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From the Kitchen of The Pearl of Seneca Lake B & B
Dundee, NY

Bread-Making Tips

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I learned bread baking from my Mother years ago and have been making bread all my married life.   It has been a continual learning process.   The more I know about bread baking, the more I realize what I don’t know.   At one time, I taught bread baking in our former school district’s continuing educational program and have listed some of the tips that I compiled to pass along to new bread bakers.

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– Bread is very forgiving.   Adding too much salt, or if the liquid is too hot and kills the yeast are really the only things you can do wrong.   Salt will inhibit the yeast and prevent it from working.

– Although the taste is slightly changed, you can use any liquid to make bread – water, milk, buttermilk, sour milk, soy milk, rice milk, yogurt, etc.

– Honey and sugar can be used interchangeably.   The normal exchange is .75 honey to 1 sugar, although I have read it to be 1:1.

– Liquid added to dry yeast should be “baby bottle warm” (105-115 deg)

– Yeast comes in a variety of kinds, so be sure to use the one that the recipe recommends.   I use both active dry yeast and instant yeast which I buy in bulk.   Store yeast in the refrigerator or the freezer.

– 1 envelope of yeast = 2¼ tsp active dry yeast = 123 tsp instant yeast.

– The amount of flour and liquid you use varies.   The type of flour and the age of the flour determine the amount of liquid.   I often add more flour and then maybe more liquid and even more flour till the dough comes together and is easy to knead.   Be careful and don’t add too much flour.   It will make the dough tough.

– Follow the recipe and do not substitute all purpose flour for bread flour.   Bread flour is high in gluten and milled from hard wheat, which means it has a lot of protein, and is best for yeast products (I use King Arthur flour).

– Whole-wheat flour is high in fiber but it does not have the highest gluten level, meaning it is sometimes mixed with all-purpose or bread flour in recipes.   The ratio is 1 cup whole wheat flour to 2 cups white flour, although for a more dense bread, you can add more whole wheat flour depending on your preference.

– Self-rising flour is made from all-purpose flour with leavening and salt added and is not appropriate for yeast bread.

– If you are kneading by hand, you first mix the ingredients until it starts to come together.   Move the dough to a counter or a cutting/bread board and simply press the dough down and away from you.   Fold the dough in half, giving it a quarter turn and press down again.   Repeat the process for about 5 minutes.

– If you have a mixer with a dough hook, mix the dough with the mixing paddle and then
change to the dough hook when it becomes dense.   Knead with the dough hook
for 8 minutes on the second speed, adding more flour as necessary.   A hand mixer
generally does not have a dough hook and tends to lack the power to knead dough.

– Let the dough rise in a greased bowl, turning the dough so that it is covered with the grease.   I use cooking spray on the bowl.   Place the dough in a warm place, either in the sunlight, over the pilot in a gas stove, or just on the counter covered with plastic wrap.

– Generally the dough rises about 1 hour for the first rise.   This can actually be extended depending on your day.   I have let it rise for 3-4 hours, punching and eventually forming the loaves.   (Punching the dough is poking your fist into the center of the dough and pushing it down, deflating the dough.)

– Grease the pan with butter, margarine or lard.   Do not use oil, for the oil will be absorbed in the dough and the dough will stick.

– When the dough has finished rising, press the dough into a rectangle and then fold the dough letter style 1/3 on top of each other.   Then fold the ends over and press down to dispel any trapped air.   Either place in a greased pan, on parchment paper or on Silpat (a silicone baking mat).

– The second rise usually lasts from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the room temp and how soon it doubles in size.   Be sure to preheat the oven.

– For a glossy crust just before placing in the oven, brush the dough with:
a whole egg, an egg yolk or an egg white plus 1-2 tbsp of water.

– For a soft crust just before placing in the oven, brush your dough with:
melted butter or margarine.

– For a tough, chewy crust just before placing in the oven, brush or spray the dough with:
water, and again 15 minutes before taking the bread from the oven.

– The bread is done when the internal temp is 205 deg or when you tap the bread you
hear a hollow sound.

– After the bread is baked, remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack to cool.   Covering the bread with a clean dish towel will soften the crust.

– Resist eating the bread for 30 minutes so that it can finish the cooking process.

Recommended Books:

Brother Juniper’s Bread Book by Peter Reinhart

Bread, A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman,
a more advanced book on bread baking.

American Pie by Peter Reinhart, the best pizza book, including both dough and toppings.