Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Magic of Bread, Part 2

Okay, so I owe you the finish of the story of my bread making adventures as of late.

The loaf I made that day had some issues. It just didn't rise very much at all. If your yeast is good (ie. not expired), usually rising is dependant on your environment. All those tiny little yeast yearn for a warm moist place to do their magic. Emphasis on warm. Cold and drafty kitchens don't work very well.  And your liquid needs to be very warm (usually about 110 degree F, or so my recipe book says).

I made the mistake of prepping my water mixture before I got my flour together. Normally when I use regular yeast, you 'proof' it in warm water with sugar to activate it. Quick yeast doesn't require that so you add it right to the flour. So my water cooled quite a bit before I added it to the water.

Everything went as usually, but the loaf was small and not what I was used to.

Subsequent loaves saw me experimenting and I did a few things that made a huge difference:

* Do the flour first, then the water and add it right away while it's still hot.

* If the kitchen is cool (make sure the window is closed), I heat up the oven with the fan on and when it's hot, open the door and let it vent into the kitchen for a few minutes before turning it off. Or I make bread on while a load of laundry is drying since the washer is in the kitchen. (That's my perfect cheat!)

* I have only one large bowl, so I have to mix my dough, dump it out to knead it, and then wash the bowl so I can oil it for the rising stage. When I wash it, I do so right after I've kneaded and rinse it in really hot water so the bowl is nice and warm when the dough goes into it. Works great to get a good solid high rise the first time.

* I also realized how important it is to score the top of the loaf so it can expand in the second rise. Yes, it really does make a difference!

I've realized also that the reason my leaves are so short (height wise) is that I have an 11"x7" pan, rather than the standard 9"x5" pan most bread recipes call for. I'll fix that one of these days, but for now, my heartier bread slices are smaller, which is actually useful for both my husband and I, as we've been getting healthier and losing weight. He in particular eats a lot of bread, so he doesn't mind the smaller pieces.

But here is that perfectly lovely loaf in all it's glory. Speaking of which, I have a leaf to make tonight...

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