I know that making bread can be intimidating, so here is a list of common concerns and problems and some solutions to ensure your homemade bread success:
My dough wont rise. There are many factors that could prevent your dough from rising properly. Check the following:
1)Temperature of your water/milk/liquids. Water temperature is key. The temp needs to be on the hot side of warm. Run your fingertips under the warm water. When it gets very warm and on the verge of hot (but not quite there) you have the right temperature. Water that is too hot or too cold will hinder the rising process.
2)Yeast...Are you using enough yeast? A packet of yeast contains 2 1/4 tsp yeast. You should have at least this much for a single batch of dough (recipe that calls for 3-4 cups flour). Multiply your quantities accordingly. Also, make sure your yeast is not expired. If you rarely make bread, buy the individual packets rather than a jar. Also, keeping yeast in the fridge is best way to preserve its rising properties.
4)Temperature of your kitchen. Dough rises best at a temperature above 75 degrees. I know most of us (especially in the winter) do not have a kitchen that is this temperature. If you live in a colder climate, consider using my quick rise method* below! Its magic!!
How sticky should my dough be? Your dough should definitely be on the sticky side, but it should peal off your fingers. If its too sticky, add more flour (1 TBS at a time). If your flour isnt sticky enough, add cold water (1 TBS at a time) until you reach the desired stickiness. Dry dough will not rise appropriately.
Machine-knead method This is much easier than hand-kneading. You will need your Kitchen Aid or similar mixer that has a dough hook attachment. Put your dough into the mixer and attach the dough hook. Turn on lowest speed for 8 minutes. You will have a perfectly kneaded ball of dough when its done.
*Quick-rise method: (Make sure you are using an oven safe dish). Preheat your oven to the lowest temp setting that it has (usually around 150-170). Once preheated, turn your oven OFF. Set your dough inside and let it rise for 15-20 minutes until double in size. Then remove bread from oven and preheat to your baking temperature. This is especially helpful to those who live in cold climates. Your bread will rise like a champ.
Make dough in bulk and freeze it. I am a huge fan of mass-producing my food. Making dough is hard work that requires a lot of attention to detail. I have a small family, so
my belly certainly doesnt I certainly dont need 2 dozen rolls at a time. I like to double the recipe, let it rise till double, then split it into quarters and freeze in quart-sized freezer bags (frozen dough keeps for 3-4 weeks). It rises once while its freezing. Then you take it out the night before you want to use it and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then set it out on the counter about 3 hours before you want to serve the rolls. Let it warm up for about an hour, then shape into rolls and let them rise for about an hour (or do the quick-rise process). Then bake.
Hopefully these tips help. If you have questions, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you!