Must-Know Baking Tips for Quick Breads, Yeast Breads, and More
Making fluffy loaves of bread and impressive artisanal baguettes is easier than you think! Once you learn how to make bread, you can experiment with a wide variety of homemade bread recipes, like nut-filled quick breads, crusty sourdough breads, and sweet pumpkin breads.
Many factors are vital to learning how to bake bread, like choosing the right oven temperature, knowing how long to bake bread, and using a good bread recipe. When you're learning how to make bread, you'll find the technique you use for baking bread at home will differ depending on the recipe you choose. The two major categories of bread are yeast breads and quick breads, and we have plenty of homemade bread recipes and tips to guide you for either type. Read on and get helpful tips for baking bread such as traditional yeast bread, banana bread, and artisanal bread.
How to Bake Quick Breads
Instead of using yeast, quick breads (think muffins, scones, and corn bread) use baking soda and baking powder as leavening agents. These breads don't take as long to prepare and don't require proofing time.
Step 1: Grease the Pan
Even if your pan is nonstick, grease it to ensure the quick bread dough bakes evenly and doesn't stick. Use a clean pastry brush to lightly spread vegetable shortening over the bottom and slightly up the sides (about ½ inch) of the loaf pan. The ungreased portion allows the bread to maintain its height as it rises.
Test Kitchen Tip: Always grease pans with shortening unless the recipe specifies butter. Shortening is all fat, but butter has some water in it, which might cause sticking.
Step 2: Prepare Your Recipe
Combine the ingredients necessary to make your chosen quick bread. (Our zucchini bread or pumpkin bread recipes are favorites.) If you're new to making quick breads like banana bread, the recipe will have you prepare the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately. Be careful not to overmix the batter once you combine the two bowls—too much mixing can make your loaf heavy and uneven.
Step 3: Check for Doneness
Take a quick look at your loaf 10 to 15 minutes before the minimum baking time. If it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. Remove the foil once you have placed the baked loaf on a cooling rack.
Test Kitchen Tip: The center is the last part of a quick bread to cook. Insert a wooden toothpick near the center; if it comes out clean, your loaf is done. The very center will firm up while the bread is cooling.
Step 4: Cool Bread
Let the loaf rest 10 minutes on a cooling rack so the bread can set up before it's removed from the pan. Run a spatula or butter knife between the pan sides and the loaf to loosen the loaf. Invert the pan to remove the baked bread. Allow quick bread to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or bag.
How to Bake Yeast Bread
If you grab a loaf of French bread every time you pass the bakery section, follow these steps to making your own at home. First time? Head to our highly detailed guide to learn the full baking process of yeast bread.
Step 1: Grease the Pan
Lightly grease the whole pan, even if it's a nonstick pan. You might also see instructions for baking bread on a sheet pan sprinkled with cornmeal, which helps keep the bread from sticking.
Step 2: Prep the Bread Dough
While some loaves go into the oven with no embellishment, others get an egg wash or butter brushed on and a sprinkle of seeds or herbs.
- Egg Wash: Whisk an egg or egg white with 1 tablespoon water, and brush it on the loaf just before baking for a shiny, golden crust.
- Butter or Olive Oil Brush: Brush softened butter or olive oil atop the loaf before baking to add flavor and color.
- Milk Bath: Brushing a loaf with milk before baking gives the baked bread a tender, golden crust. For a sweet bread recipe, sprinkle with sugar if desired.
- Toppers: The egg wash helps toppers adhere to the loaf when added before baking. Seeds such as poppy seeds or caraway seeds, crushed dried herbs, or rolled oats make tasty and attractive baked bread toppers.
Step 3: Bake the Bread
The key to yeast bread is "oven spring," which is the final burst of expansion or fermentation of the yeast. Once this occurs, the loaf sets up and starts to brown, creating the crust.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you bake several loaves at once, use one extra-large baking sheet instead of two smaller ones. Or bake one pan at a time, placing the second sheet in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before baking time. If you bake two smaller pans at once, not enough air will circulate around the bread, causing uneven baking.
Step 4: Check for Doneness
Tap yeast bread lightly with your fingers to test for doneness. It will sound hollow when it is done. If the loaf is browning too fast but doesn't sound hollow, covering the bread while baking by creating a tent out of foil will help prevent burning. Yeast breads containing butter and/or sugar often need this step.
Baking Artisanal Breads
To get the crisp, chewy-brown crust desired in these old-world-style breads, replicate a wood-fired oven in your own oven.
Step 1: Select a Bread Recipe
When choosing a bread recipe, consider what complements the rest of your menu, or use ingredients you have on hand to inspire your bread choice.
Step 2. Make Oven Adjustments
Adjust two oven racks so one is in the lowest position and the other is in the middle of the oven.
Bread Baking Tip: Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack while the oven preheats. When the pan is hot, carefully pour about 1 cup hot tap water into it. The steam helps create a crisp, crackly crust.
Step 3. Bake the Bread
You can bake the bread on a baking sheet, pizza pan, or directly on a bread stone. If using a bread stone, place the stone on the middle rack and preheat it for 30 minutes. Use parchment paper to transfer the dough to the bread stone (leave it on the parchment). Once the bread is in the oven, if desired, use a spray bottle of water to mist the inside of the oven and the loaves. This also helps to give your bread a nice, crisp crust.
Test Kitchen Tip: A bread stone replicates a hearth, especially when used with steam. Artisanal breads are usually formed into freestyle rounds or loaves, so no loaf pan is used.
Fresh Baked Bread Tools and Tips
Not sure if you have the right bread baking supplies? Here are some general tips on the right tools, oven temperature, and bread baking times to make sure you have everything ready to go.
Choose the Right Bread Baking Pan
Artisan-style bread, dinner rolls, French bread, and round loaves can usually be made on a baking sheet. But for standard loaves, you'll want to use a loaf pan. A loaf pan helps shape the bread and encourages even browning, a crispy crust, and a tender interior.
Common loaf pan sizes are 9x5-inches and 8x4-inches. Nonstick pans make it easier to remove bread and require less fat for greasing. Heavy-duty, well-made pans (of aluminum or another sturdy material) will last longer and perform better than cheaper pans. Glass pans can get too hot and overcook the bottom of your loaf. If using an inexpensive or glass pan, lower the oven temperature by 25ºF.
Bread Baking in the Oven
If the oven temperature is too hot or too cool when the bread goes in, you'll end up with a dense loaf. To avoid errors, preheat your oven to the temperature given in your recipe. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is accurate. If needed, adjust the temperature until it's correct.
How Long to Bake Bread
The amount of baking time for a loaf of bread or a pan of rolls can vary quite a bit depending on the type of bread you're baking, the pan you're using, and how big the loaves are. Be sure to read your recipe carefully and follow the baking instructions exactly; if you're concerned about over-baking, check on your bread 10 to 15 minutes before the minimum baking time to make sure your bread isn't getting overdone.