Picture Perfect Bread

The secret-at least most of it-is in the rise. The most common mistake that we see in bread making is not letting the dough rise enough.

So how do we know when the bread has risen enough? The dough will double in size. It will be soft and look a bit airy. When you touch it with your finger, it will feel soft and an indention in the dough will remain. If it feels a bit springy and the dough bounces back from the indentation, it hasn't risen enough.

To help you tell when your bread has risen enough, most recipes tell you how long to let the bread rise at normal kitchen temperatures. (The stated time is a guideline but it's usually pretty accurate if you are using water at the recommended temperature. Set the timer and forget about the bread until you hear the timer.)

Can you let bread rise too much? Yes-but most of us are too impatient to let that happen often. If it does rise too much, it will be blistered, so soft it won't hold its form, and may even collapse. No problem. Just gently knead some of the air from the dough, reshape the loaves, and let it rise again. It will rise more quickly the second time.

Sometimes, the bread dough is too dry or too wet. That won't happen often if you carefully measure the water. Traditional bread dough will be soft and barely sticky but dry enough to handle with a little flour on your hands. Environmental conditions, such as humidity or water hardness, may affect the moisture in the dough. If you feel that your dough is too wet or dry, add another tablespoon or two of flour or dribble in a tablespoon of water.

One more thing-when you put your loaves into the oven, allow as much space as possible between the loaves and between the loaves and oven walls. If air can't circulate properly around the loaves, the loaves will be misshapen.

Baking bread is an art. With a little practice, anyone can have picture perfect bread. Even when it is not picture perfect, it is a treat to enjoy.

Dennis Weaver is the general manager at The Prepared Pantry (http://www.preparedpantry.com) with recipes, ideas, and the best selection of mixes and ingredients. Visit the free Bakers' Library for more articles like this, free baking guides, and tested recipes.

In The News:

pen paper and inkwell

cat break through

A Cookie Assembly Line: Efficient Cookie Baking for Busy Cooks

As a busy working mother, I'm short on time, especially... Read More

Grilling Tips ? Safety Comes First at the Barbecue

You're standing at the gas grill in the hot sun,... Read More

Fine Tuning Bread Machine Mixes

Sometimes bread machines can be tricky. We were trying to... Read More

Wok this Way! (Part 4 of 5) Cleaning and Caring for Your Wok

Non-stick woks do not require seasoning, and come with simple... Read More

Two for One Dinners: Pork

If you find leftovers boring, uninviting or downright "yuck," then... Read More

Family Meal Planning Made Easy

As moms, we have hectic lives. Whether we work out... Read More

Chinese Cooking Technique: Thicken

"Thicken", or "Thickening" is a very common technique used in... Read More

Herbs and Spices - the Essence of Flavor

In any number of cookbooks and recipes you will find... Read More

Do you own an AGA or RAYBURN cooker ?

The Cooker-rail....This is a novel way of increasing the drying... Read More

Low-Budget Meals In a Minute

Ever go home and look in the fridge only to... Read More

Digital Thermometers

Types of digital thermometers & their culinary uses.Thermocouple:Of all food... Read More

Barbecue Success With The Rule Of Thirds

Ever been to a barbecue party where the 'chef' placed... Read More

Pyrex Mixing Bowls ? A Kitchen Favorite

Pyrex mixing bowls typically come in sets of 3 with... Read More

Slimming Secrets From The Kitchen

To get the svelte figure, start in the kitchen. Slimming... Read More

Unique Cake Decorating With Flowers

Flowers as a Cake Decoration, unique and easy to place... Read More

Garlic: A Quick Guide

Garlic, there's nothing like the smell of garlic. It's great... Read More

Christmas Cookie Decorating 101

Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies.... Read More

Troubleshooting Machine Bread

Bread machines-wonderful inventions that they are-don't think very well. You... Read More

What?s the Thick on Roux? Thickening Soups and Sauces

Soups and sauces can be thickened in a variety of... Read More

Wok this Way! (Part 3 of 5) Seasoning Your New Wok

Seasoning is the most important thing you can do to... Read More

Don?t Poke the Chicken at Your Backyard Barbecue

You might be planning a home remodeling project and it... Read More

How to Care for Your Cast Iron Skillet (includes recipes)

Some of the best meals I've ever eaten were made... Read More

Cooking -- What You Need To Know

From ancient times till the nineteenth century cooking was basically... Read More

Flax Seed Will Add A Little Extra Flavor To Your Recipes

Flax seed will add a pleasant nutty taste to any... Read More

How to Bake: Bread on the Grill

One of the slickest tricks we know is baking bread... Read More

About Baking: Eight Tips for Perfect Pancakes

Pancakes are easy and almost foolproof. But there are some... Read More

Cake Pans

Cake pans?.the secret behind every successful cake. My husband tells... Read More

Eat your Veggies! Simple Cooking Methods

Vegetables add colour, taste, texture and bulk to our daily... Read More

How to Peel Almost Anything

The great English cook Prue Leith once famously remarked "life's... Read More

Picnic Checklist

In the previous article, we suggested that you start a... Read More

Kitchen Canister Sets - How to Beautify Your Kitchen

Kitchen canister sets are a great way to accent your... Read More

Make-up or Mixing Methods for Muffins

When muffins aren't perfect, the first reaction is to change... Read More

Cooking Lobster at Home

Lobster has always be one of those extravagant meals which... Read More