My chum "Linnet" asked me a few questions about bread making which I have been pondering during my bout of bronchitis. It really got me thinking about the practical side of bread making, how to make it easier on the beginner and how to make it a viable activity for the modern homemaker. First, let me say that I bake because I enjoy it, in fact I'm one of those people who doesn't feel quite right unless I've got some project or other on the go! So I bake, knit and garden just as much for my own pleasure (if not more) than as an act of service for my family...it's just a happy synthesis that I can combine pleasure with service, but I do understand that not everybody has the inclination to faff about in the kitchen to the extent that I do!lol! So instead of waxing lyrical about the complexities of the noble art of baking I'm going to give a few handy tips to speed up the process of hand baking *or* get the best out of your breadmaker.
Breadmakers are wonderful because they really do take the faff and uncertainty out of producing a cheap and healthy family loaf. You pop in your ingredients and press a button and hey presto, an hour (or four) later you have a good, homemade loaf. However, you do often end up with a whacking great hole in the middle of the bread, and more importantly for me, the bread is always, always too sweet. I have experimented with getting my breadmaker bread to rise without all of that sugar and I have found that you can easily reduce the amount recommended by a third, but unfortunately the bread still tastes too sweet.
However, I do have something of a solution. Many times I have used my breadmaker to knead and rise a "normal" loaf but not bake it. That is to say, I've used the recipe for normal, hand-baked bread, set the breadmaker to it's setting for pizza dough or bread rolls, waited for the beep, removed the risen dough, punched it down, popped it in a bread tin, given it its second rise and baked it conventionally. This has worked well for me, but you must remember to put the ingredients in the breadmaker in the order that the manufacturer of the machine recommends *and* double up on the amount of yeast needed in the hand baking recipe.
Hand Made Bread
I like making my bread by hand...generally! Sometimes I love to knead it for ten minutes and sometimes I think that kneading is a complete bind. Anyway, I have developed some useful tips for successful hand baking...and here they are!
- If you warm the flour through on the lowest setting of your oven for ten minutes before you start to make your bread, you will only have to knead the bread for three minutes rather than ten or fifteen.
- There *is* a difference between easy blend yeast and normal dried yeast so read the instructions on the packet really carefully. One you can mix as a powder into the flour and one will have to be dissolved in warm liquid. I have found this out personally, much to my cost!
- Always cover your dough with either a damp tea towel or some oiled cling film whilst it's rising. If you don't your dough will form a crust and not rise as well as it should.
- For a quick rise you can place your dough in an oven which is still cooling down after use, keep the door open though as very strong heat will kill the yeast. Or place it in an airing cupboard or in a sink full of warm water...or just by a radiator. Be patient though as it will take at least an hour.
- My friend Simmy, from Echoes of a Dream bakes her bread under a large ceramic bowl. This is a tip she got from Elizabeth David and it does in fact, make for a better rise.