Making Bread

There is nothing quite like the aroma and flavour of home-made bread — and if it is made in bulk, loaves and rolls can last several weeks in the freezer. In fact loaves will keep for months.

Flour For the best results use ‘strong’ flour (with high gluten content) to obtain a large volume and open texture. Dense, coarse textured brown bread with a nutty taste can be produced from wholemeal flour (containing 100 per cent wheat) or wheatmeal flour (80-90 per cent wheat, including germ and some bran).

Yeast Buy fresh yeast which is creamy in colour, firm to touch and easy to break. Keeps up to 5 days in a cool place.

It is essential that all equipment is warm, as yeast is killed by extreme heat or cold during fermenting. However, yeast can be stored, deep frozen, successfully. Dried yeast is more convenient because it can be stored for a much longer time (up to six months) and so is ideal in times of emergency.

Remember that dried yeast is more concentrated: 25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast equals 15 g (½ oz) dried yeast.

Salt

Important to improve flavour and strengthen the gluten in the flour, but too much will destroy the yeast, resulting in heavy, uneven bread.

Liquid

Water alone, or a mixture of water and milk, can be used to produce the correct consistency.

Fat

Used to soften and enrich doughs for making buns, tea bread and savarins.

Sugar

Important for the bread to rise, as it is a source of food for the yeast although too much will kill the yeast.

Kneading and rising

Kneading is essential for the strengthening and development of the gluten, to enable the bread to rise. Push the dough over towards you, pushing down and away with the knuckles and giving the dough a quarter turn before repeating the procedure. Alternatively, use the dough hook on the mixer, until the dough becomes firm and elastic. Cover with a lightly greased polythene bag and allow about 1 hour in a warm place (airing cupboard or over a pan of hot water). Alternatively, leave to rise in the refrigerator overnight and, before shaping, return the dough to room temperature. Short-time bread requires no rising stage.

Knocking back and proving

Re-knead to knock out the air bubbles, and to produce a well-risen and even-textured loaf. Knock back, throwing the dough on to a board, pounding it with your fists, and throwing it down again on the breadboard. Repeat the process three times. Shape as shown below, put into tins, cover with greased polythene and leave to rise at room temperature until double in size (proving).

Baking

Remove polythene and bake in a hot oven at 200-230°C (400-450°F) Gas Mark 6-8, according to the recipe. Loaves will take 30— 35 minutes and rolls 15-20 minutes. It helps to improve the texture of the loaf if a bowl of hot water is placed at the bottom of the oven to create steam. On removal the bread should be golden brown.

Short-time Bread Recipe

25 g (1 oz) fresh yeast

25 mg ascorbic acid

450 ml (¾ pt) warm water

675 g (1 ½ lb) strong flour

15 ml (1 tablespoon) salt

5 ml (1 teaspoon) caster sugar

15 g (½ oz) butter

Dissolve yeast and ascorbic acid in water. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Rub in butter. Add liquid and bind mixture. Knead, wrap in polythene and leave to rise. Knock back and shape into tin. Wrap and leave in a warm place until double.

FAULTS IN BREAD-MAKING

Coarse, open texture Too much liquid; over-proving; oven too cool.

Texture uneven, with large holes Incorrect knocking back; insufficient mixing; over-proving.

Heavy, close texture Insufficient kneading or proving; yeast killed.

Crumbly and stales quickly Over-proving; oven at too low temperature; flour too soft; too much yeast.

Yeasty flavour Too much or stale yeast; over-proving. Pale crust Cool oven; insufficient sugar.

Dark crust Hot oven; too much sugar.

Thick crust Oven too cool. Loaf rises over tin Too much dough in tin; over-proving. Cracks in crust Too much liquid; under-proving; oven too hot.

Flat top Poor shaping of dough; dough too wet; insufficient salt.

Dough collapses when put into oven Over-proving.

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