The Art of Bread Making: Tips and Recipes
Freshly baked bread is one of the best tasting food items invented by human beings, and it is also one of the oldest.
No matter how far back you look into history, you’ll find that people have always baked and eaten bread.
But that doesn’t mean everyone can bake well. There is an art to making fine bread, as the best bakers know. And perhaps the most important element in choosing your ingredients carefully.
Here are a few tips to guide you in choosing the right ingredients and baking good, fluffy, sweet-smelling, nutritious bread at home.
The most vital and key ingredient in all types of bread recipes is the flour. What kind of flour you’d use really depends on what kind of bread you want. How much flour you need to add will also depend upon flour variety.
Some flours will develop a more satin-like texture when kneading, and rise more during the baking process than other kinds.
All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. It is suitable for yeast loaves of bread as well as for quick loaves of bread and cakes.
Bread flour, with its high protein content, will give you bread with better volume. However, dough made with bread flour needs to be kneaded much longer than dough made from all-purpose flour, to develop the intended smooth texture.
Whole-wheat flour, which contains the entire wheat kernel, adds a clearly identifiable ‘nutty’ taste to the dough.
So, while whole-wheat flour is actually healthier and more nutritious than white flour, first find out the preferences and tastes of those who will be trying out your baked bread. Also, store whole-wheat flour in the refrigerator to prevent it from going bad.
Some experienced bakers prefer to mix in a little rye flour with other kinds for improved volume and texture.
Yeast, the leavening agent, can be bought inactive, dry, or compressed forms. Recently, there is also this quick-rising variety that has been developed which makes the bread dough rise in half the normal time.
Yeast needs to be ‘proofed’ before it’s added to the flour mixture, just to make sure it is alive. Dissolve it in a little lukewarm water, and wait until it becomes foamy.
If you think it’s taking too long, add some sugar to quicken the process. If it fails to become foamy, your yeast is bad – throw it away and go buy another packet!
Add eggs to the dough
For a rich flavor and to add a healthy golden glow to your bread, add eggs to the dough. Add salt and sugar to taste.
What liquid to use for the dough?
If you use water, you’ll get a dense crumb and a crusty loaf. With milk, you get a tenderer crumb and a richer, softer crust.
Knead with a constant rhythm until the dough isn’t sticky anymore. Shape it into a ball in an oiled bowl and leave it in a warm place to rise.
When it has risen to at least twice the volume, shape it the way you like. Two common shapes are oval and rectangle.
Place the prepared bread loaves seam side down into the prepared pan and bake the loaves at the center of the oven.
Remove each loaf periodically and tap the bottom to check if they’re done. When it sounds hollow, your bread is prepared! Remove immediately to the racks and serve hot for best results.
Check out this following yummy bread recipe that you can easily try at home.
Swedish Cardamom Bread
Combine 2 tablespoons of active dry Yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water and let it stand until dissolved.
Next in a bowl pour 1 cup hot milk over 1/4th cup sugar to dissolve the sugar. Then add in 1/4th cup vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon salt into the milk and sugar mixture. Let it cool.
After cooling stir in the yeast mixture, 1 egg, 3 cups of flour, and 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom into the milk sugar mixture.
Then add in 1 cup raisins and remaining 1-cup flour and beat all the ingredients until smooth; turn the dough onto a working surface lightly dusted with flour. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic.
Then transfer this well-kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl covering it with a damp towel and keep it to rise in a warm place to double its volume in about 1 hour.
After an hour punch down the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into thirds. Then roll each part into 10-inch long strands braiding loosely.
Transfer the bread rolls onto lightly oiled baking sheets, put it undercover and keep it to rise again for 1 hour in a warm place until doubled.
Then put the bread rolls into a 350-degree oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Your Swedish cardamom bread is ready to serve! The above recipe serves 12.