Rising to the occasion: Ideas for homemade bread
by Cecelia Hostillo, Columnist
Jul 11, 2012 | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Homemade breads and rolls add something special to meals. Baking good yeast breads is an art, but it is one that you can learn rather easily. Practice really does make perfect—if you follow directions carefully and understand what makes for good results.

Breads contain the same basic ingredients: flour, liquid, leavening, fat, and salt. Each of these plays an important role in the bread-making process.

Flour provides the structure for bread. It contains two proteins called gliadin and glutenin that form gluten when mixed with liquid. Gluten is very elastic when developed by kneading has the capability to stretch, trap air, and expand. Bread flour is hard-wheat flour and has the gluten potential needed for successful bread making.

Liquid is necessary to activate the proteins that form gluten. Milk and water can both be used. Bread made with milk has a better flavor, but bread made with water browns more evenly.

Leavening is what makes the bread rise. In breads and rolls the leavening agent is yeast, a microscopic plant. When mixed with liquid, sugar, and flour, yeast begins to grow, producing carbon dioxide. This gas forms small bubbles, causing the dough to rise.

Fat in breads adds flavor, makes the bread more tender, and keeps it from drying out quickly. Salt adds flavor and texture, but it also controls the yeast action so that the dough does not rise too quickly. Some bread recipes may also call for the addition of eggs, which add color, flavor, and richness while helping to bind all the ingredients together.

All the ingredients should be near room temperature, about 75°F. To activate yeast, liquids need to be 110-115°F for quick-rise yeast. Today’s commercial yeast is reliable if it is used before the marked expiration date, so the step of proofing the yeast (in which the surface of the yeast bubbles and foams within 10 minutes) found in some recipes can be left out. The use of quick-rise yeast allows all ingredients to be added together at one time if the water is warm enough to activate the yeast, and only needs one rising period. This means the dough can be shaped before rising.

Once the flour is added, the dough is kneaded. The dough can be kneaded by hand or with a mixer with a dough hook, a food processor, or a bread machine. Kneading develops the gluten. The more you knead the dough, the finer the texture of the bread will be, but you must be careful not to over-knead. Kneading breaks up pockets of air being incorporated into the dough. Well-kneaded dough is smooth and satiny and has a soft, pliable body to it.

The step where the dough is allowed to rise is known as proofing. The optimum proofing temperature is 80-85°F. One way to get the proper temperature is to turn the oven on warm for 1 minute and then turn it off, placing the covered dough in the oven to rise. Higher temperatures will force the dough to rise faster, producing more alcohol that develops a sour taste and unpleasant smell. Rising generally takes 1-1 1⁄2 hours. To determine if the dough has risen sufficiently, test for ripeness by gently denting it with your index finger. If the dent remains, the dough is ready.

To shape dough, place it on a lightly floured or oiled surface and gently shape it to avoid breaking gluten strands. If making braids, dinner rolls, or pizza crusts, the dough is easier to handle if you first place it on a lightly floured surface, cover it, and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. The gluten strands will relax, and it will be easier to handle the dough.

Wide assortments of baking pans are available to bake bread. Reduce the oven temperature by 25°F to avoid overbrowning the bread when using glass or black steel pans. Black pans produce dark-crusted breads, while silver pans produce light-crusted breads. Baking stones produce a very crisp crust. Avoid using coffee cans, flower pots, or quarry tiles that are not designed for food use, as they may contaminate your bread with toxic chemicals. Yeast breads baked in a microwave oven are pale, low in volume, and tough; however, already-baked breads and rolls can be defrosted and reheated in the microwave.

The bread is done when it has developed a golden color and loaves of bread will sound hollow when tapped, but use baking times as a guide. Typically, a loaf of bread needs to bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the baked bread from the pan or baking sheet immediately and cool on a wire rack to prevent a soggy bottom.

The Trigg County Cooperative Extension Service is offering a class on making yeast breads and rolls called “Rising to the Occasion” on July 18, 2012 from 10:00 AM until noon. Laura Holt, FCS Extension Agent for Muhlenberg County will be joining me to teach this class. It will be a hands-on class and participants will go home with breads made in the class. The cost of the class is $5.00 and registrations will be taken through Monday, July 16th. Call the Trigg County Extension Office at 522-3269 to sign up!

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269. Information for the article was obtained from a publication by the same name written by Sandra Bastin, PhD, RD, LD, CCE, UK Cooperative Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist, June 2007.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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White Bread

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons fat

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 package active dry yeast

1⁄4 cup lukewarm water

6-7 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

Scald the milk and stir in fat, sugar, and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Place the yeast in 1⁄4 cup lukewarm water. Stir until well-blended. Add to the milk mixture.

Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn dough on a floured surface and knead. Place in greased bowl, turning it so that all sides are greased. Cover, let rise 1 hour or until about double in bulk.

Push the dough down by pulling the sides over and pressing into the center. Divide the dough into two parts. Take each half and make a rectangle on a floured surface with the dough by rolling it with a rolling pin. Roll up the dough and pinch the ends and the long seam closed. Fold the ends under and place in greased loaf pans. Let loaves rise. Bake at 375°F for 45-60 minutes. Test for doneness by tapping top with forefinger and checking for color. Bread will sound hollow and have a nice brown color.

Brush tops of hot, baked loaves with butter to keep crust from becoming tough. Cool bread slightly before slicing. A serrated knife and gentle sawing motion give best results. Yield: 2 loaves.

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Refrigerator Rolls

1 cup warm water (80°F)

2 packages active dry yeast

3⁄4 cup hot water (110°F)

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

51⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

In a small mixing bowl, combine warm water and yeast; stir until dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining hot water, sugar, salt, and butter. Stir in half of the flour, the egg, and the yeast mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in just enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 1 minute. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Label and store in refrigerator until ready to use or for up to 3 days.

To use, punch dough down and shape as desired. Let dough shapes rise one hour. Bake at 375°F for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
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