That's great that you are getting into baking your own bread, ScottinPollock
! It's easy to get hooked on it! Also, besides tasting a lot better, it is much less expensive - the main reason I started baking my own bread was to save money. That was in '75, and I haven't bought a loaf of bread since '76! I belonged to a co-op then, which is when I learned about baking the bread, and got whole wheat and rye flours, and bulk yeast - something you can get in a lot of places now, but not then! The first bread book I got then - Bake Your Own Bread, And Be Healthier
- I got some good tips from, one of which was that honey, used as the sweetener, instead of sugar or molasses, has some sort of an "anti-molding" agent in it, and bread with honey in it will store a lot longer, without molding.
Using milk and/or eggs to dough enriches the dough, and changes the flavor, esp. with white bread. I rarely use them any more, since almost all of my bread is whole grain, and the flavor is sort of lost. Adding oil to bread is something that I do a lot, as it helps it store longer - about 4 tb is good for 7 or 8 cups of flour. Bread made with just flour, water, salt, and yeast will make bread with a really crunchy crust, but stales in just a day or so - the kind of bread you make as a dinner bread, to finish off quickly. If you put the remains of these breads in a plastic bag, or wrap tight in foil, it will loose the crunch, but will keep longer. And the breads with oil also freeze better - those crunchy loaves don't freeze for long - maybe a couple of weeks. I almost always make 2 or 3 loaves of rye (with some oil), and freeze 1 or 2 of them. In the summertime bread will mold faster at room temp., even with the ac on. I try to only keep it on the counter (in a bag) a couple of days, before putting it in the fridge. When it's cooler, maybe 4 days, if it lasts that long. The thing about refrigerating bread - IT MAKES IT STALE FASTER! Even in the bag, there is something about the cold, that makes the bread dry up. Usually, this ends up being for toast - the dryness doesn't really matter as much then.
I used to make some white breads with milk, and butter. I did it so much, that I kept a jar of dried milk, to use instead of fresh - mush easier, plus, I never have been one to have fresh milk around all the time. And I found out something years after I started this - dry milk is actually better than fresh, when baking bread, because certain proteins in the milk get "denatured" by the heat process. This is why you will often see them tell you to scald the milk, then cool it, to use in the breads. One of the white breads I used to make with milk was a pain de mie
, which also had 4 oz of butter to 6½ c flour, so this definitely added to the flavor! This is a bread traditionally made in a lidded pan, and the dough would expand to the top, making a dense bread. This makes a fantastic, crunchy, grilled cheese! It is traditionally used in a lot of French hors d'oeuvres, cut into shapes, and often with the crust removed (not something I have done). Haven't made this for years.
Another liquid that makes good bread, especially rye, and helps it taste like it has a pre-ferment of a couple of days, is beer. You can't use all beer, due to the alcohol, which will slow the yeast. You can boil the alcohol off, however, and use all beer then. I have never been much of a beer guy, but I used to collect the foam from the end of the kegs, that they had at parties at school, and boil the alcohol off, and freeze the beer. More recently, friends would give me beer, that had "gotten old", and that was my cooking beer.
Another liquid that makes a delicious rye bread is the brine from dill pickles - up to half the water can be replaced (and this makes adding salt unnecessary), maybe more, but it depends on the saltiness.
And this brings me to another thing about bread - SALT IS ESSENTIAL! A couple times early on I made the mistake of forgetting to add the salt, and knew it the second I bit into it! It's like not adding salt to pasta water, but worse. And it's not only the flavor, but also the chemistry of the bread. Ideally, it is recommended to add the salt after the yeast, some flour, and liquid are mixed together, and let rest, for 15 to 30 minutes. This is more important in sourdoughs, or the basic white breads; I rarely do this with my rye or other whole grain breads.
I have probably 60 or 70 bread books, in all those CBs I've collected through the years, but if you do want to learn about bread science, as you stated, here is an interesting book: