Principles Of Bread Making

Breads are divided into two classes:

Fermented, made light by a ferment, yeast being usually employed.

Unfermented, made light by the introduction of air into the dough or batter.

Fermented bread is generally made by mixing flour, water, salt, fat, and yeast to a dough, a small amount of sugar being added to hasten fermentation. The dough is kneaded until it is elastic to the touch and does not stick to the board, the object being to incorporate air, and to distribute the yeast uniformly. It is then covered, and allowed to rise until it has doubled its bulk, and does not respond to the touch when tapped sharply, but gradually and stubbornly begins to sink. At this stage, the dough is “ripe,” and ready to be worked down. It will require all the way from two to three and a half hours to rise, depending on the grade and consistency of the flour used, and the temperature of the room in which it is set. This process is best accomplished at a temperature ranging from 750 to 85° Fahrenheit. The bread is then worked down well, turned over in the bowl, and left to rise until about three fourths its original bulk. It is again worked down and allowed to rise the third time, to half or two thirds its original bulk. Then it is turned out on a board, worked together, molded into loaves, and put into pans for baking. The third rising is sometimes dispensed with ; but it gives such a good grain to the loaf, thus improving both the shape and the texture of the loaf, that most housewives will favor it after a trial.

Bread is also made by setting a sponge at the beginning, making a batter of the water, the yeast, and part of the flour, and letting it rise until it is light, then adding the remaining ingredients, and working all into a dough. Bun and cracker dough is usually set with a sponge, as they require a very fine and light texture, which is best obtained by this method. Ordinary white and entire wheat breads are often made by the same process. A sponge is light enough when it appears frothy and full of bubbles. The time required will vary with the quantity and quality of yeast used, and with the temperature of the room in which it is set to rise.

Bread made from entire wheat or Graham flour must be watched more closely than that made from white flour, as it rises in less time than white bread, and the gas escapes from the dough more easily. Entire wheat bread, furthermore, must not be permitted to rise so light in the pans as white flour bread. Care in this respect will preserve in the bread that sweet, nutty, wheat flavor which is so characteristic of bread made from the entire grain, but which will be lacking if the loaves rise too light in the pans.

MOLDING THE LOAVES

In molding the loaves, it is necessary that each loaf be kneaded well. If the dough is put into the pans in soft loaves,— soft because they were not kneaded enough,— the bread will rise flat on the top instead of rounded, and is likely to fall when placed in the oven. Each loaf should be kneaded into a hard roll, then flattened down, and rolled up into a hard roll. Put into oiled pans, and brush the top of each loaf with an oiled brush, to pre-vent a crust from drying on while the bread is rising.

PROVING THE LOAVES

It is very important to know when the dough is sufficiently light after it has been placed in the pans. It should never be allowed to rise to its limit before it is put into the oven, but should continue to rise for the first ten minutes afterwards. It is far better to bake the bread a little too soon than to let it get too light. If it is permitted to rise too much in the pans, it will be coarse-grained and rather tasteless. If, however, the loaves get too light in the pans, they may be molded over and put to rise again. To test the lightness of the dough in the pans, press the loaf gently with the index finger. If it responds promptly to the pressure of the finger, it may be left to rise more; but if it responds weakly, it should be placed in the oven immediately.

BAKING

Bread should be baked in a quick oven to begin with. The oven should not be so hot as to burn the outside of the loaf before the inside is cooked, but should be of such a temperature that the bread may rise for the first ten minutes, and then have sufficient crust to hold it up, when the fire should be closed up to hold a steady heat until the bread is done. For the small loaves, forty to forty-five minutes is generally sufficient; for the larger ones or those of ordinary size, one hour to an hour and a quarter. A well baked loaf may be lifted from the pan and placed upon the palm of the hand without burning it. This should always be the case when bread is well baked and the moisture evaporated. When done, remove from the pans and lay on the side on a wire rack to cool. If brushed over the top with warm water just after it is taken out of the oven, the crust of the bread will keep softer, and will have a nice color.

It is well to remember that when yeast bread is set warm, it must be kept warm throughout the rising, as, if it becomes chilled after it begins to work, it will be “sickly,” and is likely to sour. When a sponge or dough is set at night, it should always be set with cold water, about 65° or 70°, or about the temperature of the room. Bread set at night, furthermore, requires only half as much yeast as is used for bread set during the day. Night bread is usually set with a sponge, the amount of flour used being about the same by measure as that of the liquid. By morning, it will be lively, and when mixed into a dough, will rise very quickly without any warming.

As a general rule, with the best quality of white flour, three measures of flour to one of water are required to make a dough of the proper consistency. For making entire wheat or Graham bread, less flour is used in proportion.