in your dough is what makes it rise.
Adding a colony of yeasts gives the bread the right fluffiness and consistency. The fermenting agent when activated works on the dough and is responsible for raising it, making the bread lighter.
Therefore, you need to take good care of your starter. Here are a few tips to help you with that;
• The longer you leave your starter the better it develops
• Keep feeding your sourdough starter, preferably for a few weeks, this helps the mixture mature
• Don’t knead too roughly, start slow and gradually work your way in the dough
Step-4: The Right Bread Dough Consistency
Preparing the flour and the sourdough is the easy part. The real deal begins when you begin to add water to the mixture.
Now, there is no set quantity or consistency of the dough. It is an individual choice, you can keep the dough as tight or as loose as you want to. However, we’d suggest you keep a balanced approach to it.
A dough too tight might end up drying faster while the loose dough with high water content might turn out to be soggy. Refrain from going to either of the extremes and take the middle way out- i.e. balanced moisture levels.
Most amateur bakers add whole wheat to the flour and start kneading right away. Whole wheat takes a while to absorb the water, set it aside for a few minutes and then start kneading.
With enough practice, you can manage to get a perfect consistency- a dough that’s neither too tight nor too sticky.
Step-5: Add a Dash of Baking Soda
This is a baking trick that most experienced bakers use to make their bread sweeter and lighter.
Baking soda enhances the flakiness of the dough. And although it boosts the fermentation process, baking soda also reduces the sourness of the dough, giving it a balanced texture.
It reacts with the acidic fermenting agents that raise the dough almost immediately. After you have prepared the dough, add half a teaspoon (or more depending on the content and consistency of the dough). Let it rest for a few minutes before you mix it thoroughly with the dough.
How to Knead Bread Dough? Some bread recipes do not need kneading, that saves you a lot of time and trouble. However, in case you do need to knead the dough, you must know how much kneading is required.
Again, like the moisture content, the kneading also must be “just right”. This is a variable term that changes from recipe to recipe and baker to baker. Someone might knead the dough for a few minutes while others may work at it for a few hours!
The trick is to give the dough a nice stretch. The stretching, folding and pushing movements releases the gases produced by the yeast.
A lot of kneading breaks the dough as the gluten reaches its limit. Similarly, a dough that’s not been kneaded well will be tight, dry and flat. A well-kneaded dough can easily be stretched an inch between your fingers without breaking apart.
Step-6: Proofing Bread in Oven
If you’re preparing sourdough, we suggest you store it in a warm dry place. This gives the microorganisms plenty of moisture and warmth to stay active.
Storing it in a cold place leaves them dormant and ineffective. Therefore, the best places to keep the dough would be near the cooktop or in the oven.
Also, most bakers believe that letting the dough rest for a long time automatically improves its taste. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s a myth.
The rest period generally depends on the kind of flour and cooking time of the bread.
Step-7: Baking the Bread
Up until now, we were talking about the preparation of the dough. Once you have the dough ready, the next step is to bake it.
This is generally the easiest, most fun part of the entire process ‘cause well, you don’t really have to do anything! Just put the dough in the oven, set the timer and wait. However, don’t place the loaf in a cold oven.
You must preheat the oven to a high temperature and get it hot and ready to reduce to the denseness of the bread. A 450-degree Fahrenheit is usually the ideal temperature that most professionals opt for.
Let the dough bake at the same temperature for about 15 minutes before you start reducing the heat. The heat and baking duration depends on the recipe and quality of the dough you’re using.
What’s the Perfect Bread?
Don’t worry if the bread doesn’t come out pretty and perfect like the ones you see in cooking shows. If you are a first-timer or an amateur baker, chances are that your bread might turn out misshaped or disproportionate. That’s not a bad thing.
The things that matter the most are the taste, consistency, and texture of the bread. Sometimes the bread might appear to be perfectly cooked from the outside but be completely raw underneath. Similarly, bread that looks burnt or flaky on the outside might be perfect on the inside.
We also suggest that you refrain from trying out the more complicated recipes in the initial stages of baking. Start with the basic, easiest of bread and slowly work your way up the cookbook.
Baking the perfect loaf of bread is no child’s play. The process is pretty intricate and exhausting, and one simple mistake can cost you quite heavily (and literally so, the bread becomes dense!).
We have compiled a list of some extra baking tips that most bakers use to make the bread lighter, sweeter and better. You “need” to try it out! (Excuse the pun);
• Don’t knead the bread too much, you don’t want to break the long gluten strands and make the bread lose
• The yeast must be alive and actively be able to move towards more food and water
• Also, don’t let the dough rest for a long time, over-fermentation breaks the air pockets
• Maintain balanced levels of gliadin and gluten in the flour,
• Ensure that the oven is not too hot so as to kill the yeast. The temperature must be enough to keep them kicking and active
• You can add some diluted olive oil or any other scented oil to the dough, in case it’s too tight or too dry.
• Add some salt or sugar with the yeast to boost the fermentation process
There are no one set formula to baking, it varies from person to person. Some people prefer their dough to be tight while others want it light and airy.While some like their bread chewy while others want theirs to be soft and flaky.
What we’re trying to say is there are no generic parameters as to how a perfect loaf of bread should look and taste like.
It should be light, airy, chewy and digestible- that’s it. You won’t become a pro at baking overnight.
It requires patience, perseverance and a hell lot of practice to bake that perfect, fluffy loaf. So, keep practicing, keep experimenting and keep improving on the recipes you come across.