Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Begin by knowing what Great Bread Really Is
I am the daughter of a woman who believes in great bread. It is in my roots and has been a skill she taught me from the time I was small. Her first degree is in Home Economics Education and she was, and is always, great at teaching the science behind bread and its composition. It came in quite handy during my Pastry classes in culinary school. It also has come in handy as I worked in the pastry shop at the Phoenician resort, running a bakery, and running my own home kitchen. Understanding the basics of wheat flour can change the way you not only make bread, but also cakes, cookies, and pastries-as well as thickening puddings and sauces. I will be focusing on wheat flour specifically. I personally have a lot of experience, but do not, by any far stretch of the Imagination, consider myself an expert on the subject. I do however; hope that my experience will help others in developing their own skills in this wonderful area that is quickly becoming a lost art. I will be covering five general areas in this workshop. They are, the qualities of good bread, Equipment Necessary,Ingredients, Temperatures, and Dough Handling Skills. I will be covering basic sandwich loaves in this class, so fancy loaves will be later.
Learn to Know Good Bread
Shape- symmetrical in shape with good volume. It is smooth on top with no bulges or lumps. It has a well rounded dome showing good "oven -spring". It has an even "shredded break around the sides of the loaf, just above the top edge of the pan.
The quick raising that takes place during the first ten minutes after the bread goes into the
hot oven. Oven spring happens before the heat sets the cell walls and before the bread starts to brown.
The color is rich golden brown on all sides, the top may be slightly darker brown than the sides or bottom of loaf.
Slice Size- slices cut from the center of a well shaped loaf are very little larger than those cut near the ends. A well shaped loaf gives a slice of bread which measures about the same both directions.
Crust - On high quality bread, it is thin, crisp and tender.
Color of wheat bread is uniformly cream tan. Texture shows moderately small, rather uniform cells with thin cell walls. Good bread is free from steaks or extremely close grain. The freshly cut surface has a velvety feel , both to your fingers and to your tongue. As you press the crumb it is soft, elastic, and springy. There are no hard spots or knots in the crumb of high quality bread.
is rather bland. It has the sweet nut-like flavor of the wheat. Good bread has good eating quality, even when it isn't still warm! Both the flavor and texture combine to make good eating quality. It is not yeasty, salty, or sour (except in the case of sourdough!).
Good bread stays fresh a reasonable length of time and does not dry out or get stale
quickly. Do not store in the refrigerator as this will actually hasten the staling process.
Equipment- Good equipment will help you with the whole process of bread making more efficient!
*Spatula or straight edge knife for leveling
*Pans or bowl to mix and store all ingredients
* Digital or meat thermometer
*Large bowl for mixing
*Mixer-if you use one, I prefer Kitchen Aid but honestly I mix by hand in a *FOOD GRADE* plastic bucket and it works wonderfully!
*Straight sided crock (to hold fermenting dough) -An "earthen ware" bowl or crock keeps the
temperature more consistent than a metal container. It also is easier to judge the volume increase of the dough ina straight sided container than it is in a round bowl. This can also be said of the bucket method.
*Wooden spoon or rubber scraper
*Plastic wraps, to cover dough during rising to prevent drying
"sharp knives- for cutting dough at molding time
*Standard size loaf pan- 8 inches long, 4 inches wide, 3 inches deep.
Why a standard size loaf pan?
This size pan (8”x4”) will permit a well shaped loaf. It gives a slice of bread which has the same dimensions both directions, just right for the toaster. The baking time given with these recipes is bases on a standard size loaf pan. If the standard amount of dough goes in a larger pan it makes a poorly shaped loaf, which is fat and squatty with no oven spring. If you use a larger pan and put more dough in it, you will still have a poorly shaped loaf. The larger pan is to wide to permit an evenly rounded dome on the top of the loaf. The spread is too great, and the dough collapses in the middle.
Collect the Right Ingredients
Wheat flour- the main ingredient of all my bread in this workshop. I prefer Wheat Montana Prairie Gold Whole Wheat bread flour. It's my standard of excellence in all honesty. That or King Arthur White Wheat. If you have a wonderful grain mill (Preparing Wisely carries the best!) you can make perfect flour from hard white or red wheat for homemade bread. The hard wheat makes the best bread. Period.
Liquid- flour dries out quickly in our dry climate. We need more liquid in proportion to flour to keep the dough soft enough to make good bread.
Milk- bread made with milk has more food value
Shortening- basically any fat, this contributes to a tender loaf
Salt- not just for flavor, it actually regulates fermentation of the yeast, as well as enhances the gluten
Yeast- fresh, dry or sourdough starter-this is what makes this baby rise!
Sugar- natural sugar feeds the yeast and adds to its action.
*use cool water to soften the yeast.
*Active dry yeast will d ie if exposed to temp. Over 110 degrees!
*cool the liquid to before a d d ing the softened yeast to the dough (scalded milk 85 to 9 0 degrees !)
*85 to 90 degree rule- keep fermenting dough at 85 to 9 0 degrees for uniform rising and best yeast action- it won 't taste sour or yeasty. Fermentation is necessary for the gluten to become smooth and more elastic , so it can stretch further and hold more gas.
*Bake bread at 400 degrees- This high temp at the beginning will stop the yeast action and set the cell walls.
*Be sure to preheat! Those first fifteen minutes are critical!
* Lower the temperature to 350 degrees after the first 15 minutes-this will prevent the out side from getting too brown before the middle is cooked.
*Store bread-cool storage, tightly wrapped. Wait until loaf is cool before wrapping or it will get soggy crust.
Proper Dough Handling Techniques--
Practice Easy Kneading*
*Avoid too much dough
*Keep dough soft
*Learn to knead effectively using the push from your shoulders. Use palms and heels of thumb instead of fingers. We will discuss kneading in a bucket as opposed to using a table.
*When kneading is done , form into a ball and put in to a lightly oiled crock. Cover with plastic wrap.
Keep dough at 85-9 0 degrees until ready to punch down.
*Punching is not hitting the dough; so much as it is deflating the dough of gas , relaxing the gluten, and equalizing the temperature.
Discover the ripe test -
*do not let dough get too light before first punch down. When cell walls have stretched too far, they will break and effect the texture of the bread.
*The dough is "ripe" and ready to be punched down when:
1. Hole made with finger stays in the dough without closing in.
2. Small creases show on walls of the hole.
3. Bubbles or blisters appear near edge of hole.
This is known a s fermentation, or the process by which yeast acts on the sugars starches in the dough to produce carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. An under fermented dough will not develop proper volume and texture will be course. A dough that ferments too long or at too high a temperature will become sticky, hard to work, and slightly sour. Again, gluten becomes smoother and more elastic during fermentation, so it can stretch further and hold more gas !! Don't skimp on this process .
There is not any magic chemical, yeast or mixer that will replace the fermentation process and it's ability to change the gluten. EVER. Don't be fooled into buying something you don't need. I'm a professional and have never used them for my bread. If you're willing to wait for good bread, it will come to you without the fake "helpers". Whole grain bread can be made on a budget without a fancy mixer! It's the technique, not the machine that make a great baker!
Develop Skills in Molding
*Do not put fat on hands or work surfaces before molding loaves, Fat on hands will leave streaks of fat in the dough and the dough will not seal properly. This will leave cracks in your finished loaves.
*Use very little, if any, flour on work surface, More flour causes heavy streaks of unfermented flour in your finished bread/
*Roll out the dough, fold in thirds, and then roll into loaf This "stacks the structure" of the gluten and makes for a very pretty loaf.
Plan to Bake it Right
*Put dough which has been cared for properly in the oven only when it has risen sufficiently.
*Have the oven hot enough when you put the dough into it! Heat to 400 degrees for plain bread (350 for high sugar/fat breads). Drop the temperature to 350 degrees after the first 15 minutes. This high temperature at the beginning will stop the yeast action and set the cell walls so the bread will not get to light.
Is it Done? A good trick to test the doneness of bread is when it reaches an internal temperature of 170-180 degrees with a meat thermometer.
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