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How Hard Is Baking Bread?

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Just ordered Jeffrey Alford's FLATBREADS & FLAVORS, with the intention of learning to bake at home. How difficult is it? On a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being the most difficult. Am I over my head here?

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  1. This isn't really something to which one can assign a rating. Bread baking seems intimidating at first, but after some practice it will seem ridiculously easy. The most important thing is to follow the instructions carefully the first few times. As you gain more experience you'll develop a sense of where you can experiment and make your own modifications to vary the results.

    I'm not familiar with the book you mentioned, but I recommend for your first try that you find a book with a good "beginner" bread recipe. I used the one in the original Moosewood cookbook, back when I was a teenager. "Beard on Bread" is another good place to start, or with one of the Bernard Clayton books. Your local library would be a good place to look at some different ones. There's also usually a good basic recipe on the bag of King Arthur all-purpose flour.

    There's been lots and lots of discussion of bread baking on Chowhound. Try some searching or do ctrl-f on each page of the board and enter some keywords. When you have specific questions there's lots of expertise here to help you out.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Buttercup

      It's a good book -- part coffee table picture book, part decent recipes -- but wouldn't be my first choice for someone who's never baked bread before. And for that matter, the bread recipes are indeed limited to flatbreads as the title suggests.

      1. re: MikeG

        Thanks everyone for your kind help. Yes, I assumed his book was a coffee table book since his others are as well. But this is a different book from the one he did with his wife that IS a coffee table book. I had wanted to do flatbreads as opposed to loaf bread. Foolishly or not foolishly, I assumed flatbreads would be easier to learn on. Only time will tell, I guess. Many thanks for all the advice and names of books. Thank heaven for amazon.com.

        1. re: Betty Botox

          Many flat breads are very similar to bread with no levening agent or unrisen levened bread, so flatbreads should be no more difficult than any other simple bread on average.

          1. re: Betty Botox

            Hmmm. I'm not sure I would say they're "easier," more like different. But they're not all unleavened so it will give you some exposure to yeast doughs and as in their other books, the pictures are great if all else fails. LOL

            IMHO, the only really "difficult" part of baking most regular sorts of bread is getting some experience with how they react in the oven, when they're done, etc. The dough part is pretty easy as long as you don't try to take shortcuts at first and you're willing to put some elbow grease into kneading or have a machine to do that for you. ;)

            1. re: Betty Botox

              I bake challa every week. I started because I was getting carpla-tunneley. I have been doing it regularly for the past two years or so. I think of it as hand therapy...with a side benefit of having great challa on friday nights...my kids now hate store bought challa...my challa has improved a whole lot since I starte..it is deeply satisfying...trust your hands...be surde to knead until you feel the texture of the dough change...there seems to be a chemical change that goes on in the flour molecules...similar to what happens when a cornstarch based white sauce becomes smooth and silky..

              have a blast...

              1. re: sarah

                Dear Sara & Family:

                Shabot Shalom. Did I say that right? God bless you for being such a good person. I'm not Jewish but I really respect people who find enormous comfort in their religion and ethnic culture. Thank you for sharing this with me. Hugs from Betty

                1. re: Betty Botox

                  yup!! message received... but you could do the same with any sort of a bread...my parents made challa and also a killer whole wheat bread that we used to eat all week...

                  I still have not made whole wheat bread...but living here in newyork...we have access to really great bread...I think that if I lived where bread tastes like cotton i would bake more bread..just do it..like everyone else here says...it's forgiving stuff..

                2. re: sarah

                  I live in a neighborhood heavily populated by people of Italian heritage. One day I was looking for some bread in that section of the supermarket and noticed that the shelves loaded with challah. I asked the person in charge of the bread section why there was so much challah on the shelves since the neighborhood had only a small number of people of Hebraic persuasion residing there. I laughed at the response, "Lots of people like challah for making French toast."

            2. re: Buttercup

              Another very good book on bread baking is Rose Levy Breanbaum's Bread Bible. It has very thorough and covers the subject in depth. Just get in there and do it. It just takes practice.

            3. Flatbreads and Flavors is a good book, but there are fewer than a hundred bread recipes. There are many more recipes included for food to eat with the flatbreads, which I think work more sucessfully than the bread recipes. The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum is great for beginners. She talks you through each step. KG

              1. Often the answer to that question is, "how interested are you in doing it?" Like much cooking, it isn't difficult, but you may have to take a couple of runs at it before you start to get the hang of it.

                HTH

                1. The only way to know is to jump in and try it. I've been making bread at home on and off for 20 years. Still not as adept as my grandmother was but I do enjoy it and have gotten pretty good at it. I like Amy Scherber bread book of Amy's bread in Manhattan. Flatbreads, though, are a good way to start. Need any help, we're all an email away. good luck.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Doreen

                    What a great reply. Thank you. I live in New York and work very close to Amy's Bread on 9th Avenue. But getting to her 16th Street store on the concourse wouldn't be difficult either. Do you think she would let me come in one day a week and learn how to bake bread and work for free? I would be willing to clean up and do odd jobs there people would rather not do. What do you think? Should I even ASK her something like this?

                  2. It is not hard at all, especially if you have a dough hook on your mixer (I still like to knead by hand, though, just for fun). It's often just a matter of doing it once with someone who knows how. My mom once helped out a friend who'd been trying to bake bread for 20 years and always failing. They baked bread together, and the friend was amazed at the step where you let the yeast proof (get foamy) in the warm water. She'd never known you were supposed to do that. That was it. She never had trouble again.

                    Some of the "beginner" books seem to make it needlessly complicated, with sponges and pastry scrapers and all kinds of picky stuff. It's actually quite forgiving, as long as you don't kill the yeast. I once had a friend who kept punching down bread dough for 3 days because she couldn't find time to bake it (college-- you know how it is), and once she did bake it, it was a little denser than it probably would have been, but still very good.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Jess

                      I have to agree on the baking (or even cooking) stigma that lingers to this day. Food (in this case bread) can be very forgiving. Pioneers made bread without dough hooks, the Romans made bread without silicon pastry brushes and I'm sure the bread was quite delicious. All you need are the ingredients, a bit of practice, basic knowledge of what to do and a bit of courage.

                      1. re: Curtis

                        Oh, and steer clear of bread involving Oat Flour... the times I've tried it was positively gross (Unless I'm just missing something) :)