Today, one can make bread quite successfully and easily using a bread maker. Although I often use my breadmaker to make the dough for me, I almost never bake the bread in the machine. I don't like the shape and I hate digging out the kneading paddles from the finished loaf, especially if I have forgotten about them and hack into one with my best bread knife.
Bread making machines certainly simplify the entire bread making process, but there is an added satisfaction to making your own bread by hand, in addition to a whole range of recipes that can never be made by machine.
When making up the dough by hand you learn what it should look and feel like in order to make the perfect finished product. This is important because sometimes, even with a bread machine, things can go wrong: humidity levels in the home, a different brand of flour, or variations in other ingredients can make a dough drier or stickier than it should be. You learn how to judge the texture of the dough and adjust according to conditions.
I hope I haven't scared you off trying to make bread - it really is quite simple and my basic white bread recipe has never let me down. (recipe)
I have had great reviews on this recipe from around the world - it just always seems to work! (My theory is that it is the addition of egg that guarantees good results)
There is also a bread machine version.
Flour: All purpose or plain white flour works well, however I find that a higher gluten blend such as the Robin Hood 'Best for Bread' flour, also known as strong or hard flour does give better results. Whole wheat, rye and multi-grain flours can also be used, but the bread usually doesn't rise as much if you are making a 100% whole wheat loaf - generally it requires more kneading and the dough will seem a bit stickier due to the natural oils in the flour. I like to use a blend of 50% whole wheat to 50% white flour for a good every day bread.
Yeast: I have yet to find a source for fresh caked yeast in Canada, such as my mother used to use in England. The dehydrated yeasts work very well and Fleischmann's is probably the best known brand available here. The 'best for bread machines' type seems to work very well, but there is little difference between the various types.
Liquids: Be sure to follow directions carefully as to the temperature of any water or milk used in breadmaking. If it is too cold, the dough will take longer to rise and also to knead. Too hot, and you will kill the yeast and end up with flat bread. When vegetable oil is specified in a recipe, you can use canola oil, safflower oil or olive oil (I always use olive oil).
The dry ingredients should be placed on your work surface in a heap, then make a crater in the middle into which you place the wet ingredients. Using a fork or spoon, carefully start to incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid, combining to form a sloppy mixture. At this point a metal pastry scraper works very well to help get the dough combined together ready for kneading. When kneading by hand, try to use as little additional flour as possible. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky without actually sticking to your work surface. You can never over-knead, if you get tired take a short break and come back, (leaving the dough covered with a damp tea-towel). When fully kneaded the dough will be smooth, very soft and elastic without being too dry or sticky.
When adapting a recipe to use in your bread machine, be sure to put the liquid ingredients into the pan first. In addition you might have to scale down the quantities according to the capacity of your machine.
For a golden, crusty finish to your bread, you can brush it with egg wash before baking. Generally this is made by mixing the yolk of an egg with about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk. You can also just brush the loaves with a little melted butter when you remove them from the oven, instead. Using egg wash allows you to add a variety of toppings, such as sesame seeds, flax seeds, etc, to your bread before baking. Simply sprinkle the topping onto the egg-washed loaf. You can also use cornmeal, spread on the baking pan under the dough before the final rising and baking to give a nice 'artisan' look to the finished loaf.
As mentioned above, I rarely use my breadmaker to bake my bread, I prefer to use the dough cycle and then transfer the dough to baking pans for final baking in the oven. When baking on a baking tray, parchment paper is invaluable to prevent the loaves sticking to the tray. To test a loaf for doneness, remove from the pan and rap the bottom of the loaf with your knuckle; it should sound hollow. Always cool the loaves on a wire rack, covered with a clean tea-towel.
So give it a go!
You will be the family hero when you take that first loaf of bread out of the oven. Enjoy!
A full range of my bread recipes can be found here.
Nothing can beat home-made bagels, with our step-by-step photos and instructions, you'll find them remarkably easy to make.
A truly reliable recipe for white home made bread that gives fabulous results every time. Make it by hand or use a bread machine as directed here.
We use this recipe for home made brown bread all the time and it is excellent! You can vary the blend of flours any way you wish - just be careful not to have too dry a mix.
Here is our take on making pizza dough - this recipe constantly gets rave reviews from other sites on the web and is our most popular recipe!
Cinnamon buns are one of the most irresistible breads there is. There is nothing to compare with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked cinnamon buns!
Bread won't rise:
- Using outdated yeast, or yeast that has been stored in too warm a location (always keep it in the fridge).
- You omitted the salt: yeast and gluten need the presence of salt to work.
- The yeast came into direct contact with salt - although salt is required, it can kill the yeast.
- Your room is too cool for the yeast to activate, or you placed the dough too close to a heat source which killed the yeast. Your microwave oven can make an excellent proofing oven to help bread rise. Simply microwave a small bowl of water for a minute or so and then remove it. You can now place your dough in the oven to rise with the door closed (do not switch it on!).
Bread is thick and doughy:
- The bread dough wasn't kneaded enough.
- Your flour didn't have enough gluten: rye flour, and to some extent whole wheat flour will make loaves that are heavier and denser. Try substituting white high gluten bread flour for some of the whole-grained flours.
- Not enough liquid - flour absorbs moisture from the air, so that in winter when the humidity is lower in your house, the flour will be dryer and thus need a tablespoon or so of extra water.
- You used too much flour - possibly added at the time of kneading; use as little flour as you can get away with, without the dough sticking to the board.
Bread collapses during baking:
- Usually caused by using too much liquid, resulting in a sticky, unmanageable dough. In summer the flour absorbs humidity from the atmosphere so less liquid may be required.
- Can be caused by using too much sugar or omitting the salt. (Never use a salt substitute!)
- Too much yeast - follow the recipe exactly!
Bread not cooked on the inside:
- Incorrect oven temperature, or bread placed too high in the oven.
- Baking too many loaves at the same time: two loaves is about the maximum for the average oven.
- Can be caused by too much liquid or not enough flour.
Comments powered by Disqus