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OK...I'm going to try bread AGAIN...help!


NVNVGirl
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I keep hearing that "handle it the least amount of time that you can or it will be tough" mantra in my head and I get scared to practically touch it once it's mixed!

This is one of those tidbits of information that can cause more harm than good sometimes. Don't want to throw more circumstantial evidence your way, but from my experience being afraid to handle after it has been mixed has resulted in one thing, one huge giant gas bubble in the middle of the loaf. The biggest disappoint I have ever had was with loaves that seemed to rise perfectly, only to slice them and find that they are a glorified balloon.

On the other side of the coin is the phrase 'punch down'. Again, this is just my opinion, but the truth lies in the middle, not either extreme. Not handling your dough much gives you huge holes (if ya got your water levels right, your heat, etc.). Handling it too much gives a tighter more uniform crumb (same caveats). So I think basically what I'm trying to say is this: don't fear your dough, respect it. Be firm, but not overbearing. You are in control, but be mindful. Kinda the same rules you use when training pets (and yes, I'm looking at my dog while i write this) :D

Please delete my account from eGullet

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Alright everyone....WE did it!!! I'm going to try to post a photo (it's not very good regardless, b/c my digital isn't working and I had to use my phone camera, but you can kind of get an idea...IF I can figure out how to post a photo :biggrin: .

I want to say and I am very sincere when I say this....THANK you to EVERYONE for their input. I have NEVER had any bread turn out even close to this, and even though, while I was mixing it (I used a KitchenAid with the doughhook only) and it looked BEAUTIFUL (in my eyes), I still had several instances of "oh nooooo....this isn't going to turn out AGAIN". But it DID. And it's really Delicious! It might not be the most PERFECT looking loaf, but if you knew what the poor thing went thru, you'd be sympathetic, LOL.

Well now! I think I know how you feel. It took me forever to begin to feel comfortable making bread. Reading your own experiences and your struggle here, I'm reminded that I went through pretty much the same shebang years ago. And my poor husband had to live through it with me.

About notes. I'd second the suggestion to keep notes. I kept notes about every step I took with every batch when I first started. Every little variation, every minute, every inch of every detail was noted down. It helped immeasurably. I still keep notes.

On the other hand, don't worry too much about a little variance with your instant-read thermometer. I used to be fanatical about it. Now? Not a big deal. Although I do keep two of them as well to make sure they're actually working. And it's not absolutely crucial, actually, that your bread be precisely thus and such internal temp to be fully cooked. These are more or less guidelines. Not written in stone by a long shot. My rosemary loaf, for example, is better when it comes to an internal temp of roughly 190. Nearly every resource will insist on 200-205 at least. Truly, it depends on the loaf, and there's often a safe ten degree variance for a finished loaf, more or less. But if you bake enough, over time you'll probably be able to know when a loaf is done just by the way it looks and smells, so long as you're routinely baking the same sort of loaf.

In other words, don't drive yourself crazy.

I will say, though, that I prefer to bake pretty hot. Stick to what you're doing for awhile and over time you'll get a better sense of how the heat will work for you.

I haven't put pics up for awhile and so I'm a little fuzzy on the details of that, but can you get into your "assistant" function to upload?

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Just a small contribution again about handling doughs. There are certain types of biscuits that work best if you just barely form a shaggy mass of dough before baking. That's the famous southern type biscuit. So there's that. But those are more cake, than bread. There's no yeast involved, for example.

On the other hand, the caution about handling a bread too much also depends on where you are in the process. If you're kneading a bread, if you're mixing it in a mixer, obviously you're going to be handling the bread somewhat roughly. Nancy Silverton actually gives a little tutorial in her book, guiding the reader through her own kneading process which is to fold about a third with one hand, pick up and sort of flick into the air and then bang down on the counter (actually another well-known baker did this in the Julia Child "Baking With Julia" series as well). That's a well-handled dough.

And that's fine, if you want to do that. But there's as much evidence to suggest it's not entirely necessary, and that you can get really beautiful results using the stretch and fold method, which is a gentler way of handling a dough. No "punching" for sure. If you do it correctly, you don't end up with a gas bag masquerading as a loaf of bread, you'll end up with, well, something like this:

http://www.thevillagebakeryonline.com/craf...san_breads.html

or this:

http://www.thevillagebakeryonline.com/breads.html

The first is a fairly wet dough that is only very briefly mixed to incorporate the ingredients and then finished with the stretch and fold method and then finally very loosely shaped before the final proof, and the second is a ridiculously wet dough that is mixed for about 15 minutes and then finished with the stretch and fold method using bench scrapers only, and then, again, a loose shaping for final proof.

The one I mix for 15 minutes is an anomaly. All my other breads are mixed only for about a minute, slowly, just to incorporate ingredients, and then finished with the stretch and fold method, and then shaped very gently for the final proof. I don't use elaborate shaping techniques with folding and folding again and pinching and the like, although I used to until I discovered that for me it just seemed an unnecessary and fussy step.

So anyway, not to hijack the thread, and it's probably yet another example of how the process is more complex than simply saying "do this" without clarifying where "do this" (or "don't do this") works best in the overall process.

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Oh I love that feeling when it just WORKS! My first success with bread was so exciting, and I still want to do the happy-dance when I put something in the oven and see it starting to rise up...

I definitely agree with you that it's worth trying the same recipe a few more times to get confident and start to learn some of those bread-making lessons that you can't really be "told". You will become so much more relaxed as you go, and I dare say you will find it enjoyable and addicting... "who's going to eat all that bread" is the same thing i think!

When you are up for something a bit more unusual, why don't you try just adding little bits and pieces to the current recipe? It's a good way to start trying things without feeling like you're completely in the dark again... Some spices in the dough, or seeds (like some linseeds) in the dough. You can brush the top with egg/milk/water and put on poppy seeds, all that kind of stuff. Other additives will start to affect the process (such as sugars speeding it up, lots of spices slowing it down etc) but you will learn by trying, and I find that even my slightly-wrong loaves are still tasty.

welcome to a new world :)

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I'm sooo happy for you. I have that feeling every time I make a successful loaf of bread. To me it is the ultimate in kitchen alchemy and providing I don't take it too seriously if it doesn't work - makes me super excited when it does.

The first few attempts were for whole wheat flour (as we don't usually eat white bread). Then I tried all purpose white, then white bread flour (which I found much better). Now I mix half white bread flour and half whole wheat bread flour. I can even stick one half of the dough in the freezer and still come up with good results. My bread would probably never meet the standards of some of the experts here but we enjoy it and until practice makes perfect this is what we eat.

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Just a small contribution again about handling doughs. There are certain types of biscuits that work best if you just barely form a shaggy mass of dough before baking. That's the famous southern type biscuit. So there's that. But those are more cake, than bread. There's no yeast involved, for example.

So anyway, not to hijack the thread, and it's probably yet another example of how the process is more complex than simply saying "do this" without clarifying where "do this" (or "don't do this") works best in the overall process.

I agree.

There is a big difference between the so-called "quick" breads, biscuits, scones, and so on, where one does NOT want the gluten to develop and thusly, many of the "southern" quick breads are made with flour that has less gluten, less protein so they will be tender, light and flaky.

In yeast breads one does want the gluten to develop strong strands so as to contain the gas produced by the action of the yeast and the only way to do that is to combine the flour with a liquid and bang the bits together until the gluten has formed the long, strong strings that give one the "window-pane" effect where the dough can be stretched into a very thin sheet without falling apart.

Unless one is using the "slack-dough" or higher moisture dough technique, this requires a certain amount of kneading, whether by hand or machine and it is difficult to over-knead most types of bread. The "French" or "Italian" types require even more kneading, as do many of the artisan breads.

Resting the dough overnight in the fridge after the first rise is one way to develop more flavor and there has been extensive discussion about this on other threads. I never worry about precise timing of the rise because, as mentioned by another, I go by the "feel" of the dough - when I press a finger into the dough and the dent does not immediately spring back, it is ready for the next phase, either into a plastic bag to rest in the fridge overnight, or punched down and formed into loaves for the final rise and bake.

If you could see how much the dough is worked in a bakery, you would lose all your fear of over-kneading the dough. It is kneaded, chopped, kneaded, shaped, rolled, banged around and yet comes out looking and tasting lovely. And yes, when shaping by hand into boules or rolls, bakers work on an oiled surface with oil on their hands.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'm not disagreeing with Andiesenji.

One need not worry about over-kneading bread dough. That is very, very hard to do at home! Even with a mixer.

But its actually surprising just how little kneading effort one can get away with...

And here, I'd like to sharpen up Andiesenji's terminology. Specifically "resting".

That term would not normally be used to describe overnight in the fridge - good technique though that is.

But a different "resting" of the dough is a very good thing to learn to do.

Rather than kneading for fifteen solid minutes, try kneading for just two, then resting the dough (covered to protect against drying out) for 15 minutes, knead again for two, and rest for another fifteen before a final two minutes kneading.

Less than half the work should get you a smoother dough.

One can quickly start throwing around terms like 'autolyse' (a specific refinement of the 'resting' idea) - but the basic point is to learn to leave the dough to develop by itself. You can just help it along rather than trying to knock six bells out of it!

Similarly, I've learned about the value of resting during shaping.

Divide and pre-shape, then let the dough rest and relax for ten minutes or so, before final shaping. And I'm currently learning that a similar idea improves my pastry (which I'm not very good at!)

But the point I'm making is that the business of patient coaxing, rather than wrestling with, gluten is a different aspect to the development of more flavour in the bread by long, slow and usually cool fermentation - which would more usually be one of the things referred to as "retarding".

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I grew up in a house where several types of bread were baked every day, both yeast breads and quick breads.

However, when I began working in my mom's bakery at age fifteen, I was surprised at how different some of the steps were and I was fascinated by the big horizontal mixer that really worked the heck out of the dough.

From there, the dough was dumped into a huge rolling dough "trough" with a heavy lid for the first "rise" or fermentation. It was punched down after an hour (usually when it was beginning to lift the top) then punched down again, transferred to the bench (in portions) and cut and scaled by hand and allowed to rise again on the bench before being run through the machine that rolled and formed it into a cylindrical roll to go into the loaf pans that were then racked and rolled into the steam box for the final proofing before going into the oven.

Note that this involved more fermentation sessions than usual in home-baked recipes and the final product had a wonderful flavor. The "French" and "Italian" doughs were kneaded much longer than the "regular Home-Style" bread.

I learned that yeast dough is very forgiving and precise times are not all that important.

My mom and stepdad are scaling bread dough on the bench.

gallery_17399_60_3171.jpg

My mom at the oven, me by the rack - I had been unloading the first run of panned bread. My mom was checking on something else that was in the oven at the same time.

gallery_17399_60_1932.jpg

That is a 16-rack oven with the "racks" going around the central burner like a Ferris wheel.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I grew up in a house where several types of bread were baked every day, both yeast breads and quick breads.

However, when I began working in my mom's bakery at age fifteen, I was surprised at how different some of the steps were and I was fascinated by the big horizontal mixer that really worked the heck out of the dough. 

From there, the dough was dumped into a huge rolling dough "trough" with a heavy lid for the first "rise" or fermentation.  It was punched down after an hour (usually when it was beginning to lift the top) then punched down again, transferred to the bench (in portions) and cut and scaled by hand and allowed to rise again on the bench before being run through the machine that rolled and formed it into a cylindrical roll to go into the loaf pans that were then racked and rolled into the steam box for the final proofing before going into the oven.

Note that this involved more fermentation sessions than usual in home-baked recipes and the final product had a wonderful flavor.  The "French" and "Italian" doughs were kneaded much longer than the "regular Home-Style" bread.

I learned that yeast dough is very forgiving and precise times are not all that important.

My mom and stepdad are scaling bread dough on the bench.

gallery_17399_60_3171.jpg

My mom at the oven, me by the rack - I had been unloading the first run of panned bread.  My mom was checking on something else that was in the oven at the same time. 

gallery_17399_60_1932.jpg

That is a 16-rack oven with the "racks" going around the central burner like a Ferris wheel.

Ohhhhhhhh Myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy......that's serious breadmaking :shock: !

I guess I should have stipulated that my issues are primarily with yeast breads; I seem to do ok making muffins, scones and the like. But how hard is that? Of course, I'll omit dumplings from that statement :hmmm: .

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For some beautiful breads check out the thread Artisan Breads in Five Minutes here on eG. No skill required.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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With all due respect, I'll have to disagree here.

Seana, if you've had success with the CI recipe, you're already past any no-knead recipes. The Artisan 5 Min recipe is basically a yeast sponge that people are told to bake up and call bread. The crust is beautifully golden because the dough is superhydrated. But the taste, texture and structure of the interior of the bread can be very inferior. After more than 24 hrs of fermentation (which is allowable in this method), the yeast can begin to starve, causing off flavors and bad odors in the bread. I baked four batches of the Artisan 5 Min bread (after borrowing the book from my public library) and my results ranged from dreadful to mediocre. I don't think it's me. I think the method is problematic, and I never recommend it to anybody.

I suggest you stick with what you're doing and learn to make good-quality real bread.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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[

That recipe is my 'go-to' for a loaf of very good, dependable bread. And 'white' is a bit deceiving. This is not Wonder Bread! It has good flavor and a great crumb. Just follow the directions exactly . I am absolutely not a baker, but have never had a failure with this bread. Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

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Congratulations and I'd say 'your welcome', but you did everything!  I, like you, am an inexperienced baker, but have had such success with this loaf that I knew you'd be able to do it!  It looks good, it tastes good and it isn't too hard.  A perfect loaf for us beginning bakers!  Enjoy your new hobby.  I think everyone I know got a loaf of that bread when I first started baking it - I was just so thrilled with myself! :laugh:

LOL....yeah, I definitely get that :laugh: . I had a cockatoo for about 20 yrs and she'd had two other owners before me; she started laying eggs after I'd had her 19 yrs .....with the first one, you'd have thought I invented the egg laying process and laid the egg MYSELF :rolleyes: ; I called EVERYBODY I think I"d EVER known to tell them I was going to be a grandma :blush: . It was like the miracle of all miracles! Those hopes were dashed while I was making phone calls though, when my male cockatoo got into her cage and picked the egg up and dropped it onto the floor :wacko: .

Hopefully, my progress with bread will have a better outcome, haha.

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      ASSEMBLE THE PICKLES:
      Place one wide-mouth quart canning jar (or two wide-mouth pint jars) with their lids in a pot of water to cover, place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees). Remove the pot from the heat and allow jar(s) and lid(s) to remain in the hot water until needed.
      *After the 4 hours are up (crisping the vegetables as described above) pour the vegetables into a large colander and rinse well. The cucumber slices should taste only slightly salty. Return the rinsed vegetables to the bowl, add the mustard seeds and celery seeds and toss well until evenly distributed. Set aside.
      Return the syrup to the microwave, microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes [or heat the syrup on the stovetop] until an instant read thermometer shows the temperature of the syrup is 190 to 200 degrees.
      Place the vegetables into one wide-mouth quart jar, or in 2 wide-mouth pint
      jars that have been scalded as described above. Pour the syrup over the vegetables, place the lids on the jar or jars, tighten well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
      The following day, turn the jar upside down - then continue to turn every day for 2 weeks. (This is to insure that the pickles are evenly flavored)
      After 2 weeks open the jar and taste. The pickles should be ready to eat.
      Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months.
      ( RG2154 )
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