24 July 2013

Bonding over Bread

My grandmother came to visit (sqee!). We had some much fun together during the short 2 day visit. One of the activities I had planned was making bread together. I don't buy that rubbish at the store they call "bread" because we all know its not really bread. She had experienced several problems that I had encountered when I first started making bread a few years back. I am, by no means, a bread professional. But, I do have some possibly helpful advice for the next time you attempt to make bread. We're going to use this bread recipe as a walk through with helpful tidbits.

1. Think of yeast as your cute little friend whom you want to survive. I always refrigerate my flours in ziplocks. This ensures retention of moisture and prevents rancidity. Yeast doesn't like the cold. I give my measured out flour about 35 seconds in the microwave to make a nice cozy medium to start.

2. Yeast has a sweet tooth. When proofing yeast, add the sugar to the water and microwave it. Usually 1 cup water= 1 minute to = 115 to 117 degrees F. If the water is too hot (120+) the yeast get burned up and die. If the yeast is too cold/cool (below 105) they'll be lazy and not make a nice foamy top. If you don't get the nice foamy cap dump it and start again.

3. Wheat gluten, adaptations and autolysis are key components to Fight Bread Club. Four teaspoons of vital wheat gluten ensure a good texture and proper amount of chewiness to the bread. The vitamin C in it feeds  the yeast. So you've measured the flour, warmed it up, your yeast is proofing in the sugar water... Now measure out the wheat gluten and salt and add to the flour. It says add powdered milk. I am terrible at following directions. I see that and my brain says: "Perhaps some yogurt instead or whole milk". If it seems to make sense, do it. Add in the dairy ingredient and olive oil. I'm a huge proponent of organic butter and olive oil. When I read a bread recipe that says butter; I translate that to olive oil. Maybe because pouring it easier and it distributes better. By now your yeast should be creamy/cloudy, and have a thick foam on top. Pour into the bowl that has: flour, salt, dairy, oil, and wheat gluten. Stir together until the dough forms a raggity shape. Now autolysis, cover with a cloth and let it sit for 8-10 minutes. Autolysis is the important step where enzymes are at work breaking things apart and gluten strands are forming. In simple speak you could call this step, " clean up time".

4. Lipids and Salt are surprising important for bread. Without lipids (oils/butters) in your dough, the bread will turn out very dry and terrible texture. The lipids ensure moisture retention. These days, everyone is cutting out salts and sugars. But salt is more than just for fun. It changes the texture (for the better), keeps the bread fresher longer and provides a good environment for the yeast. This was learned over many years of bread making by peasants. If you're still feeling guilty about the salt- invest in good quality salt, such as Himalayan Pink Salt, Sea Salt, etc.

5. Kneading is not an specific science. Now is the step that love is pressed into the dough. Bread making is a labor of love. Connecting with the dough is therapeutic and sacred. If the dough is still shaggey and not forming together put a tiny bit of water on the dough. Knead around. If its crazy sticky, gumming up your fingers and palms, sprinkle with flour. It is ok to add more water or flour as the dough dictates. Ultimately the dough should be post-it note tackiness and form into a ball well.

So now you've proofed the yeast, incorporated the ingredients, autloysed, and kneaded. Get a clean glass bowl, that has a bit of water (like you just rinsed it) and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Rub all internal surfaces of the bowl with the water and oil. It will form a cloudy layer on the inside. Dough loves a warm, moist, environment, just like pedicured feet. Cover top of bowl with plastic wrap.

6. Microwave Rising saved my (bread) life. Thanks to Baking911.com, I have had glorious success rising bread in the microwave. Get a small cup of water, microwave for 1.75-2 minutes. As quick as lightning, open the microwave door, leave the water cup in there, slide the covered dough bowl in and slam the door! Ok, you don't have to slam the door but shut quickly. Set the time for 35 minutes. Now is the part you do some laundry, peruse amazon, take a power nap... you get the picture. After the timer goes off, take dough out, microwave water cup again for same amount of time and stick bowl back.

7. Punch it real good. After the timer goes off, remove dough and punch the down down in the bowl. Depress all the air out of the it. Remove from bowl. This recipe calls for the dough to be flatten and rolled. However you must roll it tightly to prevent an air pocket from forming in the center. You can shape the dough into a nice log, should you prefer. In a well oiled pan, insert dough log. Fire up that microwave again, slide dough in, rise for 35 more minutes.

8. Fire up the oven! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F after the 35 minutes of final rise are done. Insert bread in oven, time for 20-25 minutes. When complete, bread should be golden brown and give a good resounding thud when tapped with a wooden spoon. Sit on wire cooling rack on its SIDE. This cools the hottest part/bottom faster.

9. MmmmMmmm Bread and Butter. Carefully, take a butter knife and gently pry the crust from the pan. Sometimes it sticks around the lip. Hack off a piece, slather it with butter and chomp away happily. Now for slicing it. wait until it is fully cooled for best slicing size. You can cover with a cloth on the rack and wait for it to cool that way.

I hope this answers all the in between questions and uncertainties that come with making bread. Its important to remember yeast like warmth, not heat, and moisture. Its easier to approach making bread that way when you think of it as a little critter. These techniques can be applied to almost all bread recipes. Good luck and may the bread be with you!