Hello, and welcome to the first day of “Introduction to Bread Making.” My name is Alice and each day, I’ll give you the history of a different kind of bread, followed by the recipe so you can make it yourself. To begin, let’s go over some basic bread-making concepts.
All-Purpose. All purpose is the most basic flour available. It does not include a rising agent. This is the best all-around flour to keep in your kitchen.
Self-Rising. Self-rising flour includes a raising agent like baking powder in the flour. It can be used without yeast to achieve a light risen product.
Bread/High-Gluten. Bread or high-gluten flour contains more gluten than all-purpose flour, which results in a chewier final product.
White. White flour is very shelf stable but not quite as nutritious as wheat flour.
Wheat. Wheat flour is more nutritious than white but also more absorbent. Wheat flour results in a denser, crumblier final product.
The other important aspect of breadmaking is the yeast. Yeast feeds on the sugars in your bread dough, and the carbon dioxide and alcohols it releases are crucial for light fluffy bread. Yeast needs two things to do its best work: heat and sugar. When you work with yeast, make sure it always goes into warm water (between 95°F and 115°F (35°C-45°C)). You should also add a bit of something sugary to the water to feed the yeast. To keep things simple, all of these recipes are written for Active Dry Yeast, which needs time in warm water to activate. Other kinds of yeast, like Rapid Rise or Instant, need to be treated slightly differently.
Proving. Proving (or rising) is the process of allowing the yeast to do its work before the bread goes into the oven. While rising, the yeast will double and cause the dough to grow in size and the cells to expand. For optimal rising, place your dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a towel, and place it in a warm place for at least an hour. I often place my bread in a microwave with a steaming cup of water to generate warmth, and other bakers find success with heating pads, the top of refrigerators, or ovens with only the pilot light on.
Punching Down. After your dough has been allowed to rise, you’ll want to punch it down before kneading it. Place your fist in the dough and press down until it deflates.
Kneading. Kneading helps the dough become smooth and soft and gets rid of any large bubbles that will turn into holes while in the oven. To knead your dough, remove it from its bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands to keep the dough from sticking to you. Fold one edge of the dough over itself, and then press it away from you. Turn the dough a quarter of the way away from you, and repeat the process for about five minutes.
Recipe: Basic Wheat Bread (Makes 1 Loaf)
1 cup (240ml) water
1 cup (240ml) milk
2¼ teaspoons (12g) yeast
2 tablespoons (30g) sugar
2½ (300g) cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (55g) melted butter
½ tablespoon (7g) salt
Start by heating the water and milk until warm in a large bowl. Add the sugar and yeast, and allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes until foamy. Add in the flour, butter, and salt, and knead or stir until the dough is smooth and just a little sticky. Cover the dough, and allow it to rise undisturbed in a warm place for an hour.
Once risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, punch down the dough, and then tuck it into a greased and floured 9×5-inch loaf pan. Allow it to rise for an additional 30 minutes, until the dough fills the pan to the edge.
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) while the dough rises. Bake the risen loaf for 40-50 minutes until brown. Once finished, remove the loaf to finish cooling completely.
That’s the end of today’s lesson. I hope you enjoy your fresh baked loaves of bread and are excited to learn more about how to bake specific types of bread. Tomorrow, we’ll cover pita bread. See you then!
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