Here are some of my top tips to ensure your bakes are perfect every time.
For a better crust, set your oven to around 220°C/425°F/Gas7 and leave a roasting tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up. When the oven reaches the right temperature and just as you put the bread in to bake, fill the tray with cold water. This creates a steam bath in the oven which helps the bread to have a lighter crust and prevents tearing.
Is your dough kneaded enough?
To check if your dough is kneaded enough, pull out a piece of dough between your hands. It should be able to stretch to 20cm without breaking.
To give your crusts a lovely crunch, add a light coating of fine semolina to your dough.
Use oil rather than flour on the table when kneading, as this will not alter the dough’s consistency and will prevent too much sticky-hand syndrome.
Warm the milk
When adding milk to dough, make sure that you warm it a little first. This is because the fat in the milk can slow down the action of the yeast slightly, and warming it balances this out.
Try a tin loaf first
When making bread for the first time, always use a tin so you can work on getting your dough right. In the tin, the only way for the dough to go is up. Once you have got your dough right, then move on to free form loaves.
Keep salt and yeast apart
When mixing your ingredients during bread-making, always add the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl as the salt can kill the yeast.
When blind baking, instead of buying ceramic beans you can simply use rice or lentils.
Don’t worry about using an airing cupboard
You don’t need to put rising dough in the airing cupboard or anywhere particularly warm in an attempt to speed things up. A slower rise gives more flavour to the bread.