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HOMEMAKING ESSENTIALS #1 - Tips for the Best Bread

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TIPS FOR THE BEST BREAD. At the bottom of the article, you will find a special offer for a Bread Baker's Combination of products followed by my blue ribbon award winning Whole Wheat Bread Recipe.



1. When possible, use fresh home-milled flour with all of the bran and fiber intact for best results. Home-milled flour has the highest nutritional content, and the best baking characteristics for higher rising loaves of bread. Flour used for bread baking should always be room temperature for best results. Flour stored in the refrigerator or freezer must be brought up to room temperature before using.

2. Use high quality yeast such as SAF Instant Dry Yeast. SAF yeast has more live yeast organisms per tablespoon, is more heat tolerant, and does not require the extra step of "proofing" the yeast. If your whole-wheat bread is coming out like a brick, check and make sure that your yeast is still good. I have found that SAF yeast can be stored in the freezer in a moisture/vapor proof container (such as Tupperware) and remain viable for up to four years after it is opened. Unopened, the vacuum packed yeast can be stored on the shelf and remain viable for up to two years.

3. Remember to use warm water. Best temperature is 100-115 degrees for optimum yeast activity.

4. Many successful home bakers find the use of Dough Enhancer, a combination of natural ingredients which includes tofu, soy lecithin, whey, Vitamin C, yeast, citric acid, corn starch, natural flavor, and sea salt, to be quite helpful. These ingredients increase dough strength, and tolerance, aids lightness in bread, and promotes a longer shelf life for home baked goods.

5. If you aren't satisfied with the way your bread rises, consider adding Vital Gluten. This natural protein derived from wheat increases dough strength and the shelf life of bread. (Also, don't confuse Vital Gluten with gluten flour which is a high gluten white flour.) I especially like to use vital gluten when baking breads that contain a variety of grains and seeds other than wheat. I find vital gluten improves the texture of whole grain breads significantly and is essential to successful whole grain breads baked in automatic bread machines. In Marilyn's Famous Whole Wheat Bread, I use up to one cup for best results in the large mixer method.

6. Remember that less flour is often best. Too much flour causes dry crumbly bread. Make every effort to keep the dough soft and pliable, but not sticky while you are kneading. Use 1 tsp. oil on your kneading surface or on your hands while kneading and when it is time to shape the dough. This helps keep dough from sticking and avoids using excess flour.

7. Develop the gluten thoroughly The most difficult aspect of mastering bread baking is recognizing when the gluten is fully developed. When dough is properly kneaded it will be smooth and elastic. A quick test for sufficient kneading is to take a golfball-sized portion of dough, stretch between the thumb and index finger of both hands to determine if the gluten is fully developed. The dough should stretch out thin and not tear readily.

8. Although my Marilyn's Famous Whole Wheat Bread Recipe doesn't call for a first rising or proofing period, you may let the dough proof or raise once before shaping the dough into loaves. This step will develop flavor, gluten framework, and help make light, fluffy loaves of whole wheat bread. Remember, when you are in a hurry, this step is optional.

9. Make sure the shaped loaves only double before baking. (That means a loaf pan half filled with bread dough is ready to bake when the dough reaches the top of the pan.) Only fill the pan half-way two-thirds before the final rising period. A common mistake is to over-raise the bread; the structure of the loaf becomes weak and the loaf may sink or fall before the baking is completed.

10. To determine if the bread is thoroughly baked, the bread should be browned evenly over the sides, top, and bottom of the loaf. Remove the bread from the loaf pans and allow to cool on cooling racks. Finally, be sure to wipe out the bread pans, rather than to wash them, to protect the pans from premature rusting. This step is similar to seasoning castiron cookware.


Marilyn's Famous Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Hand Method: (yields 2 loaves)
1/3 C honey
1/3 C oil
2 1/2 C Warm Water
1 1/2 TB SAF Instant Yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
6-7 C Fresh whole wheat flour
1 1/2 TB Dough Enhancer

Large Mixer Method: (yields 5-6 loaves)
2/3 C honey
2/3 C oil
6 C warm water
3 TB SAF Instant Yeast
1 1/2 - 2 TB salt
16-20 C fresh whole wheat flour
3 TB Dough Enhancer

Zojirushi (Auto-Bakery) Method:
2 TB honey
2 TB oil
1 1/2 C water (90 - 100F)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 C fresh whole wheat flour
2 tsp Dough Enhancer
3 TB Vital Gluten
1 1/2 tsp SAF Instant Yeast

Combine the warm water, yeast, and 2 cups of fresh whole wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Allow to sponge for 15 minutes. Add the honey, oil, dough enhancer, salt and 4-5 C (12-16 C if using the Kitchenetics, Dimension 2000, or Bosch) additional flour until the dough begins to clean the sides of the mixing bowl. Do not allow the dough to get too stiff (too dry). Dough should be smooth and elastic. It is a common mistake for beginning bakers to add too much flour.

Knead the bread by hand 7-10 minutes or until it is very smooth, elastic, and small bubbles or blisters appear beneath the surface of the dough. 6-10 minutes of kneading by mixer method (use speed one on the Bosch or Dimension or the Auto-Knead function on the Kitchenetics) should be sufficient to develop the gluten if you are using fresh flour. If you are kneading by hand, be sure to add the minimum amount of flour to keep the dough soft and pliable.

Form the dough into 2 loaves if using the hand method or 5-6 loaves if using the large mixer method. Allow to rise in a slightly warmed oven or other warm place until doubled in size (about 30-60 minutes).
Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Bread is cooked through when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, and when the top and sides are a golden brown color.

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