7 Tips For Making Bread

Nov 7, 2018 | Cooking Tips

I have always loved bread. It was always one of my favourite things to make and to eat. A fresh baguette or oatmeal brown bread slathered with butter while still warm from the oven is what dreams are made of. Unfortunately, as most of you know, I can’t eat real bread anymore. I’m stuck eating the gluten-free equivalent which doesn’t always stack up that well. However, just because I can’t eat bread doesn’t mean that I can’t share what I know about making bread.

So today, as the temperature continues to drop, and heavy rains threaten to become heavy snow, I thought I would do a post about the most comforting of comfort food. Today we are talking all about bread. Here are…

7 Tips That Will Change How You Make Bread Forever

 

Lean Dough vs. Enriched Dough –

There are two main types of bread dough. There is lean dough and there is enriched dough. The enriched dough is bread dough that has a high fat and sugar content. These sometimes have eggs and or milk in them as well. These enriched breads are generally softer, and more akin to white sandwich bread than traditional bread.

The lean dough is bread dough that obviously has little to no fat, or sugar added. These are the more classic breads like sourdoughs, Italian bread, and baguettes.

Sponge vs. Straight Method –

There are two main ways to make bread, you either activate yeast in a bit of water and mix that into flour. This is known as the straight method. Or you activate yeast using a bit of flour, water, and maybe a bit of sugar. This is called the sponge method. Both techniques have their merits and either one can make great bread. The real difference is that with the sponge method you can use less sugar or no sugar at all as the yeast will feed on the natural sugars in the flour. Generally, for this technique, you need to use a good quality unbleached flour. There are two real benefits to this technique. Number one, this is how you get lean loaves of bread like classic French baguettes. It also leads into the next tip.

Starter –

Using a starter to make bread is probably the oldest way to make leavened bread. Originally, flour and water would be mixed together and left to sit to collect natural yeasts from the air. This dough would then be used to make bread, but a small portion of the dough would be saved to be added to the next batch. Every time bread was made a little piece of the dough would be saved (a starter) and added to the next batch. This starter would contain enough yeast and leavening power to raise the next batch of dough. It would also add flavour as it would continue to age and sour over time. This is how our ancestors made bread for thousands of years.

We use a similar technique today for making sourdough bread. The only real difference is that instead of collecting yeasts from the air we generally use commercially produced yeast for our starter. The starter is really just the sponge from the sponge method above. So, to make sourdough you start with a sponge and let it sit. Every day you take a bit away from it and you feed a bit more flour and water. When you want to make bread you simply take half your starter and use it as the sponge for your bread. You may need to add a bit more yeast to make your bread rise in desired time. Then, you just feed your starter and it good to use again.

Resting between mixing and kneading –

This is a really simple thing that you can do that I find really improves the texture of bread. After all of the ingredients are mixed, let the dough rest for five to ten minutes prior to kneading it. I don’t really know the science behind this, but I do find that it gives a much better texture to the bread.

Steam –

If you have ever wondered how bakers get that will thick crips crust on baguettes or French rolls the secret is steam. When the bread goes in the oven, the oven is injected with steam. This delays the formation of the crust allowing the high heat of the oven to penetrate more deeply into the surface. Once the steam has evaporated the crust begins to form giving a nice thick crust layer that is crispy and delicious. You can simulate this by heating a cast iron pan in your oven. When you put your bread in the oven throw a handful of ice cubes into the cast iron pan and shut the door until the bread is cooked.

Heat –

The temperature at which you cook bread has a major impact on flavour and texture. The general rule of thumb is that lean dough gets cooked on high heat between 375°F – 450°F. Enriched doughs are cooked on lower temperatures around 350°F to 400°F.

Cooking Vessel –

When I was really focusing on learning to make bread there were to major aha moments for me when it came to actually cook the bread. The first came when I started using a pizza stone. A pizza stone is a big piece of ceramic that you put in your oven and that can withstand pretty high heat. These work really well for making free-standing loaves like baguettes.

The second aha moment came when I saw someone using a dutch oven to cook bread. They heated the dutch oven in their oven. Once it was hot they carefully lowered a round freestanding loaf into it, put the lid on and put it back in the oven. Having the lid on the dutch oven trapped all the escaping steam and caused the delayed crust formation I talked about above. If you want a really good bakery quality bread a dutch oven and a pizza stone are the ways to achieve it.

 

 

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