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Old 08-26-2004, 11:06 AM   #1
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Bread baking techniques

I have been experimenting alot with new methods for bread baking that I have learned in my various books. I use all of these ideas routinely, as baking is a hobby for me, (time is no object) and I would like to get as close to perfection as possible. Certainly, I have had a great deal of success in the last year, and am very proud of some of the loaves I have been able to produce.

Nevertheless, I have to admit, that it is difficult to isolate which techniques result in the most improvement, and which have little effect at all. If I do ten things differently in a challah recipe, for example, while the finished loaf may be vastly superior to my previous attempts, it is almost impossible to say which changes truly made the difference, without going backward and making a determination using the process of elimination. (Which I hate to do, because it just feels wrong to go backward)

So I'm wondering, what has been everyone's experience with the following techniques and bread-baking issues.


When baking bread, I try to use a flour with at least 12% protein content, and for my most important loaves, I even go higher, with over 13%. What are peoples' impressions of the effect of protein content on bread? Keep in mind that I am well aware of what all the cookbooks and articles say about it. Has anyone done actual controlled tests in their kitchen to determine the precise effect?


I started with active dry, then read that instant was better, but I did not notice any signficant difference between instant and AD. I am now using fresh compressed for all my bread baking. My fresh-yeast bread is VASTLY superior to anything I have made in the past. However, in all fairness, the fresh yeast recipes are much more complex than my old instant or AD ones, and I have been much more fastidious about technique since I started using it, so the fresh yeast may NOT be the real cause of the improvement.


In the past, I followed the general time guidelines, and didn't pay much attention to how much the dough would rise. Now, I am very careful in only allowing the dough to double in volume, and when it is time for the final proof, I always carefully make sure that it only rises to about 1.5 volume, as recommended in my book. Does anyone know what effect this has? (Again, I know what the theory is, I'm interested in real-world application in a home kitchen) Also, has anyone noticed a significant difference in quality between bread that has only been proofed once before the final proof (as is standard in most recipes) versus bread proofed twice? (which seems to be common in the higher-end recipes)


It is recommended that one knead the dough after each proof to redistribute the yeast cells, so they have a better chance to grow anew by seeking new food supplies. This certainly makes sense conceptually. But does anyone actually know what the substantive effect is?

Egg Wash

I am told that the best egg wash is a single egg, with approximately 1/8 tsp of salt, beaten, and then left in the refrigerator overnight prior to use. This certainly changes the color of the wash, but can anyone confirm a definite improvement in the color/quality of the loaf after baking?


I read somewhere that Kosher salt is superior to iodized salt. Thus, I have switched to Kosher. Kosher is coarser, so you do have to measure by weight to get an accurate conversion from recipes that call for iodized salt, but since I measure just about everything by weight now, versus volume, it really doesn't change anything time-wise. My question is, has anyone noticed a real difference in their baking? The cost to me of using Kosher versus table salt is negligible, so I don't mind, but I have to wonder how big a difference this could possibly make. Any experiences out there?

Baking Stone

These days I bake my bread on a baking stone, more because it is less trouble to leave it in the oven, and it does seem to eliminate hot spots. But I wonder if it really makes any difference other than that. Obviously it is very useful for pizza, but has anyone noticed a substantial change for, say, braided loaves?


What is the effect of substituting water for milk? This is both a theoretical, as well as practical question, as I have not read about this particular issue. Specifically, I have an outstanding challah recipe that uses milk, but I would like to have the option of making it non-dairy, for use with kosher friends and family. I could of course just expirement, but I'm a little wary of improvisation, and don't want to risk making a poor loaf. (It's one thing to fail while trying to be perfect, but it's another thing to just throw the ingredients away, knowing there's a good chance of failure)


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Old 09-01-2004, 08:32 AM   #2
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"At first I wanted to point that my biggest challenge was baking soft delicate buns. Baking baguette was quite easier for me. I found that by adding a large pan with water at the bottom of the oven while baking, you get a great crust."

Yeah, I have heard of people doing this in order to create steam, which creates a crispier crust. Next time I bake baguettes, I might just try this out. Now don't I wish had one of those ovens with a built in steam maker!

"I also found out that the less time I give my bread on the second rise, the fluffier, better texture they get!"

Yes. This is what the good cookbooks seem to say. The final rise should only be to 1.5 volume, rather than 2. Typically, when I make challah, the final rise can take as little as 25 minutes. The way to know if bread has risen to this level is to gently press the dough with your finger. A slight indentation should remain, but it should still be relatively firm and elastic. If it's risen to the consistency of a big sponge, then you have waited too long.

Oh, by the way, I just tried bagels for the first time last night. The flavor was actually quite good, even though I'm positive I screwed many things up. For instance, the recipe calls for poaching of the bagels prior to baking. The bagels are supposed to sink to the bottom of the simmering liquid, and then float to the top after a couple of minutes. Yet mine just floated the whole time! :( Don't you hate it when things don't happen exactly like the recipe says they're supposed to?

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Old 09-02-2004, 10:16 PM   #3
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I, too, get a kick out of baking bread. But as I rarely use recipes, I am in no position to advise.

Except in the matter of salt.

Salt is salt. Sodium chloride. NaCl. When dissolved in water, its initial form is of no consequence whatsoever. A gram of any form of salt will convey exactly the same saltiness to the prodct. (That does not hold true if measuring by volume: finer particle sizes pack more densley, ergo the same volume will be saltier.)

The amount of iodine in iodized salt is, from a taste standpoint, negligible. (And it is just that tiny amount of iodine that has made a once common malady, the Goiter, almost unkown today)
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Old 09-03-2004, 01:24 AM   #4
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For baking, I imagine you're right about salt. While I use kosher salt, I think I do it more to satisfy my own snobbery than anything else. But on the cooking point, I really think the type of salt you use matters. I tried using iodized salt on a roast chicken, and it tasted AWFUL! Now granted, in all fairness, it was harder to spread evenly, so it's possible I oversalted it, but still, I really think sea salt tastes way better.
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Old 09-03-2004, 10:35 AM   #5
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I kind of think we often. Form our impressions of flavor based upon what we expect. My B/W ses only Morton’s Iodized Salt, and her chicken – roasted, fried, or whatever – is invariably delicious.

Then there’s this sea salt thing. First , ALL salt comes from seas, past or present. And all salt, as I said, is sodium chloride. So any difference in flavor is due to contaminants. According to the Leslie Salt Co., sea salt is ordinary salt that has not been as thoroughly rinsed (with sea water!) to remove those contaminants.

Considering the stuff that we humans dump into the oceans, I’ll take may salt thoroughly rinsed, thank you!
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Old 09-03-2004, 09:55 PM   #6
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:roll: Well to all you breadbakers.....I need to know another good recipe for german yeast rolls and german bread....I am not looking for a fancy recipe....just a simple plain one...ANY HELP????
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Old 04-29-2006, 09:41 AM   #7
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My little experiements

I've done all the experimenting that jasonr has.

My lastest set of experiements was to start with a basic recipe for bread and add 1 egg, 2 tbls oil, 1 tbl spoon butter.
Baked with a pan of ice cubes.

Then I did the same, except I eliminated the butter.
Baked with a pan of ice cubes.

Next I did the same, except I eliminated the butter and the egg.
Baked with a pan of ice cubes.

Lastly I did the same, except I eliminated the butter, the egg and the oil.
Baked with a pan of ice cubes

All turned out fantastic!

The first picture is the one with all three ingrediants.
The second is without the butter.
The third is without all three.

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The first loaf turned out very very nice. It was just perfect. The crust was just right and the moisture and inside was very palitable. You could use it for sandwiches and or toast or whatever. Delicious. You can make this same recipe in a baggette form. In other words about half of what you see. This is a large loaf. Also not sliced on top but rather I turned the seam up so it could split and release the pressure. Turned out okay.

The second loaf was without the egg and sliced on top. Equally fine however not as soft and "loose" as with the three ingrediants. A little firmer bread.
Crust perfect.

The last picture without any of the three ingrediants was not sliced because I wanted to see how close to Cuban bread or Pan I could get. It was pretty good.

I can not find any difference in salt, flour (unless you are doing whole wheat etc) and or water(s). The taste difference is negligable if any.

The ice cubes do a great job at crust building. And I don't have to coat the top with egg or anything else. It's the crust I want. Color and texture.

If I want to make a more exhotic bread(s) I just add fresh crushed garlic and oregano and or anything else including Parmesion Cheese too, or any combinations you like. They all taste sensational my friends say.

(No picture of the one without oil because it hardly made any difference.)

Hope this helps and I wasn't too wordy.
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Old 04-29-2006, 02:20 PM   #8
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I have been baking bread for about 50 yrs. I make an excellent mixed grain/flour bread with molasses. I make a white bread too.
Always use hard winter wheat flour. Makes a big difference in bread as it develops more gluten.
Usually use water but in whole wheat type bread I use milk.

I use oil or butter depending how I feel.

I use instant yeast. Let the dough rise twice but when I form the loaf either free hand or in a pan I do not bother letting it rise again. I use a stone for free hand loaves. You can use about 1/4 of the yeast required and let it develop more yeast over 24 hrs in the liq and 1/4 amt of flour and sugar. After 12 hrs add aanother 1/4 amt of flour and mix well. Do not refrig.

I spray the oven and loaves with water 2 or 3 times during baking.

I use honey instead of sugar in wht bread.

I am still trying to perfect a crusty, country loaf with lots of holes in it. I'ved used sour dough and long sitting to develop flavor and more yeast but the texture is still not what I want. I think the secret is constant steam into the oven when baking. Since I will be moving to a retirement home this year, I will never succeed in my quest.
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Old 05-03-2006, 05:59 AM   #9
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What kind of consistency did you work the dough into? I usually stop once it stops sticking to my hands... What kind of consistency should it be?

And is the softness of the bread from the oil added into the dough or is it the steam?
A university student in New Zealand.
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Old 05-07-2006, 11:15 AM   #10
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Good questions...very good questions.

I cant begin to try and answer all of them, as so many different variables contribute to how a bread turns out (weather, oven, type of yeast, etc), but I can give some insight into my experiences.

Regarding yeast, I rarely ever even use much commercial yeast anymore since I began baking with a nice biga, which is a starter normally used for italian breads..from what I hear. There are some nice threads regarding the use of a biga, and I can say I will probably never bake bread without using a starter, as results have been better. Essentially it is utilizing a sourdough technique, which means you mix an equal amount of flour and water and let it sit out for a few days until natural, airborn yeast enters your concoction and the mixture begins to ferment. Ill let you read the other threads because it is an interesting process, but what you end up with is a nice, natural starter for your loaves (and you can keep this "colony" of yeast going for as long as you want). I then add maybe a very small pinch of dry active yeast if I need a loaf soon, otherwise I let it rise overnight. I think the taste of the bread is much superior then using any commercial yeast.

I wish I had a baking stone and I am jealous of all of you that do. I cant find one in Germany!

Speaking of Germany....MssRussell...I cant give you an authentic German bread recipe that someone has given me, but I have tried to copy a German Onion bread that I find regularly. To make this, I use a flour which is I imagine similar to 12 grain, in other words, thick. I pour about a cup of starter and use a cheese grater to great 1 medium onion and let it sit for about 12-24 hours (depending on how "sour" you want it) and then add about a half cup water, a pinch of AD yeast, teaspoon seasalt, tablespoon sugar, 3 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoon garlic powder, and enough 12 grain flour to make it just kneadable. I then knead it for 10 minutes using normal white flour (type 405) and then let it rise, punch it down, form it into a round loaf, and let it rise another hour or so before I bake at 450 for 10 mins, reduce to 300-350 and bake for another 20 mins until crust is desired hardness. Yum!

Regarding kneading, you will want to punch down the dough when it is 1.5-2x volume, which from what I understand, redistributes the airpockets and yeast into a more equal proportion throughout the loaf. I have baked loaves where I didnt do this and what you end up with is a huge airpocket just under the crust.

I like kosher salt because, well, no particular reason. I just think its better :)

I never use an egg wash. Once I got to "know" my oven, I never had to use one to get a desirabe crust.

Using milk or yoghurt, I have found, is best for softer type breads. Breads that I know I will only bake for 10-20 minutes (Indian Naan, rolls, etc) just seem to come out softer and nicer when I use a dairy liquid. When baking things like ciabatta, french bread, sourdoughs, etc I havent seen a big difference in taste.

Hope this helps a bit!

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