Baking bread can be so intimidating.
I've found that the kneading and loaf shaping make most people really uncomfortable with baking bread. I mean how long do you knead it and how do you get a loaf that looks like the ones you see on TV?
I'm actually laughing as I type this because I can remember going to an Amish market peering over the bread and longing to be able to make a loaf that rivaled theirs.
My first loaf looked more like a baked version of an alien blob. The second time my dough was spilled all over the outside of the pans.
But with a little trial and error, I figured out a couple of things that would make my bread loaves look more like those purty little loaves you see in the windows of those Amish bakeries.
If I were to be honest, I have to say that the loaves aren't as difficult to get right as I initially thought. It's the trial and error part that's annoying. And if you're like me and have that irritating, nagging persistence to get things right, you'll find a real joy in the few tips here.
Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission. The companies we link to are those we like because of the quality of their products. But it's always your decision whether or not to buy something. These are solely our recommendations.
Bread Baking Tip #1
Kneading usually only takes about 5 to 6 minutes in a mixer that has a kneading hook or element. It will take longer (up to about 10 minutes) if you're doing it by hand. Set a timer. Going over these times can make your bread tough and, let's say, unbreadlike. You don't want that, so it's easy to just set the timer on your microwave, stove or your phone.
Bread Baking Tip #2
Shape your loaves by forming a rectangle, then start at one side and roll it towards the other side tightly. Pinch the ends.
Bread Baking Tip #3
That brings me to the next tip. Shape your loaves so that they're only about 1/3 of the size of the bread pan you're using. The loaves need to have rising room as well as room to expand even more in the pan.
Bread Baking Tip #4
Do not let your bread loaves rise to more than double the size of your lump of dough. If they over rise, they're bound to make a floppy, spill over the pan loaf. You don't want that.
Bread Baking Tip # 5
Use good bread baking equipment. Skimping on your pans, yeast and other elements can cause an inferior bread loaf. Trust me, I know.
King Arthur Flour 100% Organic Unbleached Bread Flour is one of the best pre ground flours to use for baking bread. This will give you a white loaf that's to be rivaled. Used in any bread recipe, it will make your dough elasticy and will aid in beautifully baked loaves. I choose unbleached because I hate the chemically bleached flours. Unbleached is bleached by the sun.
Red Star Yeast is my second pick for active dry yeast that makes great bread. The results are good, but I always advise testing the yeast with a cup of the warm water in your recipe, and a teaspoon of sugar before adding it to the batch.
Saf Instant Yeast is my all time go to for bread baking. I never proof it, but it always works. I've been using this yeast for a decade and have never had any issues with a failed rise.
This big guy is my favorite mixer, hands down. I use this for everything! It has 800 watts for great standing power, and the Bosch brand has not disappointed. Bosch Universal Plus Stand Mixer will last you for years to come and can handle large batches at once.
This dough scraper makes it easy to divide dough into parts for loaf shaping. It's also a nice little tool for scraping the dough off you're counter top or silicone mat. They're a really inexpensive tool to have on hand.
The OXO silicone mat has been an amazing tool for my bread baking and pie crust making (another blog post). The best thing about this mat is that it doesn't slide across my counters and they're easy to clean up.
I'm a huge fan of Norpro Loaf Baking Pans. They last a long time if you take care of them, and they make the best loaves. That's the pan I used to make these very loaves. This one is the small pan, but there are also longer loaf pans as well.
If all else fails, view our shop for a fake loaf to set on your counter. You can't eat them, but they look pretty on a counter. 😉