Essential Bread-Baking Tips from Samuel Fromartz

How to make amazing bread, how to work with sticky dough and other insider tricks from the celebrated food writer and devoted home baker.

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©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

©2015 Food Network

Lessons from an Expert

Most breads share the same simple elements — flour, water, yeast — so what distinguishes a good loaf from a great one is often technique. Here, the award-winning author of In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker's Odyssey shares some of his favorite tips.

Weigh Your Ingredients

For the most accuracy in baking, skip the volume measurements and use a scale. "If I measure a cup of flour and you do the same thing, the amounts we get will be different," says Sam. Some people scoop with the cup, compacting the flour, others spoon and level it. "By weighing your ingredients you will be more consistent and you can control the variables."

Knead with One Hand

Keep one hand on the rim of the bowl, where it can stay clean. Use the other to knead the dough. "Fold over with your fingers. Don't get the palm in," instructs Sam. "Press down with your fingertips so the dough gets combined." With the clean hand you can turn the bowl, add ingredients and cover the dough with a towel. 

Wet Your Hand

"The main problem when making a wet dough is that it sticks to your hand," says Sam. "If you dip your other (clean) hand in water and use it to scrape off the dough, you can keep things from getting to be a total mess." (Wetting your hands also works when shaping meatballs and meatloaf.)

Dust Lightly

"The key mistake people make is using too much flour on their work surface," says Sam. "That's why I flick the flour from the side rather than sprinkle from above." The flour won't stick to the surface — or to the bread in clumps. If you do end up with a lot of flour on the outside of your loaf, "use a pastry brush to brush the flour off the cooked loaf."

A Dough Scraper Is Good for More Than Scraping

"A scraper comes in handy when you want to loosen dough from the bowl. Or cut up a loaf into rolls. It's good for cleaning up the counter. I also use it to mix dough, and then to get all the dough out of the bowl so nothing goes to waste," Sam enthuses. "If you want to clean stuck-on dough from a bowl, wet the bowl and scrape it in the sink with a scraper. Then scrape the dough off your fingers. It's a great tool."

Transfer Your Loaves on Parchment

Setting the loaves on parchment for their final rise lets you move them without undue stickiness. "Just make sure you cut a piece that is the same size as your baking stone," says Sam. When he's ready to put his stirato in the oven, he places an upside-down baking sheet against the counter and pulls the parchment paper and loaves onto it. At the oven, he uses the same technique to slide the loaves onto his heated baking stone. "I always reuse my parchment until it falls apart. It will color a little, but that's fine."

Let the Bread Rest

As tempting as it may be to tear into a hot loaf fresh out of the oven, "it needs to rest and have time for the crumb to set," says Sam. This can range from 20 minutes for long loaves to 1 hour for large round ones. You can use a cooling rack, he says, "but I like to just put the bread on the stovetop."

Recipes from Samuel Fromartz

Now that you're armed with these tips, it's time to try your hand at homemade bread. Start with Sam's step-by-step how-to for Stirato — it's like a baguette, but easier. Then try his Pain de Campagne and Emmer Flatbread.

See More Photos: How to Make Stirato: Like a Baguette, but Easier