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Apr 2, 2009 07:23 PM

Beginners Bread

One of my goals this year was to attempt different types of breads in the hopes that I will get better at it. I’m finding that making bread is relaxing and satisfying. The house smells good and I feel like I really did something worthwhile.

Anyway, I actually just started to use King Arthur’s bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and I really like the way things are turning out. Since I’m just getting started I lack many of the neat things I read about (stand mixer, baking stone, clay pot, scale, etc.) that seem like they would really turn out nice bread. Right now I do it all by hand.

Attached are a couple of pictures of my latest endeavors. One was French bread type of loaf and the other was a sweet darker type of bread with whole wheat. Both turned out tasting good but had odd shapes. The whole-wheat loaf was a little denser than I had hoped and didn’t seem to rise much. I used the same flour and yeast for both and the French loaf really turned out well so I’m not sure what happened?

I would love to hear your bread tips, types of breads you like to make, recipes, essential bread must haves, and really anything that would help me along the way to better bread making.

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  1. Lovely breads... but you are right, the shapes are a bit irregular. You need to learn how to increase the surface tension when shaping the loaf. I won't even begin to describe this, but if you have many hours to spare, do some reading at There are some great videos that I found wonderful as I got into artisanal bread making.

    I love the Bread Makers Apprentice. I am working my way through. Perhaps your library has a copy?

    3 Replies
    1. re: smtucker

      Interesting. Thank you. I don't know what it is your saying about surface tension but I'll explore it. I'm sure its one of the many missing pieces for me. I have bookmarked already. I travel a lot these days so I don't have a lot of extra time, but I love to research stuff like this. I make bread whenever I take a day off like today and almost every weekend. I'll look for the book at my library.

      1. re: Rocky Road

        Sorry, I didn't mean to be obtuse. So, let me try to explain. When you shape loaves of bread, you pull the top of the loaf to increase the surface tension of the loaf. This often leaves a cavity in the bottom which you pinch shut while continuing to pull on the tension. The result is that the oven spring [expansion in the oven] is more even. YOu have found out about the slash... I do this after the stretching, just before baking.

        Have fun. Yeast is our friend!

        1. re: smtucker

          I appreciate the expanded comments but rest assured I did not consider your response obtuse :-)

    2. I recommend that you check out this blog:

      It's by a guy named Peter Reinhart, and he's one of the most knowledgeable people on bread in the world. There is also a web site (which Peter used to contribute to) that has discussion boards ad nauseam on breads and pizza. Start reading him on his blog. BTW, he has numerous bread books out. I personally own his American Pie pizza book and it has really helped my dough. He's a big fan of KA Flour...

      3 Replies
      1. re: hankstramm

        Peter is a bread god.... seriously!

        1. re: hankstramm

          Thanks! The site has been bookmarked and I will check it out.

          1. re: Rocky Road

            His Crust and Crumb is my favorite bread book, very detailed and excellent recipes. The recipe for French bread with old dough is my standard (made it weekly pretty much since the book came out). Another good book for beginners is Beard on Bread - I started with it when I caught the breadbaking bug years ago.

        2. If you've only recently fallen into the vortex of bread making, welcome to the cub.
          You'll want to spend some time here:

          Just remember; it's habituating.
          Your loaves look beautiful. If these are your first you are to be congratulated on the structure. Don't be concerned about how they look. I agree that they are a bit irregular but the most important issue is how do they taste? What's the mouth feel; is the texture pleasant and does the experience of eating the first piece tempt you to return for a second?
          I noticed that you may have slashed one side on one of the loaves a bit deeper than the other side. Of course, that's going to affect the final shape of the loaf. Again, don't be concerned about that. The best advice I can offer is to find a recipe that works and keep working with until you've perfected it. Too often a new baker will yield to the temptation to bake every type of bread in sight and, in the process, gets caught up in the chaotic swirl of too many ingredients/techniques/bread making terminology variables/etc. and it all becomes too confusing.
          See ya on the fresh loaf ...

          2 Replies
          1. re: todao

            Sorry to chime in again, but I reviewed Peter's site and is the site I was thinking about.

            1. re: todao

              Thanks! I found about a year ago. I used it to make plain white bread, which I've made now over a dozen times and feel good about. It's a great site although I find it kind of hard to navigate? I wonder if anyone else does?

              These are my first loaves, not in a loaf pan. Free form all the way. The French bread was awesome, the other not so much. I tried to make a Black Angus, Outback type of sweet darker bread. I think I need more sugar. I used molasses, honey and a little brown sugar but it was not what I was looking for but decent enough.

              I'm just beginning and appreciate your insight!

            2. The boards at are great. Sponsored by King Arthur Flour. I also ditto the Bread Bakers Apprentice rec. When I first started with bread a few years ago I made the same sandwich loaf recipe again and again until I achieved the shape, crumb etc. I desired. I think the lack of a rise on the whole wheat bread might be from not enough kneading. It is much harder to develop the gluten in dough with a lot of whole wheat. I always knead the dough until I think it's done, and then go for another couple minutes just to be sure. I have never over kneaded the dough, just under (this was my biggest problem at first). I still do it all by hand, except I bought a scale (fewer dishes). It's like magic to see/feel the changes in the dough :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: corneygirl

                Yes, the whole wheat did seem different and hard to knead. You are probably right. I didn't do enough. It was my first time using whole wheat too.

              2. The three best tips I can give you --

                1 - Don't use too much flour. Especially when hand-kneading, it's easy to add extra flour. That will make dense loaves and cut the oven-spring. Flours vary by brand, etc, so you needn't always add the amount the recipe says.

                2 - Use a scale to weigh ingredients. That way you won't be guessing about the amount of flour, and you'll have consistent results from one batch to the next.

                3 - Read about stretch-and-folds at The Fresh Loaf. With that technique, you can almost eliminate kneading, and have better results as well.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Channa

                  Thanks. Stretch-and-folds. Never heard of it, but will check out the the and do some reading. A lot of people are saying use a scale. I've been real tempted in the past. I may just get one this weekend.