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Food Prep 101: Ups and downs of yeast breads
March 17, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
“Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”
— John C. Maxwell
We have looked at the basics, cooked proteins and touched upon baking quick breads. This week, we will continue baking by covering yeast, not-so-quick breads. Then, after that we will look at pastry and finish up with stocks and sauces before your final test, and I know you are excited about that!
Yeast bread is my favorite to make and munch. A lot of us shy away from this bread because we think it’s difficult. Not so. It is really simple once you understand the principles.
All the ingredients in baked products have the same role, no matter whether they are quick bread, cakes, pastry or yeast bread, so I hope you remember last week’s lesson on quick breads.
In yeast breads, the leavening or rising agent is yeast. Yeast is a live microscopic fungus that bubbles and gives off carbon dioxide as it grows. Yeast needs moistness, food, time and warmth to ferment. When trapped in dough, the air bubbles from this fermentation cause a baked product to rise.
Wheat flour, an essential for baked products, contains the protein gluten which becomes a gel when wet and, as it gets mixed, it becomes strong. This is a good characteristic for yeast bread because we want it to be strong enough to slice and not fall apart when a spread is used.
Fat is essential to add moistness and help contain the development of the gluten.
Sugar is needed to feed the yeast. It can be added, but there is enough sugar in flour to grow the yeast. It also adds sweetness, and it browns the bread and softens the yeast dough.
A liquid (water, milk) is added to dissolve the ingredients, turn the gluten to a gel and activate the yeast. Salt is essential to add flavor and control the growth of the yeast. Eggs are not essential but add color, flavor, nutrition and fat.
Now that you understand the ingredients, let’s put them together. Recipes vary according to the desired results, but the principles are the same. Follow the recipe, but keep this in mind as you:
1. Activate the yeast. Use warm water, 100 to 110 degrees F. Too hot will kill the yeast. For me, it is just the right temp if you can hold your finger in the liquid. If you use a cooler liquid, it will take longer for the yeast to rise. A pinch of sugar will speed things up.
2. Weigh, measure and mix the ingredients. Mixing yeast bread is called kneading. I always knead bread for at least 5 minutes in my kitchen aid with a dough hook. At least 7 minutes by hand. I knead by pushing the dough with the heels of my hand then folding and turning. Knead the bread until it is soft and pliable. Kneading by hand is a good way to get out emotions. (When I taught at a school for troubled adolescents, the bread always came out great.) It is very important to add the last batch of flour by feel. Only add as much flour as the liquid will hold regardless of what the recipe says. As soon as the sides clear the bowl or your hands, stop adding flour.
3. Ferment. Bread is placed in a bowl, covered and allowed to rise until doubled in size in a warm spot. I often put it in by the radiator, or just the counter. It is completely fermented when an indentation with a finger remains. Be sure to keep the dough from drying out by greasing the bowl with shortening and turning the dough over to cover. I never us oil as it soaks into the dough.
4. Punch, Shape and Proof. When doubled the fermented dough is Punched, but not really. Punching is expelling gas by simply folding the dough upon itself. The dough is then shaped in to a braid, a roll, a loaf etc. The contain holding the dough is always greased with shortening. It is then proofed — allowed rising until doubled.
5. Bake. Carefully so to keep the air from escaping, place the bread in an oven preheated to about 375F. Crusty bread bakes with steam, an egg wash give a nice glow but a soft crust. Bread is done when the base has a hollow sound.
Well, these are my pointers. So you ask, what about a bread machine? OK, I guess but for me it takes up too much room, is too hard to clean and only makes one loaf.
Task to try: Basic, Basic Bread by Hand
3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup milk
2½ to 3 cups flour
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Dissolve the yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir. 2. Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
3. If needed, add flour until the dough clears the bowl.
4. Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.
5. Put dough in greased bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot about 1 hour until doubled.
6. Punch down dough. Knead slightly.
7. Roll dough and Form into loaf and set in greased bread pan. Cover and let rise until double, at least one hour.
8. Carefully place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Turn out bread and let cool on a rack.
This week's quiz: An example of a quick bread is:?A) gingerbread cookies, B) carrot cake, C) pizza dough, D) muffins.
Answer to last week's quiz: We know when fish is cooked when the flesh is: B) flaky.
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