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Baking Bread

kneading dough

Baking your own goods offers many benefits over store-bought varieties. For starters, homemade bread is often fresher than in the grocery store. Additionally, when you make your bread, you have complete control over the ingredients used, allowing you to choose healthier options like whole wheat flour or organic ingredients. Finally, there’s something special about creating something from scratch with your own two hands. Not only does it taste better, but it also provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Baking bread is a culinary art that has been practiced for centuries.

Bread Baking Hobby Ratings

  • Learning Difficulty: Moderate – requires prior knowledge and effort to learn and master basic skills, but can be done with guidance.
  • Start-up Costs: Moderate – requires some investment in materials or equipment, but not excessive.
  • Equipment Requirements: Intermediate – requires a moderate amount of equipment or supplies and may require some research or investment.
  • Participation: Solo & Pair – can be done individually or with one other person but is not necessarily required

Three types of bread

  • Sourdough
    • Sourdough bread is made with a starter culture of wild yeast and bacteria. It is usually made from wheat flour, water, salt, and sometimes other ingredients such as rye or whole-grain flour.
    • The dough is left to ferment for several hours before it is baked in an oven. The fermentation process gives sourdough its characteristic tangy flavor and chewy texture.
    • Sourdough bread is often used for sandwiches, toast, and even pizza crusts.
  • Yeast-leavened bread
    • Yeast-leavened bread is the most common type in grocery stores and bakeries. This bread is made using commercial yeast, which helps the dough rise by producing carbon dioxide bubbles.
    • Yeast-leavened bread can be either white or whole wheat.
    • Common types of yeast-leavened bread include sandwich loaves, dinner rolls, baguettes, focaccia, and ciabatta.
  • Quick bread
    • Quick bread does not require rising time because it uses chemical leaveners like baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast.
    • Quick bread is typically sweeter than yeast-leavened bread and has a more cake-like texture.
    • They are great for breakfast, snacks, or desserts. Examples of quick bread include banana bread, cornbread, muffins, scones, pancakes, and biscuits.

Ingredients and Equipment

Common Bread Ingredients

Flour is one of the essential ingredients in baking, as it provides structure and texture to baked goods. It can be made from various grains such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, and corn. Wheat flour is the most commonly used type for baking and comes in different varieties, such as all-purpose, bread, cake, and pastry flour. All-purpose flour is the most versatile and widely available type and is suitable for many recipes. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which helps create a chewy texture in bread. Cake and pastry flours are lower in protein and have finer textures, making them ideal for cakes and pastries.

Yeast is another essential ingredient in baking, as it causes the dough to rise by producing carbon dioxide gas bubbles. There are two main types of yeast: active dry yeast and instant yeast. Active dry yeast must be activated with warm water before use, while instant yeast does not require activation. Both types of yeast should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. When using yeast, it’s essential to follow the recipe instructions carefully, as too much or too little yeast can affect the outcome of your baked goods.

Salt is also essential in baking, as it enhances flavor and helps balance sweetness. Table salt is the most common type used in baking, but other types, such as sea salt, kosher salt, and Himalayan pink salt, can also be used. The amount of salt needed will vary depending on the recipe, so measuring accurately when adding salt to your batter or dough is important.

Other additives can be added to baked goods to enhance their flavor and texture. Common additives include sugar, butter, eggs, milk, nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruits, spices, extracts, and leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda. These ingredients can help add flavor, moisture, and structure to baked goods, so it’s important to measure them accurately according to the recipe instructions.

Baking Supplies

Baking supplies are essential for any baker, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced professional. The basic baking supplies include measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, spatulas, whisks, sisters, rolling pins, cookie cutters, cake pans, cooling racks, and parchment paper.

  • Measuring cups and spoons measure ingredients accurately.
  • Mixing bowls mix wet and dry ingredients.
  • Spatulas are great for scraping out the last bits of batter from a bowl, and whisks help incorporate air into batters and sauces.
  • Sifters break up clumps in flour and other dry ingredients, and rolling pins are perfect for rolling out dough.
  • Cookie cutters come in all shapes and sizes, and cake pans are necessary for making cakes.
  • Cooling racks allow baked goods to cool down quickly, and parchment paper is ideal for lining baking sheets and cake pans.

Decorating Supplies

In addition to baking supplies, decorating supplies are essential for creating beautiful desserts. Decorating supplies include pastry bags, piping tips, fondant tools, food coloring, edible decorations, and sprinkles.

  • Pastry bags with piping tips place frosting and filling on cupcakes, cakes, and pastries.
  • Fondant tools such as smoothers, cutters, and embossers are used to shape and decorate with fondant.
  • Food coloring is used to tint frostings and fondants, and edible decorations like sugar pearls and dragees add sparkle and shine to cakes and cookies.
  • Sprinkles are a fun way to top off cupcakes and other treats.

With these supplies, bakers can create stunning desserts that look almost too good to eat.

Preparing the Dough

Mixing ingredients

Preparing dough begins with gathering the necessary ingredients, which typically include flour, salt, yeast, and water. The dry ingredients are combined in a large bowl or on a flat surface before adding the wet ingredients. Once the ingredients are together, mix them until a soft, sticky dough forms. Distribute all the ingredients evenly throughout the dough. If needed, add water to achieve the right consistency.

Kneading Dough

After mixing the ingredients, knead the dough. This process helps to develop the gluten strands within the dough, giving it structure and elasticity. To knead the dough, press down firmly into the center of the dough with your hands and then fold it over itself. Continue this process for several minutes until the dough becomes smooth and pliable.

Letting Dough Rise

Once the dough has been kneaded, it needs to rise. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until it has doubled. During this time, the yeast will activate and cause the dough to expand. When the dough has finished rising, it is ready to be shaped and baked.

After the dough’s first rise is double in size, punch down the dough. Punching down dough helps to release air bubbles and redistribute yeast activity. To punch down the dough, press your fist into the center of the dough and push outward to release all of the air pockets. You can also use a rolling pin or other tools to help you flatten out the dough. Once complete, you will need to knead the dough for a few minutes before proceeding with the next steps.

Forming & Baking Loaves

Forming loaves is the next step in shaping the dough. Depending on the type of bread you are making, you may need to form one large loaf or several smaller ones. Start lightly flouring your work surface and divide the dough into equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball and then shape them into oblong shapes. Place the shaped loaves onto a greased baking sheet and cover them with a damp cloth. Allow the loaves to rest for about 30 minutes before continuing.

The final rising of the dough is the last step in shaping the dough. During this time, the yeast will continue to activate and cause the dough to expand. Cover the formed loaves with a damp cloth and place them in a warm area. Allow the dough to double in size again before baking. If desired, you can brush the top of the loaves with melted butter or egg wash before baking. After the final rise, the dough is ready to be baked.

The dough is baked in a preheated oven at the appropriate temperature for the desired time. When finished, the resulting loaf of bread or pastry will have a golden-brown crust and a soft, fluffy interior.

Storing Bread

Allow the loaf to cool completely before wrapping or storing it and placing it on a wire rack, allowing air to circulate. Once cooled, you can cover the bread in plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container. If you use a paper bag, make sure to poke holes in it so that air can still circulate.

When storing freshly baked bread, it’s best to keep it at room temperature. Bread stored in the refrigerator will dry and stale more quickly than bread stored at room temperature. Freezing is an excellent option if you store the bread for longer than a few days. Wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe bag or container.