Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bread: Order of Ingredients

My first bread ventures were made in a bread machine. My next step was pulling the dough out of the machine, then hand-shaping and baking in the oven. Now I usually make the dough in my stand mixer.

I have found that the order of adding ingredients to a bread machine pan actually matters, beyond keeping the yeast dry for a delayed-start loaf. I load my mixer this way also.

Bread: Kneading and Proofing

Kneading works up the gluten that is necessary for bread to rise. Proofing gets the yeast active, develops some flavor, and gives you large bubbles for the final loaf if you don't burst them all during shaping.

Reference Links

 A good set of tips for beginners:
More details:

Ingredient: Gluten

The Balloon

Gluten is the "balloon" part of the Yeast Experiment. I wrote up a gluten experiment, but did not try it with the preschoolers: dough ball

Gluten is a protein in the flour that makes pizza dough stretchy, and biscuits too tough. Gluten can be the bread baker's friend, and the pastry chef's enemy.

Bread: Shaping and Second Rise

Working with Bread Dough

Pizza dough after first rise, ready to shape.
Pizza dough pulled into a round, without deflating all the bubbles.

Technique: Braided Bread

Play with your dough:

Braiding bread adds a lot to the look of a loaf, and is surprisingly not that difficult to do with a good dough.

Bread: Topping and Baking

Nicely browned Challah
Things to do after the second rise, just before baking.
  • Add shine, and glue on toppings like seeds, by brushing the top of the loaf with egg wash: 
    • Beaten egg or egg white with 1 Tbsp of water
  • Add a less-glossy sheen and lightly tack on a few seeds by brushing the top with milk.

New large baking stone

I finally found a replacement for the tiles I was using as a baking stone. My tiles fit the oven really well, but were thin and several have broken. FibraMent carries a nice variety of thick stones. I got one a week ago, and it's quite nice. I ordered it through Breadtopia, along with a dried sourdough starter, which I'll revive and try sometime.

It is the lower, white stone.

Bread: Improving a Conventional Oven

Do you wish you had a better oven? Want to make yours more like a brick oven? Put unglazed tiles or a pizza stone on the top and bottom racks of any oven and preheat for more than 20 minutes; bake directly on the bottom stone (cooking parchment makes it easier), and you have a brick oven. This does two things: