Making bread

Bread was always the ultimate mystery to me. I would go into the supermarket, buy a couple of loaves of bagged bread, come out, eat it, be happy…and so on. Never did I even try to wonder how it was made into a perfectly shaped rectangle. It did not matter to me for a while. I say for a while because as I started to become more health conscious, I learned that some of the stuff that goes into bread nowadays makes it a highly processed food that brings us very little benefit after simply providing nourishment. It makes us get full, it goes great with peanut butter and jelly; but besides that, I knew bread had to be more than the much dreaded carb monster that everyone was trying to avoid. Why was it that for thousands of years, bread making was an art, then out of the blue it’s this evil entity that is out to get every American with its evil calories and impeccably white crumbs. So I learned more about bread, merely to try to understand it some more. In the process, I discovered that bread making is still an art form that you can easily create at home.

While I was in Texas for Christmas break, my father and I decided to make some soft rolls and French bread. He was very excited at the prospect of teaching me what he knew about backing given he had a couple of years at a bakery under his buckle. He mixed the ingredients and when it was time to add in the flour, he simply did it by improvising, he added as much as he saw he needed. Now, that may be a good thing to do if you have experience in the field, however, for myself, as a beginner, it works best when I follow my recipe and most importantly, when I follow all the steps of bread making.

There are many things that can sabotage your bread baking. Sometimes not enough yeast is added, or too much salt is added and it kills the yeast, this is just to name a couple.

The following recipe was put to the test in my baking class at school. It is a simple way to make delicious soft rolls. I used the equipment that was provided for us in the classroom, but since then, I have baked rolls using the same recipe at home and they turned out perfect. The most important piece of advice would be to make sure everything is scaled and measured correctly, otherwise the results can be very unpleasant.  The very first time that I attempted to make bread I measured my pound of flour with measuring cups. BIG MISTAKE. Those rolls came out hard as bricks. It’s easier to buy an affordable scale at any Target, Wal-Mart, or similar store and it can make things easier in the kitchen.

To make soft bread rolls you will need the following:

Water……12.5 oz
Yeast fresh…..0.75 oz*
Bread flour…..1 lb 5 oz
Salt…..2 tsp
Sugar…..2 oz
Non fat milk solids….. 1 oz*
Butter….. 2 oz

* If you have the active dry yeast, mix .75 oz with 3x as much warm water ( 2.25 oz) Then subtract 2.25 oz from the water amount of 12.5 oz.

* Milk can be used in place of non-fat milk solids, once again subtract 1 oz from the total fluids used.

1. The method used for making soft rolls is called the straight dough method, you place the flour in a mixing bowl (it’s faster and easier with a mixer) then add the remaining ingredients, except the water. Mix flour with butter and using medium speed setting slowly add liquid until the dough  begins to come off the sides of the mixing bowl. The following picture was taken while I was still adding fluid. You can see that the dough is quite sticky, so it still needs some kneading. This process can also be done by kneading with you hand. Always remember to slowly add the liquid to get the right consistency which would be when it no longer sticks to your hands

2. Once the dough peels away from the sides of the mixing bowl, place on the counter and cover with plastic. The dough is ready when you push down with your finger and the dough pushes back up.

3. Let the dough rise to twice its size. Try to keep the room temperature at around 70-75 degrees farenheit. Once it has risen, gently punch down dough to remove air that had formed during fermentation. Take a bench knife (or any other sharp knife)  and cut the dough into equal size balls for individual rolls. Measure 3 larger dough balls of equal size to form a braid roll. It is best to scale out the dough when forming the balls. This is the scaling step.

4. Using a rounding motion, place hand over the scaled dough and with the palm of the hand round it and form into ball shapes. Once this is done, cover again with plastic wrap and being a seocnd fermentation.

5. When dough has plumped up a bit more, the air bubbles are once again removed using a french baking  method called ” to frazier“.

6. Roll out the dough the way the video shows and tie into different knots. Likewise, roll out the 3 larger sized balls into equal width rolls and braid it together. This step is called the makeup and panning step.

7.  The dough finally goes through the last step before baking, which is proofing. Allow the bread to rest for about 20 minutes in a “proof box”. When I bake at home, it’s easier to make my own proof box using my oven and setting it @ 175°F. Place a small pan with water to create humidity and so that the bread can “sweat”.  After proofing, the bread with become more plump. It is now ready for baking. Before placing in the oven though, brush egg wash (2/3 water + 1/3 eggs+ pinch of salt for darker colored bread; reduce egg content if  a lighter color is desired) . You may sprinkle sesame seeds, poppy seeds or any other desired seed to add flavor. Sprinkle after egg washing.

When removing the bread from the “proof box” quickly crank up the heat to 350°F  to preheat. Once preheated the oven,  bake the bread until it reaches desired golden brown color. To ensure it is thoroughly baked, tap the bottom of each roll and it should sound hollow.



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