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It’s easier than you think to make good, healthy breads at home. Here are some tips to give you confidence.

Choose the right bread pan.

The bread pan you use will depend on the type of bread you are baking. For standard loaves, you’ll want to use a loaf pan. A loaf pan helps to shape the bread and encourage even browning, a crispy crust and a tender interior. Common loaf-pan sizes are 9 x 5 x 3 inches and 8 x 4 x 2 inches. Lightly grease the whole pan, even if it’s a nonstick pan. Nonstick pans make it easier to remove the baked bread and require less fat for greasing.

Heavy-duty, well-made pans will last longer and perform better. Glass pans can get too hot and overcook the bottom of your loaf. If using a glass pan, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

Set the oven temperature correctly.

If the oven is too hot or too cool when the bread goes in, you’ll end up with a dense loaf. To avoid errors, preheat the oven to the temperature given in the recipe. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is accurate. If needed, adjust the temperature until it’s correct.

Check your loaf 10-15 minutes before the recommended baking time is up. If it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. Remove the foil once you have placed the baked loaf on a cooling rack.

The center is the last part of a quick bread to cook. Insert a wooden toothpick near the center; if it comes out clean, your loaf is done. The very center will firm up while the bread is cooling on a cooling rack.

Let the loaf rest for 10 minutes on a cooling rack in order for the bread to firm up before removing it from the pan. Run a spatula or butter knife between the pan sides and the loaf to loosen the bread. Invert the pan over a cooling rack to remove the baked bread. Allow quick breads to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or bag.

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When baking  yeast breads, the key to successful bread rising is the “oven spring,” which is the final burst of expansion or fermentation of the yeast. Once this occurs, the loaf sets up and starts to brown, creating the crust.

Tap yeast breads lightly with your fingers. It will sound hollow when it is done. If the loaf is browning too fast but doesn’t sound hollow, create a tent out of foil, loosely cover the loaf and continue baking. Yeast breads containing butter and/or sugar often need this step to prevent over browning or burning.

You can also bake yeast bread on a baking sheet, pizza pan or directly on a baking stone. If using a baking stone, place the stone on the middle rack and preheat it for 30 minutes. Use parchment paper to transfer the dough to the stone (or leave it on the parchment). Once the bread is in the oven use a spray bottle of water to mist the inside of the oven and the loaves. This also helps to give the bread a nice, crisp crust.

Here are some easy bread recipes to get you started.

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Healthy Quick Fruit Bread

Delicious for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (2 small)
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Grease and flour the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, sugar, banana, apple butter and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

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Easy Oatmeal Bread

Slice thin for sandwiches.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm fat-free milk (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 1/4 cup honey or packed brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups bread flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats, plus extra for the topping
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

In  the  large bowl of an electric mixer combine the milk, honey or brown sugar, yeast and salt, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Add bread flour, egg and oil to the yeast mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low-speed until combined. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes, scraping the side of bowl occasionally.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the whole wheat flour and the 1/2 cup oats until combined.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes).

Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Stir down the dough and spoon into the prepared loaf pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 30 minutes). Lightly brush the top of the loaf with water and sprinkle with additional rolled oats.

Bake about 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

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Easy English Muffin Loaves

Of course, this bread is delicious toasted.

Yields: 2 loaves

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cornmeal

Directions

Grease two 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pans. Lightly sprinkle pans with cornmeal to coat the bottom and sides; set pans aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine 3 cups of the flour, the yeast and baking soda; set aside.

In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, water, sugar and salt just until warm (120 degree F to 130 degree F).

Using a wooden spoon, stir milk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir in remaining 3 cups of flour.

Divide dough in half. Place dough in prepared pans and sprinkle the tops with cornmeal.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 45 minutes).

Bake in a 400 degree F oven about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Immediately remove the bread from the pans. Cool on wire racks.

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No Knead Caraway-Rye Bread

This bread is the perfect side for soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 3/4 cup warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup rye flour

Directions

Grease a 1-quart casserole or a deep dish 8-inch round baking pan; set aside.

In a large bowl stir together 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the sugar, yeast, the 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, the salt and the dill. Add the 3/4 cups of warm water, the egg and melted butter.

Beat with an electric mixer on low-speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rye flour and the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (batter will be stiff).

Spoon batter into the prepared dish, spreading to edge. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (50 to 60 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly brush the top of the loaf with water and sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bake about 25 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove the bread from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

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Vegetable Corn Bread

Wonderful served with a bowl of hot chili.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 cup coarsely shredded carrots (2 to 3 small)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, wheat flour, chives, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk and honey.

Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture; stir just until moistened.

Fold in carrots and bell pepper. Pour batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

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