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Old 05-28-2013, 08:07 PM   #21
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Question.

How do you measure your flour? If you are scooping and packing you get way too much flour. That can lead to all sorts of issues.

Weigh it, in grams. 1c = 120g (usually)
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Old 06-04-2013, 01:05 AM   #22
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I don't understand all the problems making bread. I've done it several dozen times and the worst I ever had was once when I made a very heavy chewy bread. I liked it but nobody else did. Then I moved on to focaccia...

For my first breads I followed the directions from Joy of Cooking.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:08 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by naphthalene View Post
Anything I make with bread dough or bread-like dough (soft pretzels, bread, bread rolls, croissant, etc) always turns out bad tasting (either like nothing, or the leavening agent...), dry, cracked, and it never browns evenly.

I can follow recipes fine on the internet usually, but anything I try to make out of bread just does NOT work.
I've been baking bread for around fifty years so let me share a bit of my knowledge.

I know that in the US you use cup measurements but to us Brits this seens very hit and miss for baking which requires precise measurements. It might be worth investing in an inexpensive set of kitchen scales so you can start weighing ingredients. I believe they are stocked in supermarkets and kitchen shops in the US. Also, look to your oven. IMO every cook's best friend is an oven thermometer which you can use to test the temperatre of your oven. In my exerience most oven thermostats are not very accurate and you may need to adjust the temperature

Another thing to bear in mind is that flour won't always absorb the precise amount of liquid that the recipe says and over-dry dough will makes a dry hard loaf.. With bread dough you need to learn to judge this by touch and texture. Incidentally, it's easier to add flour to bread dough which is too wet than to add water to dough which is too dry.

Are you using liquid that is too hot or not warm enough to activate the yeast? Liquid for bread making needs to be warm enough to be comfortable when you put a finger in it for a few seconds. Don't fall for the advice I've heard on a couple of cookery programmes recently, that you can make bread with cold water. Believe me - you can't.

Is your flour old? It's important with all types of flour that you abide by the "use by..." date.

Are you kneading and stretching it for long enough? Ten minutes kneading and stretching after mixing is the recommended time if you are doing it by hand (and even with the food mixer I still give it 10 minutes). When it's been kneaded enough it should be stable enough to stay where you put it instead of springing back when stretched.

When you put the dough to rise be careful that you don't put it in too high a temperature as the yeast can be killed off. Bread tends to have a better flavour if you put it to rise in a cooler rather than a very warm atmosphere to rise. My kitchen is cold when I'm not cooking so I sometimes leave my dough to rise overnight in an oiled bowl with a damp cloth over it so it doesn't get a skin on it. If I need it quicker I'll leave it near a radiator in the sitting room.

I still stick to the old way of kneading, rising and then kneading lightly again before shaping and leaving to rise again prior to baking although makers of the instant (eg Fermipan) yeasts which require no mixing with water to activate them as I find it makes a better loaf say this isn't really necessary.

You'll notice that I make bread by hand. It's very satisfying and you can work out your frustrations when kneading it. Give it a name - your husband's if he's annoyed you or that shop assistant who was rude to you or your boss! I have had a bread making machine in the past but it ended up in the thrift shop as the results were so hit and miss. Sometimes I got a perfect loaf but more often the bread was either soggy or so hard you could build houses with it so I gave up. In any case, although it sounds as though bread takes a long time to make, you don't have to watch it all the time. It will be quite happy on its own while you go shopping, walk the dog or watch television.

If you can find a copy of Elizabeth David's "English Bread and Yeast Cookery" snap it up. It tells you everything you ever needed to know about the subject and has some great recipes.

Experience counts with yeast baking so don't give up.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:42 AM   #24
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[QUOTE=Mad Cook;1273969]QUOTE]Sorry, a couple of mistakes there

1. I should also have said that if your yeast is out of it's "use by" date or hasn't been stored properly it won't work very well.

2. And the sentence about "Fermipan" yeast should have read:
I still stick to the old way of kneading, rising and then kneading lightly again before shaping and leaving it to rise again prior to baking as I find it makes a better loaf although makers of the instant (eg Fermipan) yeasts which require no prior mixing with water to activate them say this isn't really necessary.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Mad Cook View Post
I know that in the US you use cup measurements but to us Brits this seens very hit and miss for baking which requires precise measurements. It might be worth investing in an inexpensive set of kitchen scales so you can start weighing ingredients. I believe they are stocked in supermarkets and kitchen shops in the US. Also, look to your oven. IMO every cook's best friend is an oven thermometer which you can use to test the temperatre of your oven. In my exerience most oven thermostats are not very accurate and you may need to adjust the temperature.
That is just so true, everything you said! Good post!

I use weight (a scale) and I calibrate my oven with a digital thermometer. Everything else you said too, regarding moisture content etc.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:18 PM   #26
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[QUOTE=Greg Who Cooks;1271901]I don't understand all the problems making bread. I've done it several dozen times and the worst I ever had was once when I made a very heavy chewy bread. I liked it but nobody else did. Then I moved on to focaccia...

For my first breads I followed the directions from Joy of Cooking.[/QUOTE]

America's Bible of cooking. That and Julia's instructions. I love watching her make flaky breads. Her one and two finger marks have kept me sane over the years with kids running in and out of the kitchen with all sorts of dramas.
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Old 06-21-2013, 01:56 AM   #27
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And on a further note, I've moved almost all of my stuff from storage into my new home, and all my cookbooks are safe and secure now, my Rombauer and Rombauer Becker, my Julia Childs, my Steven Raichlin (supreme barbecueist!!!), all my stuff is here! All I have left is a couple oak tables and misc. furniture left to move, tomorrow, tomorrow being the solstice, the first day of summer, and I define that I'll be fully moved in when I have no storage unit anymore.

I was so worried that something could happen to my cookbooks and my art books, and I have no bibliography! To be sure I'll inventory them and put them on my remote storage so that if anything ever happens at least I can re-buy the same books (on Amazon) instead of having to re-research them. I have the very best (for me) cooking and art books, and I'd hate to have to figure out all which books again, I have a huge investment in going through all the chaff to find the very best of each genre.

Plus I got all of my souvenir books (Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc.) and they're safe too.

Why didn't I ever make an inventory? But now they're safe here and I'll do it soon.
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Old 08-19-2013, 06:51 PM   #28
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I have never attempted to bake bread. My mother made about 6 loaves every week. That was the only bread we ever had. My current family eats very little bread, so I've never tried making it myself.
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Old 08-20-2013, 05:51 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by CarolPa View Post
I have never attempted to bake bread. My mother made about 6 loaves every week. That was the only bread we ever had. My current family eats very little bread, so I've never tried making it myself.
Home-made bread freezes well. I usually wrap it in a tea towel while it defrosts at room temp. You can, in an emergency, defrost in the microwave but letting it take it's time to defrost is best.

I'm alone at home most of the time but I still make a large batch of dough and then freeze it either as rolls or small loaves and if I don't eat it quickly enough I put it through the processor or coffee grinder to make bread crumbs. I wouldn't normally freeze previously frozen foods but as the b'crumbs will be cooked again anyway and they are stored out of direct contact with other items I'm prepared to risk it.
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Old 08-23-2013, 09:55 AM   #30
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I used to think it was my gas oven but it turned out that I was not "kneading" the bread dough correctly. Once I got the hang of it, everything was fine!
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