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Bread and Rolls Recipes 

 

 

For more information on what goes into making bread (and rolls), see Bread Ingredients and the Grain Glossary.  These two sections will help you create you very own special bread.  If you want to know more, see Bread Making - Technical Notes.  In addition, The Fresh Loaf web site has a complete set of lessons on making bread.

  

The following is a few basic guidelines in making bread...

1.  Liquids.  Always keep the total amount of liquids used the same.  For example, if you use one tablespoon of maple syrup in place of one tablespoon of sugar, be sure to reduce the other liquids, such a  water, by one tablespoon.  Also, as you knead your dough, if its a little to sticky, add some flour; if its to dry, add some water.

2.  Baking Times.  Many different parameters can affect the baking time; amount of liquid in the dough, the humidity, the accuracy of your oven temperature setting, etc.

3.  Oils.  Shortening, vegetable oil, olive oil and  margarine can be used interchangeably in almost all of the recipes here.  Each will add a distinctive taste to your bread or rolls.

4.  Sugars.  Sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup can also be used interchangeably, just kept in mind the rule on Liquids.  Again, each of these will add a distinctive taste to your bread or rolls.

5.  Milk.  Fresh milk or dehydrated milk can be used interchangeably, again keeping in mind the Liquid rule.

 


 


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Bread Ingredients

Bread recipes begin with a very basic set of ingredients: water, flour, salt and yeast.  To this short list, you can add a variety of interesting and delicious ingredients that will give your breads the individuality your are looking for.  Learn a little about what each of  following basic ingredients do and you will be prepared to create your own delicious recipes.

 

Flour

Bread Flour - Bread Flour can be used when the recipe calls for bread or all purpose flour.  It has more gluten than all purpose and is a better choice when mixing white flour with whole grain flours.  Bread flour often has ascorbic acid (vitamin C) added as a dough conditioner.  This creates a larger holed grain sought by many bakers.

All Purpose Flour - This is fine whenever the recipe calls for all white flour.  It will make a smaller grained bread than bread flour.  All purpose flour and bread flour are wheat flours with the bran and germ removed and B vitamins added.

Gluten - Gluten is a mixture of proteins responsible for the elastic (glue) quality of dough.  As yeast grows, it releases bubbles of carbon dioxide that become trapped by the stretchy gluten.  Wheat has a high gluten content while other grains have little or none.  Use it in recipes that call for whole grain flours to prevent the top of the loaf from collapsing.  Buy gluten in any health food store.

Whole Wheat - Whole wheat flour adds a nutty flavor.  It also increases the nutritional and fiber content of a recipe.  It has less gluten than white flour, and used alone, will create a dense loaf.  Many of recipes use a mixture of whole wheat and bread or all purpose flour to create a light textured, nutritious bread.

Other Whole Grains - Rye, buckwheat, spelt, oats and other whole grains add wonderful flavors and nutrients to bread but do not have gluten needed to rise very high.  Mix 3 to 4 parts of wheat flour for each part non-wheat (or add a few tablespoons of gluten) to make sure your dough will rise.

Eggs

Eggs add color, richness, protein and structure to bread.  They also serve as a liquid.  A large egg adds about 3 tablespoons of liquid, and an extra large egg, 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons.)  When adding or eliminating eggs, adjust the other liquids in your recipe.  All the recipes given here were made with large sized eggs.

Butter and Oil

Fats add richness to bread and keep it fresher longer, which is why breads without any butter or oil are great fresh, but get stale very fast.  They also add calories - about 100 calories per loaf for every tablespoon of added fat.

Milk

Adding milk creates a tender textured, mellower flavored bread.  Yogurt, buttermilk, and sour cream make moist dough's, and add a slight tangy flavor.  Milk also increases the protein content of the bread.  Fresh milk is fine when making recipes to start immediately.  When setting the timer ahead several hours, use dry milk to prevent spoiling.

Yeast

All the recipes here use dry active yeast - the small packages contain 1 tablespoon (1/4 ounce).  If you bake often, however, it is convenient to buy yeast loose in jars and measure out only the amount you need.  Check expiration date before buying or using and keep yeast refrigerated or in the freezer.

Salt

Salt adds flavor to bread and tempers the rising process.  If you are watching your salt intake, reduce the amount of added salt or leave it out completely.  Dough, however, rises more quickly without salt, so add a bit less yeast as you reduce the salt.

Sweeteners

Yeast does not need a sweetener to rise - flour serves as its food - but it speeds up the process.  Sweeteners, of course, add flavor, and keep bread moist longer.  Sugar adds pure sweetness, while brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses also add distinctive flavors.  Molasses, the strongest flavored sweetener, is sometimes used to darken recipes.

Most anything else!

Seeds, nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, raisins, dates, apples, berries, herbs, spices, vegetables and bran are just a few of the many ingredients you can use to create hundreds of unique and flavorful breads.

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Grain Glossary

Amaranth

This petite golden grain is moving quickly from the "unusual" grain category to one of mainstream acceptance.  A mainstay in the diet of the Aztecs, amaranth was considered a strength-giving food, probably due to its high protein profile.  Both the grain and its flour offer a distinct flavor when added to your favorite bread recipes.

Barley

This grain has a hearty, earthy flavor and produces a dense loaf of bread due to  its low gluten content.  Barley is a good substitute for white flour in recipes, but should be cut with a lighter flour when several cups are being used at a time.

Buckwheat

Technically not a grain, buckwheat is really the fruit of a plant related to rhubarb.  Its flour (ground buckwheat seed) and groats are both useful for unique bread baking.  The flavor has been described as a combination of rosemary and green tea.

Corn

The only grain eaten fresh as a vegetable, corn (also known as maize) is available in a wide variety of colors.  Judge the freshness of cornmeal and flour from its sweet and delicate flavor.  Blue cornmeal, a beautiful hue when dry, becomes a purplish color when cooked.

Kamut

This "ancient" wheat grain is available as a whole grain, rolled grain, flour and cereal.  People who are wheat sensitive have reported a tolerance to kamut products, though this still being investigated.

Millet

Commonly used to feed birds, millet lends a delightful crunch when added in whole grain form to recipes.  People who are allergic to other grains have had luck with millet.  It is considered to be the most digestible grain around.

Oat

Rolled oats and oat flour are welcome additions to almost any bread recipe.  Their delicately light texture and flavor embody the pleasures of home-baked goodness.  Grind your own oat flour by chopping oat flakes in the blender until the reach the desired consistency.,

Quinoa

This recently rediscovered grain is found in whole form, in flour and in prepared products like pasta.  When added to bread recipes, it imparts an earth flavor matched by no other grain, and it packs a protein punch.

Rye

This cold-weather grain is famous for its use in savory pumpernickel and caraway seed-rich rye breads.  Rye has very little gluten and rises with the assistance of wheat flours.

Spelt

Another of the "ancient" super grains, spelt has been reintroduced with resounding success.  Use  it in bread recipes in place of wheat for a slightly nutty flavor.

Wheat

Wheat and whole wheat flour are the basis for most bread recipes.  The gluten content of wheat provides the strength and resiliency necessary for a high and sturdy loaf.

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Making  Bread - Technical Notes

Kneading


Bread has to be kneaded, and kneaded well. To prevent bubbles and crumbing, plenty of kneading is necessary. Not only does it break down the protein structures to form a smoother consistency, but also distributes active yeast and the oxygen it needs throughout the dough. Kneading is a stretching process, by which the little balls of gluten in the flour are stretched to form long strands which will give the bread its structure.

Kneading should take at least 20 minutes on the first mixing. Another 10 minutes before shaping also helps redistribute yeast as well as eliminate the old gases which could suffocate the microphytes at work. Another benefit is aeration: those yeast plants need fresh air for the last workout in the oven!

Over-kneading can break down the gluten too much, which is why I limit kneading to 20 minutes for regular white flour. If you are using a machine, this time must be shortened according to the instructions that machine has.

Kneading should be done with the arms as straight as possible to avoid injuries. It should not consist of pushing down on the loaf, but rather pushing and stretching the ball out on a lightly floured surface. Use the heels of your palms by sinking them into the center of the ball, clench some dough with your fingers and push down and away from you. Eventually, you'll develop a rhythm.

Stretch and slam the dough as much as possible.  It accelerates the straightening of the protein chains in the dough, heals breaks in the dough and creates tiny air pockets for the yeast to feed off of. After you've been kneading a ball for a few minutes, slam it around. Notice how the texture becomes almost fluffy. That's all the oxygen you're getting in there.

The ideal way to knead dough to the right consistency is to start overly damp and dry up the dough by adding flour. The perfect consistency should be sticky enough so that two pieces of dough will heal together with medium pressure, yet not so sticky as to adhere to a lightly floured surface.

Test: push your finger into the ball of dough and pull it out. If the dough sticks to the end of your finger but not the sides, you've probably got it right. If the dough is too dry, the yeast will not have enough moisture to thrive, and the starch in the dough will crystallize. If it is too damp, it will take too long to bake, not to mention being a mess to deal with in the first place!

Oven Temperature
The best temperature for the type of dough used in bread is between 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit. Why? Simple: it bakes slow enough not to harden the crust before the inside of the bread has hit the temperature necessary to kill the yeast and boil out the water inside. In simple terms: so the loaf won't blow up like a kernel of popcorn! 

If the crust hardens before the yeast in the center of the loaf die, the gases produced by the yeast will be trapped. This splits the crust (i.e. "popcorn" loaves) or results in what I call the "pita effect" (like pocket bread with a large bubble in the center).

As the temperature at the center of the loaf increases, the yeast become more and more active. Bakers refer to this as a "springing" in the oven, since the loaf will grow dramatically during the first minutes of baking before the yeast is killed by the heat. This is important to remember when dealing with bubbles: if the dough does not have a proper bubble and protein structure before baking, the heat of the oven will excite the yeast to produce gasses which will end up in all the wrong places.

If the oven temperature is too low, the yeast won't be killed quickly enough. This causes excessive "springing," yielding large bubbles.

The loaf should be baked until golden on the outside. The golden color indicates the center has reached temperature. If the dough is not golden but still tan, you've probably still got a lot of uncooked dough in the center.

If you're not sure if the center is done, flip the loaf over and tap the bottom with your finger. If it feels hollow, the loaf is done. If it feels solid, then there is still moisture that needs to get baked out of the center. 

Yeast and Rising

Why does bread need to rise twice? You let bread rise over several hours to develop its flavor. The longer the yeast cells have to work (up to a point), the more maltose and alcohol they can produce. 

Why does bread need to rise in a warm place? Yeast cells are like most single-cell organisms - they are more active when it is warm. The whole idea behind a refrigerator is to make food cold so that the bacteria, which all foods contain, have a low level of activity and therefore reproduce less. Warm yeast cells do their work faster up to a point - beyond that point the temperature gets too high and the yeast cells die. 

Does the yeast reproduce in the bread? Yeast reproduces by cell division. Over the course of two hours yeast does not really have time to reproduce. The yeast cells in the envelope of yeast are the cells that do the work in your loaf of bread. That is why, if you use old yeast, your bread will not rise. Most of the yeast cells in an old envelope of yeast have died, so there are not enough cells to power the expansion. 

Freezing
Bread freezes well, so long as it is baked properly to begin with and is stored in freezer proof bags.

If your bread crumbles and seems overly dry after thawing, there are two possible problems: First, you probably aren't kneading the dough enough to straighten the chains of gluten, which are still balled and haven't formed the elongated strands necessary to hold the loaf together properly for freezing. The second possibility is that the loaf was too dry to begin with. When things freeze, the water gets worked out of them (think "freeze dried" foods). Bread dough is not supposed to be overly moist or chewy, but making it very dry also affects the dough negatively. Dry dough begets petrified bread when frozen and thawed, since the already low moisture content in the loaf cannot be entirely recuperated during the thawing process. Besides, the the low moisture does not allow the bread to attain a proper structure during the baking process.

Crusts
Hard crusts are eliminated by placing the loaf in a sealed plastic bag after several hours of cooling. Moisture from the middle of the loaf will be drawn out to the crust.  Underbaking a loaf to avoid a crust is a bad idea, since you'll end up with a damp center.

Avoid oils and sugar when mixing the dough. These both can cause hardened crusts (if overbaked) by making the crust rubbery (the oils harden or "vulcanize," something like rubber).

If your crusts are bursting during the baking process, try lowering the temperature and increasing the proof time before putting the loaves in the oven. The crust is forming before the yeast is killed off. Also, you may try adding more flour to the recipe, since cracks can also be caused by steam build-up. If your cracks are occurring after the loaves are brought out of the oven, place a slightly dampened towel over them right after setting them on the cooling rack. This will give them a steam bath to soften the crust, and also slow down the cooling process. Cracks of this type are caused either by the crust drying out too quickly or cooling too fast in relation to the inside of the loaf.

How does crust form on bread? There are two parts to the answer.

A) The chemical reaction that makes the crust brown is called the 
"Browning or Maillard reaction". It has rather complex chemistry but is 
basically a reaction between the sugars in the bread dough and the proteins 
in the dough. It occurs at the rather high temperatures that are found at 
the surface of the bread in baking (see below) or at the surface of the 
bread slice in toasting.

B) The bread dough is a rather poor conductor of heat, thus when the dough 
is exposed to the high heat of baking, the surface of the bread attains the 
temperature of baking and the Maillard reaction occurs. However, since the 
bread dough is such a poor conductor of heat, these high temperatures found 
at the surface of the bread are not found in the interior of the bread 
dough, even only a few millimeters into the bread dough. Since the high 
temperatures are required for the Maillard reaction, there is no browning 
in the interior of the bread dough. 

Commercial Bread Versus Home-baked
Ever wondered why your bread and the stuff you get in the store are so different? Simple: commercial bakeries use special machines and a different kind of flour. The flour they use is a hard wheat flour which is impossible to knead by hand unless you're Arnold Schwartzenegger and have a lot of time on your hands.

 

The Chorleywood Bread Process, or CBP, was developed in 1961 by the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association at Chorleywood and is now used to make 80% of the world’s bread. CBP uses low protein wheats combined with chemical improvers and intense mechanical working of the dough using high-speed mixers. The process substantially reduces the long fermentation period by introducing high energy mixing for just a few minutes, dramatically reducing the time taken to produce a loaf. The CBP method of making bread cannot be reproduced in a normal kitchen because of the requirement for a high-speed mixer.

The process had an important impact in the UK, where it was developed, as the process also permitted a much greater proportion of home grown low protein wheat to be used.

Your home baking flour is a soft wheat variety. This kind of flour, when put into an industrial machine, would break down in a manner of seconds. This is why they use hard wheat flour. Bread machine flour is a combination, so I don't recommend trying it if you're going to knead by hand.

Another point to keep in mind when you marvel at the fine and even bubbles in commercial bread is that those bubbles are not made the same way you make yours. Yeast in commercial bread is more for flavor and the final spring. The bubble structure is created by the bread machines whipping air into the dough, something like whipping cream. During final spring, the yeast merely enhances what the machines put there already.

Your yeast plants do a lot more of the work than commercial counterparts. This is why your bread will have more irregularities, since nature is at work in your loaf.

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