The hot, fresh loaves that you admire at the supermarket or bakery seem so simple to make until you try making your own bread at home. The idea of homemade bread is a worthy one, but baking is an exact science and if you don't get the recipe and process exactly right, your loaf could come out overcooked, pale or even crumbly. Bread machines don't always get it right either; some bread machines do not punch the bread down early enough or mix the ingredients well. The key to perfect homemade bread is knowing a few tricks to remedy whatever is going wrong.
Determine if you are using the right kind of flour. All-purpose or self-rising flours are not appropriate for bread making. Switch to bread flour instead.
Reduce the amount of flour that you use in your recipe by 1/4 cup. Too much flour can cause the finished loaf to be too dry.
Add warm water by the teaspoon while the bread is mixing if the dough still seems too dry. The dough should be elastic and moist but not wet.
Punch the dough down once it is double in size. Ideally, the dough should only rise to 200 percent its original size before you punch it down. Homemade loaves of bread can become crumbly and dry if you allow them to grow to more than double in size before firmly punching them down.
Use a bread knife to cut your loaf. Bread knives are serrated and specially designed to cut loaves of bread without crumbling.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.