By Jolene Adams, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Bread is important to many cultures around the world. For some it is the center of the meal, eaten every day. It is a part of our history as bread has sustained life in many cultures throughout the ages. In Egyptian Arabic, it is called aish, which literally means life.
We have always had a relationship with bread: sometimes we adore it, other times we demonize it for the gluten or carbs. Bread in its simplest form can be made from just four ingredients: water, flour, yeast and salt. People once made bread from scratch on a regular basis, then as our food system became more industrialized, bread became a mass produced and processed item. A loaf of packaged sandwich bread in the supermarket contains 30 plus ingredients! Let’s get back to making it from scratch and rediscover the art of bread.
Bread is pretty simple to make, however many people feel intimated or think the task of making bread is daunting or too complex. It really shouldn’t be intimidating. Bread takes time and practice, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be making it with ease. Understanding the role and function of the ingredients is the first step. I suggest doing some reading to gain insight on the different types of wheat, yeast and the stages of dough development. A better understanding of the process and science behind bread makes the production less intimidating.
“The Bread Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum is a great place to start. Once you have a deeper understanding of the process, all you have to do is hone your techniques and develop your skills through practice.
Bread dough is very forgiving; it is an easy food item to practice. Adding a little extra flour or a little too much water won’t make or break the final product and you’ll still end up with an edible bread. The ingredients are not expensive so if you have a loaf or two not turn out, it’s okay, and you haven’t wasted much. Also, don’t fret over the final appearance of your first loaves of bread. It will take some time to get the feel for how the dough should come together and how to shape it properly. Those first loaves may not look pretty, but they will still taste amazing because you made it and because it is real bread!
Here are three recipes that I recommend for starters. The first is a basic white bread. It is nearly impossible to mess up. This is my go-to recipe when baking with children. If an 11-year-old can make this bread on their own, I know you can too! The second recipe is my family’s favorite dinner rolls. The recipe is easily doubled to make two dozen rolls and still fits in a four quart KitchenAid mixer. The third recipe is a fantastic timesaver. It comes from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking”
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Their idea is simple: take a few minutes to prepare a dough, let it ferment and then store it in the refrigerator. Tear off a piece of dough the next day, shape it and bake it. It’s a fantastic way to have fresh bread with dinner even on busy weeknights.
If you’re interested in gaining hands-on experience, the LLCC Culinary Institute has a bread baking series offered in February. The four classes will cover white bread, dinner rolls, wheat bread, whole grain bread, artisan breads, techniques for braided loaves and sour doughs. Our website, www.llcc.edu/culinary-institute has more information.
Makes 1 loaf
3/4 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1/2 cup milk
3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1 teaspoon salt
In a kitchen aid bowl, add the warm water and dry yeast. Let sit for a few minutes. Check for bubbles and yeasty smell.
Add sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Mix with dough hook. It won’t mix up completely; that’s okay.
Add 2 cups of flour and salt. Mix on medium speed.
If needed, begin adding more flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. Mix for 5-8 minutes on medium/low speed.
You do not need to use up all the flour called for in this recipe, or you may need more flour than called for. The amounts vary depending on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate amount of flour needed.
Put dough in a large bowl. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.
Punch down dough (let the gas bubbles out) and shape into a ball.
Preheat oven at 375°.
Shape dough into loaf, rolls or braid. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
Score dough by cutting slashes across the top with a sharp knife. Put in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Turn out bread and let cool on a rack.
Yield 2 dozen
1¼ cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup warm water
4½ teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the milk, sugar, butter and salt. Heat until mixture is warm and butter is melted, remove from heat and cool to lukewarm (100 degrees or less)
In stand mixer, combine the warm water and yeast, allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Add warm milk mixture, eggs and flour to the bowl. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until combined.
Continue to mix on low speed for 4-5 minutes until soft ball of dough forms and sides of bowl are free of flour.
Cover bowl with a towel and allow dough to rise until doubled in size. When dough has risen, punch down. Form dough into 2 ounce balls
Place on a parchment lined sheet pan, spacing 2-3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again for one hour, or until doubled in size.
Bake in 400 degree preheated oven for 12-13 minutes.
5 Minute Artisan Bread
Yield: 4- 1 pound loaves
This is the basic ‘Boule’ bread mix from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The dough is stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, taking out a bit each day as you need it, forming it and baking it.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 (7 1/4 g) packets granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 tablespoons other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted unbleached all-purpose flour
Preparing Dough for Storage:
Warm the water slightly. It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. With cold water it will need 3-4 hours.
Add the yeast to the water in a 5 quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.
Mix in the flour and salt – kneading is unnecessary. Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up the flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula. Don’t press down into the flour as you scoop or you’ll throw off the measurement. Mix with a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. Don’t knead, it isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. It takes a few minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
Allow to rise. Cover with lid (not airtight or it could explode the lid off). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours, depending on room temperature, and initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to 5 hours, won’t harm the result.
You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with than dough at room temperature.
On Baking Day:
Prepare your loaf tin, tray, cast iron pan or whatever you’re baking it in/on. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with four. Pull up and cut off one pound of dough, approximately the size of a grapefruit if you don’t have a scale to weigh it.
Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all 4 sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off – that’s fine, it isn’t meant to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will sort itself out during resting and baking.
The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 – 60 seconds.
Rest the loaf and let it rise in the form, or on the tray/pan, for about 40 minutes Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period. That’s fine, more rising will occur during baking.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
Dust and Slash. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Slash a quarter inch deep cross, diagonal lines, or tic-tac-toe pattern on top using a serrated knife.
After a 20 min preheat you’re ready to bake, even though the oven thermometer won’t be at full temperature yet. Put your loaf in the oven. Pour about 1 cup of hot water (from the tap) into the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
Store the rest of the dough in the fridge in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. The flavor and texture improves, becoming like sourdough. Even 24 hours of storage improves the flavor.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org