There’s something magical about mixing flour and
yeast with liquid and witnessing the transformation of
the ingredients into a tempting loaf. Whether you
enjoy the ritual of hands-on kneading or prefer the
convenience of using a bread machine, it’s always satisfying
to make bread at home.
Types of yeast
Yeast is the organism that makes bread rise. It reacts with
the natural sugars in flour to create carbon dioxide gas,
which is trapped in the dough and forces it to expand.
Dry yeast comes in 1/4-ounce packages, jars, and in
bulk. One 1/4-ounce package of dry yeast equals 2,1/4 teaspoons
of fresh yeast.
Fresh yeast is available in foil-wrapped 1-ounce cakes. It
is very perishable; refrigerate and use within two weeks.
Fresh and dry yeast become activated when mixed with warm
water (105° to 115°F). Let the water-yeast mixture
stand for about five minutes. It should look creamy,
which indicates that the yeast is alive.
Quick-rise yeast cuts the rising time of traditional
yeast doughs by about 50 percent. This yeast requires
very hot tap water (120° to 130°F) to be activated.
Know Your Flours
A variety of flours can be used for bread making. Different
flours contain varying amounts of gluten, which
is what gives dough its strength and elasticity. Wheat
flours milled from hard winter wheat are high in gluten
and great for bread making.
Bread flour is made entirely from hard wheat and
makes delicious, chewy, crusty loaves.
All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheats
and yields a more tender bread. All-purpose flour is
available unbleached and bleached. Bleaching somewhat
reduces the amount of gluten. You can use either bread
or unbleached all-purpose flour for bread, but you will
need more all-purpose flour as it absorbs less liquid.
Whole-wheat flour and rye flour are usually combined
with bread or all-purpose flour in yeast doughs.
Mixing the Dough
When mixing bread dough, use a large glass or ceramic
bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon, or a heavy-duty electric
mixer. Use the paddle to make a soft dough, then
switch to the dough hook to knead.
Flour and yeast are the basic ingredients in bread
making, but other ingredients play a role. Salt slows
the rising and enhances the flavor of bread. Fat (butter,
oil, or eggs) adds richness, moistness, and softness to
the crumb. Milk gives bread a tender, sweet crumb,
and sugar promotes tenderness and a golden crust.
Because yeast works best in a warm environment,
have all the ingredients at room temperature. The
amount of flour needed to make a dough will vary according
to the type of flour and the amount of humidity
in the air (on a humid day, a dough will require
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