Bread Baking Tips
Helpful tips, how-to's and useful information about baking bread.
There is about 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast in a 1/4-ounce package.
To Proof Yeast: Add 1 teaspoon granulated sugar to 1/4 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F | 40°C to 45°C) in a 1 cup glass measure. Stir in 1 (0.25-ounce) envelope yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) and let stand 10 minutes. If the yeast foams to the 1/2 cup mark, it is active and can be used confidently in a recipe.
Ideal temperature ranges are 100°F to 110°F (40°C to 45°C), when yeast is dissolved directly in water; 120°F to 130°F (50°C to 55°C) when undissolved yeast is added to dry ingredients.
Store unopened yeast in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry (or refrigerator). Exposure to oxygen, heat or humidity decreases the activity of the yeast. After opening, store in an airtight container in the back of the refrigerator, away from drafts. Use within 3 to 4 months; freezing not recommended.
If you're interrupted in the midst of bread-rising, set the dough in the refrigerator. Any dough can be refrigerated for a few hours to inhibit rising. Long refrigeration is not recommended unless specified in the recipe.
Dough that won't rise can be 'revitalized' with a fresh sample of active dry or rapid-rise yeast: Step 1. For each envelope of yeast in the recipe, combine in a large, warm bowl: 1/4 cup lukewarm water (100° to 110°F), 1 teaspoon sugar and one envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) of yeast. Stir to dissolve. Step 2. With an electric mixer, slowly beat in small (walnut size) pieces of dough until about 1/2 of the dough is mixed into the yeast. Step 3. With a spoon, stir in the remaining dough. Knead in just enough flour so the dough is not sticky. 4. Let rise, shape and bake as directed in the recipe.
Wheat is the most common type of flour used in bread baking. It includes all-purpose flour, bread flour and whole wheat flour. Wheat is rich in gluten, a protein that gives dough its elasticity and strength. When yeast and flour are mixed with liquid and then kneaded or beaten, the gluten forms and stretches to create a network that traps the carbon dioxide bubbles produced by the yeast. Recipes with whole wheat flour have less gluten and make denser loaves. That’s why these recipes generally require some all-purpose flour which increases the gluten and makes lighter, taller loaves.
Water is the most important liquid because it does 2 critical things: (1) It dissolves and activates the yeast. (2) It blends with the flour to create a sticky and elastic dough.
Milk, buttermilk, cream or juice may be added to enhance the flavor or texture of bread.
Only warm liquids should be added to dry ingredients in a recipe because: (1) too-cool liquid will slow or stop yeast action, and (2) too-hot liquid will destroy the yeast and prevent it from rising.
The use of sugar adds flavor and rich brown color to a bread's crust. Brown sugar, honey, molasses, jams and dried fresh fruits may also be used.
Salt is an important ingredient in bread baking because it: (1) Slows rising time, allowing the flavor of the dough to develop, and (2) Adds structure to the dough by strengthening the gluten, which keeps the carbon dioxide bubbles from expanding too rapidly. Never omit salt when it’s a recipe ingredient.
Eggs add food value, color and flavor to breads. They also help make the crumb fine and the crust tender. Eggs add richness and protein. Some recipes call for eggs to be used as a wash that adds color.
Fat: Butter, margarine, shortening or oil add flavor and make bread tender and moist. Fat slows moisture loss, helping bread stay fresh longer. Do not substitute oil for margarine/shortening unless the recipe calls for it.
There's no law that says biscuits have to be round. Roll the dough into a rectangle and cut out square shapes so you don't have to keep rerolling it.
Use nonstick cooking spray to grease the inside of the bowl you'll be using to raise yeast dough, then spritz the top of the dough itself — a much neater method than spreading with oil.
Quick breads and yeast breads may be frozen up to 3 months.
For a warm place for yeast breads to rise, put dough, covered, in a cold oven with a pan of hot water on the rack below.