Since my last post about bread making, I’ve learnt several more lessons (some painful). Baking bread is definitely a science, and my style of improvisation doesn’t always work out. But if I can do it, anyone can.
The most important thing I’ve learned is how to adjust the amount of liquids for each recipe. You’ll need to add more liquids if you substitute any portion of your flour with whole wheat flour. The amount of water also depends on your kitchen’s humidity. If your kitchen is dry, you’ll need to add more liquids. Finally, it’s important to properly measure the flour because too much flour will result in a dry dough. Avoid packing your flour too tightly by fluffing it up in the container. Then, scoop it with a spoon and sprinkle the flour into your measuring cup. If you have a kitchen scale, then skip all of that and just weigh it for optimal results.
Understanding the above is helpful in preventing a dry and dense bread loaf early on. However, knowing it’s never too late to save the dough was the true game changer. Once the bread machine begins to knead the dough, you can quickly tell if the dough looks like a puddle or if it’s a shaggy dry mess. Instead of baking the dough and hoping for the best, you can salvage the bread by adding more flour or liquid. Start by allowing the bread machine to knead the dough uninterrupted, as sometimes the dough just takes time to form. If the dough isn’t coming together or is lumpy after several minutes, then it is too dry. If the dough is sticking to the sides, then the dough is too wet.
The key is to carefully add one tablespoon of either water or flour at a time. As I’ve learned, pouring water from the Brita onto a tablespoon above the dough isn’t going to end well.
The type and even the brand of your flour may also affect the amount of liquids needed. My unbleached all purpose Canadian flour has a higher protein percentage than American flour. This means that I might need much less flour than listed in the recipe. Although you can always adjust the liquids during kneading, the flavour and rise of the dough will be affected when the difference is too great. The ratio that works best for my flour and machine is 3 – 3 ½ cups of flour, 1 cup water, and 2 ½ teaspoons yeast. When you figure out your ratio, you’ll get better at identifying recipes that will result in a successful loaf. You’ll also be able to adjust any recipe that lists more flour for the same amount of water and yeast you require.
After baking your own bread, your patience will get tested while you wait for it to cool. Know that slicing your bread will be much easier once it is properly cooled. If that isn’t enough incentive, then keep in mind that the bread continues to bake outside of the bread machine. Let the bread complete its cooking process, and you’ll be rewarded with a better tasting loaf. Achieve the best results by removing the bread from the pan as soon as it is done baking. Place the bread on a cooling rack to ensure you won’t end up with a soggy bottom. Then place the bread in the oven, and leave the door slightly open. Cool the bread slowly to avoid a wrinkly crust.
The last time I baked bread, I was so eager to get it to cool that I burned my arm while flipping the pan over. Always use long oven gloves to carefully remove the freshly baked bread from the still very hot pan. If you’re curious, the bread turned out great and is now my go-to sandwich bread.
Below are both of my favourite recipes so far, though I suspect this French-Style Country Bread with poolish starter is going to taste incredible. Cooking with poolish could fill another whole post, but I’ll just say that it gives bread (and pizza dough) an amazing restaurant-quality flavour.
Maple-Glazed Water Challah
The original recipe & method: https://www.thespruceeats.com/vegan-water-challah-2121423
My modified recipe (which I usually halve)
- 200 ml water
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
Although the order recommended by my bread machine is liquids followed by dry ingredients, I prefer to let the flour fully hydrate first. I add all of the ingredients into the bread machine in the order above, except for the olive oil. Then I turn the machine on the dough cycle, and after exactly two minutes I add in the olive oil while it’s still kneading.
Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
The original recipe & method: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/100-whole-wheat-bread-for-the-bread-machine-recipe
My modified recipe
- 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup local lavender honey
- 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast yeast
The original recipe & method: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/hamburger-or-hot-dog-buns-recipe
My modified recipe:
- 50 ml water
- 150 ml non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 ¼ cups whole wheat bread flour
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons bread machine yeast
My modified method:
- Add all of the ingredients into your bread machine according to your manufacturer’s recommended order (mine is liquids first).
- Run the dough cycle.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal buns, and place on a silicon mat for a second rise.
- Brush each bun with a mixture of maple syrup and soy milk before sprinkling with sesame seeds and baking.