Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Bread

Bread-making is a great way to start a day.  I get up and immediately mix 1 1/3 cup of warm water with 2 teaspoons of "highly active" yeast (you can buy highly active or rapid rising - given the amount of stuff I add to my breads, I want all the rising I can get) and 4 or 5 tablespoons of brown sugar.  I then put the bowl in a warm oven at 80 to 100 degrees F and let the yeast wake up.  After 15 minutes or so there is a thick layer of bubbles indicating the yeast are alive, multiplying, and well.

Next I blend in everything else that goes into the bread, less one cup of flour.  At this point I also blend in all of the things I add to my bread.  The ingredients I add to my bread are the point behind these posts - the things I add to make bread that is even healthier then simple whole wheat bread.  I plan to discuss tomorrow the various ingredients that make my bread so special.

Here is the list of ingredients that make up a conventional whole wheat bread.  I often make two different breads at the same time, so have come up with a check list of ingredients to make sure I get everything in each batch.  If you would like a copy of my checklist send me an e-mail.

  • 1 1/3 cup warm water

  • 4 or 5 tablespoons brown sugar or honey

  • 2 teaspoons yeast

Mix and place in a warm oven (80 to 100 degrees) to let the yeast come to life - this is sometimes called "proofing" the yeast.  I let the yeast proof until there is a thick layer of foam on the mixture.

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar, lemon or lime juice

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of gluten

Add these ingredients to the proofed yeast and mix.  This will result in a fairly thin and sticky bread dough - thin because it is still needs one more cup of flour.  I then cover the bowl and let the bread dough rest in a warm oven (80 to 100) for 15 to 30 minutes.

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour

Next I blend in the last cup of whole wheat flour and check the consistency of the dough.  The dough at this point should not stick to the walls of the bowl as I mix the dough.  If too dry the dough will be dusty or clumpy.  Add a teaspoon of water and mix again.  If too wet, the dough will smear onto the mixing bowl as you mix.  Add a teaspoon or two of flour and mix again.  Continue until the bread dough doesn’t stick to the walls of the bowl but is not overly dry.  If there is an art to bread making, it is adding just enough flour that the dough quits sticking to the walls of the mixing bowl.

When the consistency is right I put the covered bowl of dough into a warm oven for 45 minutes to an hour - this is the first bread proof - I expect the dough to double in size.

I then take the dough out of the mixing bowl and kneed it on a flour-dusted mixing board.  The goal is to work the dough to drive out the bubbles of carbon dioxide and to work in a bit more flour so that you end up with dough that is not sticking to your hands or to the bread board.  I usually kneed by pressing the dough out into a flattened shape, then fold it and press it out again, adding flour as necessary to get the dough so that it does not stick to things.

When done I shape the dough into a small loaf and put it in a bread pan.  Typically I use non-stick bread pans, but I still lightly coat the inside of the pans with olive oil and then drizzle flour or cornmeal over the oiled insides of the pans to make sure the bread comes out easily.

The quantities I am using will produce two small loaves - so I split the dough in half and put it in the bread pans to rise again.  I also take a sharp knife and score the top of the bread to add some artistic flair to the loaves.

And, back into the warm oven for the final proof.  I cover the loaves with a linen cloth to keep the dough from drying out.

After roughly an hour the dough should have again doubled in size.  Take it out, heat the oven to 375, slip the loaves back into the oven - best if toward the center of the oven, both vertically and horizontally, and 35 minutes later you have bread!

After taking the bread out of the pans it is best to let it cool on a rack so it has a chance to release any excess moisture.  It is while the bread is still very hot, and just out of the pans that I get my first slice.  Gads, does it ever make it all worthwhile.

I let the bread cool until it is room temperature before putting it in a bag for safe keeping.

Tomorrow I will discuss what I add to my breads to make it even healthier than home made whole wheat bread!

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