Home Baking


What was once an everyday chore, homemade bread baking has become an extremely rewarding hobby for many! The following section discusses the art of bread making.

The secret to good bread making is Yeast! Without healthy and active yeast, forget about successfully making bread. Fortunately, it is easy to work with yeast if you know the secrets. First, yeast is VERY sensitive to temperatures. If the water that you rise your yeast is too hot (above 100 degrees) than you'll kill the yeast. Likewise, if your water is too cold (below 75 degrees) the yeast will remain dormant and won't rise. As a result, keep the water that your yeast is to rise between 80 to 100 degrees. Second, yeast loves sugar and hates salt. As a result, for rising yeast, put a teaspoon of sugar in water that you're using to rise the yeast -- the yeast will thrive in this warm sugary environment. Finally, the type of yeast that you use is important. Grocery stores tend to sell dry, active yeast and cake yeast . Though it may appear more healthy to use the cake yeast, you will never know the true conditions of the cake yeast , and since cake yeast should always be used within a week of purchase, it is always safest to use the dry yeast packets (due to their longer lifespan and no need for refrigeration). There are essentially 7 steps to making good bread regardless of whether you're making a basic white bread loaf, or dinner rolls, or sweet breads . Follow these steps with any bread recipe and you'll be ensured a great result.

Step 1: Preparing (or "Proofing") the Yeast

"Proofing" the yeast means that you want to test the yeast to ensure that it is healthy and alive. To "proof" yeast, use the quantity of water that is listed in your recipe (usually between 1/4 cup to 1 1/2 cups of water) and warm that water to 80 to 100 degrees. Next add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the water (but don't stir the water). Now add the amount of yeast that is listed in the recipe to this warm water/sugar mixture by pouring the yeast gradually into the water. Again, DO NOT STIR the yeast and sugar/water mixture. If yeast particles float on the water, no problem, just shake the cup gradually to allow the majority of the yeast to fall into the water. Place the container in a warm location and allow 10 minutes for the yeast to rise. After 10 minutes, if the yeast is healthy and alive, it should expand in the water into a frothy, foamy texture. Your yeast is now ready to be mixed with the other ingredients. (If the yeast does not rise, it is probably old and dead or the water temperature wasn't right so you might as well throw the entire water/sugar/yeast mixture away and start all over again! or your bread will NEVER rise!)

Step 2: Mixing the Ingredients

After the yeast has proofed, mix the remaining ingredients together along with 1 cup of bread flour (from the recipe). Remember to bring ingredients such as butter and eggs to room temperature to ensure a good bread batter. Also, when baking bread, rolls, or pastry, use bread flour (available at supermarkets) instead of regular bleached flour. Bread flour has more glutinous fiber which gives breads that stretchy texture when kneaded. With all of the ingredients added, continue adding the flour to the batter but keep the last cup of flour and incorporate that flour into the batter by kneading the flour. Remember, that for all bread recipes, the amount of flour is only an estimate so it is up to you to decide how much should go into the bread depending on whether the batter appears soft (for pastries and loaf pans) or stiff (for braided breads and shaped breads such as Italian breads and French baguettes). Adding or omitting 1/4 cup of flour in a recipe is not a problem if you feel that it improves the texture of the batter.

Step 3: Kneading the Dough

Kneading bread is the process of laying the bread dough out on a floured surface and rolling, folding, and stretching the bread dough in order for the gluten in the bread flour to expand by trapping air between the bread fibers. The more you knead the bread, the more the gluten in the bread flour stretches, captures air, and strengthens. Usually, after 8 minutes, you can begin to "feel" the bread dough change consistency. It will feel elastic, will NOT be able to keep it's shape when stretched and will start to feel like it "pushes back" when you push against it with your hands. However, do continue to knead the bread dough until you reach at a minimum 10 minutes.

Step 4: Rising the Dough (Round One!)

After the dough has successfully been kneaded for 10 minutes, it is time to let the dough rise. Again, there is a technique for this that ensures success at this step. First, boil 2-4 cups of water in a pan and place the pan in the bottom rack of your oven. Now, place the bread dough in a greased pan and set that pan UNCOVERED in the oven rack above the rack that is holding the pan of boiling water. The hot water and enclosed oven is a perfect moist, warm environment for the dough to go through it's first rising. Allow the dough to rise this way for 1 1/2 hours (or until the dough expands to twice it's size). Please note: the oven should NOT be turned on, the heat from the boiling water is good enough for rising the bread.

Step 5: Punching Down and Shaping the Dough

At the end of the first rise (1 1/2 hours) the dough should be twice (or more) in size. If so, take the dough out of the oven and punch the dough down using your fist to remove all air. Let the dough "rest" for 10 minutes. This allows the gluten to relax and makes shaping the dough into loafs, pastries, or rolls much more manageable. Once the dough has relaxed, shape the dough into whatever form you wish: logs, loafs, dinner rolls, crescents. Place the shaped dough in either a loaf pan, cookie sheet (depending on shape) and prepare for the second (and final rising).

Step 6: Rising the Dough (Round Two!)

The second rising should not take as long as the first rising. If you want to rise the dough using the same method as the first rising, then simply reheat the water in the saucepan to boiling and place the pan back in the oven with the shaped dough. The second rising will probably only take about 45 minutes.

Step 7: Baking the Bread

When the dough has completed it's second rise, take the saucepan of water and the risen dough out of the oven, and preheat the oven to the temperature on the recipe.

More information...

  • The most common problems with bread making is that sometimes the bread does not rise to proper consistancy due to one of the following:- having too much flour in the dough or the dough is too cold or the yeast was old or killed by too hot of water. If none of those problems appear to be the problem, than the dough probably wasn't kneaded enough for the gluten in the dough to activate. Having healthy yeast and a long knead of the dough are essential in bread making.

  • Bread machines are excellent machines. They provide a warm, draft free environment for mixing and rising dough and are excellent at thoroughly kneading the bread. However, bread machines lack in the baking process. The loaves always look the same ( square), and often the crust formed on the bread is much thicker than baking the bread in a conventional oven. As a result, it is better to take the dough out of the bread machine after the first rising, shape the dough and place in a greased pan for the second rising, than bake in a normal oven.

Recipe:

Basic white bread recipe that can be used for both homemade loaves as well of dinner rolls

Basic White Bread Recipe (for 2 loaves of bread)

1/2 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast (for proofing the yeast)

2/3 cup dry milk powder mixed in 2 cups of warm water

2 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup melted butter or shortening, cooled

7 cups bread flour

Recipe Instructions:

In a measuring cup, pour 1 teaspoon of sugar in 1/2 cup warm water (80 to 100 degrees) but DO NOT stir the water. Slowly sprinkle 1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast into the water, making sure that the majority of the particles touch water. Let this UNSTIRRED mixture sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

Meanwhile, pour the 2 cups of dry milk/water mixture into a bread bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt and stir. Stir in the proofed yeast and 1 cup of flour. Add 1/4 cup of shortening and stir.

Add remaining flour, one cup at a time, until the dough forms a ball and can be worked with your hands on a floured surface (you may want to reserve the last cup to work into the flour during the kneading process). Now, begin kneading the dough on the floured surface, adding flour when necessary to avoid sticking to the tabletop. The knead should NOT TAKE LESS THAN 10 minutes.

After the dough has sufficiently been kneaded and the texture has changed to a more elastic consistency, place the dough in a clean, greased mixing bowl and set it in a warm, draft-free location (in an unheated oven with a boiling pan of water) until the dough rises to twice its original size (about 1 1/2 hours).

Once the dough has doubled in size, take your fist and punch the dough to relax the dough and push all of the air out of the dough. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before shaping the dough. Shape the dough into a loaf (or into dinner rolls) and place in the greased and floured pan that you wish to bake it in.

Now place the shaped dough back in the oven (reheat the boiling water, if necessary) and let it rise a second time (about 45 minutes).

After the second rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and bake the loaf bread for 25-30 minutes. (For dinner rolls that are baked in muffin tins, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the dinner rolls for 15 minutes).

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