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First Time Bread Baker

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#1 aznsailorboi

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 11:57 AM

Hi guys, I've always wanted to bake my own breads... ok so maybe this isn't my first time baking bread, but since I've only done it twice, and both times I failed, I guess I can still consider myself a first timer in this area of the kitchen.

Can you guys suggest ideas on what to start with, something like a no-brainer type recipe for a simple bread. Tips, do's and don'ts, and the like. I just want to boost my morale a little bit in baking. I've been trying to look for threads that focuses on just bread making but I havnt found any that covers the whole shebang on the subject.

I would also like to ask, what makes a bread dull looking, hard, and pale no matter how long you bake it? I swear I was trying to make bread not stone :sad: .....well at least thats what the recipe suggested I was making :hmmm:
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#2 srhcb

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 02:47 PM

I started off with a bread machine, which are nearly foolproof and make a damn fine loaf. After I wore that out I got a KitchenAid HD mixer and have never looked back.

I used, (and still use), the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook and the company's catalog as my instruction books, along with their products.

SB (one of the smartest things I ever did!) :raz:

#3 aznsailorboi

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 03:46 PM

I started off with a bread machine, which are nearly foolproof and make a damn fine loaf.  After I wore that out I got a KitchenAid HD mixer and have never looked back.

I used, (and still use), the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook and the company's catalog as my instruction books, along with their products.

SB (one of the smartest things I ever did!) :raz:

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thanks for the suggestion SB. Can a bread machine produce all types of bread or do you always have to buy the mix when baking bread.

From the previous threads, it seems like there's a big difference in the type of flour you use... I guess APF isn't really that versatile when baking breads. What type should I get?
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#4 SweetSide

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 03:58 PM

aznsailorboi, no you don't need to use a mix when using a bread machine and usually the recipe will specify which type of flour to use. Usually bread flour -- KA makes wonderful flours.

Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Beth Hensperger's book The Bread Bible are two good books to start with. If you just want to do bread machine breads (which I agree are nearly foolproof), try Bread Machine Baking. I also use a King Arthur book, but the one I happen to have is KA Baker's Companion.

I'll let the more experienced bread bakers help with fine points... I still run into proofing issues when not using a machine.
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#5 rickster

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 04:48 PM

Hard dull looking bread sounds like a yeast problem, not a flour problem. AP flour can be OK for breads-it depends on the protein content, which varies between brands. For example, King Arthur flour AP is higher in protein (which is good for bread) than many other brands. But using bread flour is a safe choice too.

I'd agree with the Hensperger and Reinhart recommendations

#6 ray goud

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 05:34 PM

Get and use a baking stone for your oven. The bread recipes in Jacques Pepin's "Happy Cooking" are completely reliable (start with one or two tbsp. less water at first, and add as needed), though I like to use 100% bread flour.
If you mess up a batch, find out why, and try again, no matter how many tries it takes. If you watch baking shows (like "Baking with Julia", rerun many times) and your dough looks limper than the TV chef, use less water.
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#7 lorinda

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 01:38 AM

You mentioned that you were looking for threads/forums about breadmaking. Might I suggest you check out Dan Lepard's site, which has very active forums and I'm gratified to see that Mr Lepard, busy baker that he is, has time to help all of us amateurs.

As for tips, there's heaps of things that could be responsible: is your yeast active (is the dough rising at all?), how is your kneading technique, are you using enough water (usually more than recipe says), and of course as you mentioned, bread (strong) flour is important too.
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#8 oraklet

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 02:34 AM

pale, stone hard bread... well, there are a some basic rules for wheat dough which seem to work well for me:use a baking stone (and allow some extra time for it to get hot before you bake. one hour, at least).
make sure your water is free of clorine. don't use very cold water. don't use hot water. and don't use water from the hot water tap.
knead well. the dough should have an "organical" feel to it. (or you may use the "folding technique": first kneading just enough to make the dough, then let rest for 1/2 hour, then folding it in on itself a few times. let it rest for some time, then fold again, etc.)
ferment, covered well, at a temperature that will allow the yeast to get to work. say, 20 C., untill the dough feels a little "wobbly". no more, no less.
place on your baking parchment and let proof, covered well, untill wobbly.
slash with a very sharp knife. bake.
a standard loaf made with 3-400 g of flour should bake at c. 200 C for c. 1/2 hour, or untill golden brown.
most of the recipes you'll find on the flour bags will tell you to use a lot of yeast. try cutting down on it and ferment for more time, cooler. also, in my opinion, most recipes use too little water. i feel that the ideal dough will be a little (or even quite) sticky. try using, say, at least 65 ml water for every 100 g of flour. you may have to dust your table (and the dough) well with flour when forming the loaf.

of course, the kind of flour you use will make a difference, but just about any flour that holds c. 12% protein will do.

Edited by oraklet, 25 January 2006 - 02:38 AM.

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#9 aznsailorboi

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:03 AM

Thanks for your replies guys, I really appreciate it. I've gathered alot of similarities with the tips and guidelines everyone is providing, and most of them I really havnt paid attention to.
ie.
- using less water than indicated on the recipe.
- my kneading technique....probably need to look for more kneading demo vid clips.
- not sure how a good dough should feel like? how does an "organical feel" feel like?
- I'm not sure of other brands of yeast in the local groceries (I meant was I haven't seen other brands).
- Does everyone have access to KA brand flour? or do I have to go to a specialty baking supply store to purchase it? (in chicago here)
- I'm confused with "Proofing"... some people put alot of emphasis on proofing yet some don't. But from what I'm seeing, I think it's a very important phase in baking, yet I really dont know what else is involved aside from the bread rising process, production of CO2 and gluten is formed.

Some of these pointers you guys mentioned I really do pay attention to like:
- Does my bread rise? yes it does.
- Correct oven temperature.
- Temp. of the water when slurrying the yeast.

Is the baking stone really a necessary equipment? or can I do without? if I do need it, where do i purchase it?
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#10 lcdm

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:24 AM

The King Arthur website has tons of recipes and even online tutorials. If you are just getting started may I suggest the White Bread 101 on the KA website:
http://www.kingarthu...ipe.php?id=R419
or Toast and Sandwich bread also on the KA website:
http://www.kingarthu...ipe.php?id=R402

These both make basic white loaf bread, the toast and sandwich bread recipe does not call for any special ingredients, just yeast, sugar, milk, salt, All-Purpose Flour and butter and the only equiptment you need is a loaf pan.
Once you get this basic bread down you'll have the confidence to branch out and try other types.

Edited to add:
If you are like me and like to see or feel exactly what the bread is supposed to be like during each step you may want to look around and see if a local school (like an adult school program or community college) or a supermarket, has a bread baking class (many are just a day or two).

Edited by lcdm, 25 January 2006 - 07:28 AM.


#11 rickster

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:33 AM

- Does everyone have access to KA brand flour? or do I have to go to a specialty baking supply store to purchase it? (in chicago here)


I'm in the northern suburbs not too far from Lake Bluff and don't have any problems finding it. You might have to look in places other than Jewel/Dominicks though. Whole Foods carries it and I think Sunset Foods too.

But I wouldn't get overly hung up on the flour for basic bread. Pillsbury and Gold Medal bread flour should be OK too.

#12 foodiehall

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 08:10 AM

Hi guys, I've always wanted to bake my own breads... ok so maybe this isn't my first time baking bread, but since I've only done it twice, and both times I failed, I guess I can still consider myself a first timer in this area of the kitchen.

Can you guys suggest ideas on what to start with, something like a no-brainer type recipe for a simple bread. Tips, do's and don'ts, and the like. I just want to boost my morale a little bit in baking. I've been trying to look for threads that focuses on just bread making but I havnt found any that covers the whole shebang on the subject.

I would also like to ask, what makes a bread dull looking, hard, and pale no matter how long you bake it? I swear I was trying to make bread not stone :sad: .....well at least thats what the recipe suggested I was making :hmmm:

View Post


One day about 30 yrs. ago (OK, so I'm hinting at my age here) I decided I wanted to bake my own bread. Sooo, after checking over the cookbooks in my neighborhood bookstore (I'd just moved into my own apt. and had no cookbooks), I came home with a Betty Crocker general cookbook geared toward just about anyone who can read and follow simple directions...I still use this cookbook altho it is literally falling apart. Anyhow, from that cookbook I learned to make bread. I started off with simple white loaf bread and went from there. After a few efforts, you develop a "feel" for what's right....or not....with your technique. Altho I don't bake professionally, I've won ribbons from NC state fairs for my yeast breads, rolls, etc. along with many praises, blah, blah. I've gone to more sophisticated cookbooks over the years, but why bother with something as basic as bread? There's just something about baking a good-looking loaf of bread that gives you such a feeling of accomplishment....to say nothing of the great aroma and taste. Make sure you get your yeast from a reliable source. If your yeast doesn't "proof" correctly after dissolving it in water, throw it out and start over because things won't go right with your bread no matter what else you do.
The few times that I've been less than pleased with my bread have been when the yeast didn't act right in the beginning....and it was my own fault for proceeding on. My advice to a beginning bread-maker would be to have fun with it and don't get frustrated....it's not like you're working with expensive ingredients. Good luck!
CBHall

#13 aznsailorboi

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 09:33 AM

- Does everyone have access to KA brand flour? or do I have to go to a specialty baking supply store to purchase it? (in chicago here)


I'm in the northern suburbs not too far from Lake Bluff and don't have any problems finding it. You might have to look in places other than Jewel/Dominicks though. Whole Foods carries it and I think Sunset Foods too.

But I wouldn't get overly hung up on the flour for basic bread. Pillsbury and Gold Medal bread flour should be OK too.

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gotcha, i'll try sunset foods down on 43 later this afternoon. Thnks for the advice rickster
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#14 andiesenji

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 12:36 PM

One way to get a consistent product is to use "bread" flour. However you can also find "Vital Wheat Gluten" at any health food store and if you add a little of this to all purpose flour you will have what is essentially a bread flour.
Store it in the freezer in an airtight container or doubled ziploc bags and it will keep a very long time because you do not need to use very much.

Bob's Red Mill brand

Arrowhead Mills brand

Edited by andiesenji, 25 January 2006 - 12:38 PM.

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#15 cavebutter

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:58 PM

First off, this is my very first post on eGullet, though I've been lurking for a year or two. Second, I'm about 6 months into baking lots of bread for friends and family-- I still consider myself a total beginner, but here's a few things that have helped me out:

- SweetSide's book recommendations are spot on. I also use Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible. Reinhart and Beranbaum have been my constant companions.

- Get a baking stone. It's mellowed out my oven considerably, and is really useful in making more rustic breads.

- I tend to be very brand loyal, I started off with King Arthur, love it, don't see myself switching.

- To get a little more poof in your breads, even sandwich loaves, try steaming the oven at the very beginning when you put the bread in the oven. You can do this by dumping about 6 icecubes into a sheetpan that's been preheating with the oven, or by spritzing the oven walls with a spray bottle 2 or 3 times at 30 second intervals when you first put the bread in.

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#16 rjwong

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 12:20 AM

cavebutter (or Jay),

Welcome to eGullet!



Back to topic, I'm new to this bread making adventure as well, aznsailorboi.

I have King Arthur AP flour. Is that good enough to use for baking bread?

Generally, what happens to the bread if I use AP flour, instead bread flour? Is there any difference in taste, texture, etc.?
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#17 oraklet

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:30 AM

not sure how a good dough should feel like? how does an "organical feel" feel like?
Is the baking stone really a necessary equipment? or can I do without? if I do need it, where do i purchase it?

View Post

i knew i'd get into trouble with that "organical feel" :biggrin:
well, it's like, you know, it should kind of have the feel of a big relaxed muscle, yet sort of tacky... but actually, i think you'll know what i mean when you're there :smile:

a baking stone will keep the temperature of your oven a lot more constant. if you don't have a baking stone (or some similar contrapment) the temperature may drop c. 20 C immediately as you shove your bread into the oven, and will take some time to recover. also, the stone will help a lot in gettting a good crust on the bottom of the loaf.

actually there's a lot of useful information in this thread, too: http://forums.egulle...showtopic=81648
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#18 Mooshmouse

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 04:01 AM

not sure how a good dough should feel like? how does an "organical feel" feel like?

View Post


i knew i'd get into trouble with that "organical feel" :biggrin:
well, it's like, you know, it should kind of have the feel of a big relaxed muscle, yet sort of tacky... but actually, i think you'll know what i mean when you're there :smile:

View Post


When you first start kneading the dough, it will be quite tacky and rather wet in appearance. As you continue kneading, the consistency will change from tacky to firm, and it'll become visually smoother. Resist the temptation to stop kneading when you get to this stage because you're not finished yet. Keep kneading through the extremely firm, smooth stage; the dough will soon ease up a bit on firmness and become slightly tacky to the touch once again. That's when you're done.
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#19 aznsailorboi

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:38 AM

Thanks again for the many replies! i've been enlightened quite a bit. I'm gonna try acquiring all these materials before the weekend, and hopefully be able to try a recipe as well.

I haven't got a chance to go find a different brand of yeast but I found this specialty baking store and I'm hoping they have a lot to offer...but if not I will definitely swing by whole foods.

ok another question to the experts and anybody who has 2 cents about it......what is that famed "sponge"??? what difference do you get from THE sponge vs. regular yeast slurry thats been activated for a few minutes?
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#20 aznsailorboi

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 06:51 AM

not sure how a good dough should feel like? how does an "organical feel" feel like?

View Post


i knew i'd get into trouble with that "organical feel" :biggrin:
well, it's like, you know, it should kind of have the feel of a big relaxed muscle, yet sort of tacky... but actually, i think you'll know what i mean when you're there :smile:

View Post


When you first start kneading the dough, it will be quite tacky and rather wet in appearance. As you continue kneading, the consistency will change from tacky to firm, and it'll become visually smoother. Resist the temptation to stop kneading when you get to this stage because you're not finished yet. Keep kneading through the extremely firm, smooth stage; the dough will soon ease up a bit on firmness and become slightly tacky to the touch once again. That's when you're done.

View Post


ok I think I've been on this part before at one point or 2 ( since I did try baking bread twice :huh: ) I've been kneading say 10 min + then my dough gets to that firm consistency and becomes visually smooth.....but if i knead more the dough becomes less elastic, should that happen? coz it seems like if I knead more I might eventually end up with vulcanized rubber.... I mean if that happens I won't have to pay a fortune to change tires.....i'll just whip up some dough... :blink:
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#21 gsquared

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 08:43 AM

I am probably the wrong person to chip in here, as I am one of those unfortunate souls that cannot bake bread. I think it is due to a genetic deficiency. At least that is what I keep telling myself. Nevertheless, I have been told that properly kneaded dough should feel like a young woman's breast.
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#22 shaloop

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 09:15 AM

When you first start kneading the dough, it will be quite tacky and rather wet in appearance.  As you continue kneading, the consistency will change from tacky to firm, and it'll become visually smoother.  Resist the temptation to stop kneading when you get to this stage because you're not finished yet.  Keep kneading through the extremely firm, smooth stage; the dough will soon ease up a bit on firmness and become slightly tacky to the touch once again.  That's when you're done.

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OK. Very basic question. How do you knead rather wet and tacky dough? Also, I've been reading that you shouldn't add more flour. Many recipes tell you to knead in as much flour as you can. How do you know when it has enough flour in it if it's supposed to be wet and tacky?

#23 jsolomon

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 09:25 AM

ok another question to the experts and anybody who has 2 cents about it......what is that famed "sponge"??? what difference do you get from THE sponge vs. regular yeast slurry thats been activated for a few minutes?

View Post


The famed sponge is you take equal amounts of flour and liquid (usu 1 cup each, remember to subtract from your recipe) and add the called for yeast. Then, let this ferment for an hour.

The sponge method has a great benefit to homebakers because oftentimes active dry yeast will poop out after the first rise, but if you use the sponge method, it doesn't. You can also use much less yeast than the recipe calls for.

Additionally, the added ferment at the beginning lends a nice note to the flavor of the final bread.
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#24 aznsailorboi

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 10:07 AM

so should it feel like young breasteses? hehehe ....soweeee I just had to respond to it. :laugh:

in actuallity the first one I made felt like muscled pecs.....then the second one was soft and would'nt hold its shape...I'll let you guys decide what to reference it to :hmmm:
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#25 Mooshmouse

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 10:45 AM

not sure how a good dough should feel like? how does an "organical feel" feel like?

View Post

i knew i'd get into trouble with that "organical feel" :biggrin:
well, it's like, you know, it should kind of have the feel of a big relaxed muscle, yet sort of tacky... but actually, i think you'll know what i mean when you're there :smile:

View Post

When you first start kneading the dough, it will be quite tacky and rather wet in appearance. As you continue kneading, the consistency will change from tacky to firm, and it'll become visually smoother. Resist the temptation to stop kneading when you get to this stage because you're not finished yet. Keep kneading through the extremely firm, smooth stage; the dough will soon ease up a bit on firmness and become slightly tacky to the touch once again. That's when you're done.

View Post

ok I think I've been on this part before at one point or 2 ( since I did try baking bread twice :huh: ) I've been kneading say 10 min + then my dough gets to that firm consistency and becomes visually smooth.....but if i knead more the dough becomes less elastic, should that happen? coz it seems like if I knead more I might eventually end up with vulcanized rubber....

View Post

Yes, it should happen. That's exactly the point in your kneading to which I was originally referring. Stop right there.


OK.  Very basic question.  How do you knead rather wet and tacky dough?  Also, I've been reading that you shouldn't add more flour.  Many recipes tell you to knead in as much flour as you can.  How do you know when it has enough flour in it if it's supposed to be wet and tacky?

View Post

I start with my wet ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and add my flour gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon until it becomes the consistency of something less wet than mucilage and is dry enough to handle in a cohesive ball without too much mess. By estimate, I'm guessing that I've added about half my required amount of flour at this point. I then dump the dough ball out onto the floured countertop and continue to knead while gradually adding in flour. With this method, you should use up most, if not all, of the flour that's called for in your recipe.
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#26 jackal10

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 10:53 AM

Traditionally dough should feel like earlobe, but I guess you can apply other other parts of the anatomy...

You can handle we sticky doughs with a little oil on your hands and worktop. Much better than flour, as even a little flour pickup will change the nature of the dough. Use flour only for the shaping stage.

#27 aznsailorboi

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 11:42 AM

[quote name='shaloop' date='Jan 26 2006, 08:15 AM']OK.  Very basic question.  How do you knead rather wet and tacky dough?  Also, I've been reading that you shouldn't add more flour.  Many recipes tell you to knead in as much flour as you can.  How do you know when it has enough flour in it if it's supposed to be wet and tacky?

View Post

[/quote]
I start with my wet ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and add my flour gradually, stirring with a wooden spoon until it becomes the consistency of something less wet than mucilage and is dry enough to handle in a cohesive ball without too much mess. By estimate, I'm guessing that I've added about half my required amount of flour at this point. I then dump the dough ball out onto the floured countertop and continue to knead while gradually adding in flour. With this method, you should use up most, if not all, of the flour that's called for in your recipe.

View Post

[/quote]

Thats a smart idea....never thought of starting with wet ingredients to begin with. I can see that as an advantage to evenly distribute moisture throughout the mixture to re-hydrate the dry ingredients. Also, you wouldn't be adding excess flour than needed, since the flour thats being used was already premeasured. OMG...hmmm I'm getting inspired!!! i wanna make bread tonight!!!! but i dont have a baking stone. gotta purchase that on payday....tuesday is sooo far away!!!!!!!
...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

#28 Beanie

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 01:53 PM

Another tip for handling wet sticky dough is to wet your hands and use a wet rubber spatula or bench scraper to scrape up dough from the work surface. I think I read this technique in one of Peter Reinhart's books; works like a charm for me.

aznsailorboi -- don't wait until next Tuesday to bake bread. Life goes on ... even without baking stones. :biggrin:
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#29 Anna N

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 02:47 PM

OMG...hmmm I'm getting inspired!!! i wanna make bread tonight!!!! but i dont have a baking stone. gotta purchase that on payday....tuesday is sooo far away!!!!!!!

View Post


I bake bread two or three times each week. I do not have a baking stone and yet I get some very, very acceptable breads. If it's a freeform loaf (i.e., not in a loaf pan) then I put an upturned half-sheet pan on the oven rack before I heat the oven, and the bread is baked directly on its surface. I have a bottom-of-the-line electric oven. I no longer worry about kneading but now follow Dan Lepard's methods which call for absolutely minimum kneading. I am totally amazed by the results having spent most of my life struggling with "when have I kneaded enough?"
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#30 peppyre

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Posted 26 January 2006 - 03:06 PM

Depending on the loaf that I am making, I split my wet and dry ingredients. Depending on the humidity, you may or may not need all of the flour and you may or may not need all of your liquid.

The more you play with the dough and start to learn the feel of it in different stages, the easier making bread will be.

As for steam, I used to always add ice and water to a pan at the bottom of my oven that had been preheating. Once you put your loaf in, quickly add cold stuff and very very quickly close your oven door to trap all the steam. It used to make perfect loaves everytime. (Of course, I haven't made bread in 5 years due to low cabinets. I got tired of hitting my forehead evertime I started kneading. [I'm really tall :hmmm: [)





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Bread