The Guide To Making Handcrafted Bread

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The Technique

The Guide To Making Handcrafted Bread

Yeast risen bread doughs need not be complicated nor laborious when it comes down to active time involved in order to prepare them. From simple to more classic techniques, handcrafted bread baked in your own kitchen is a glorious way to spend a little time & the result is always well worth your effort. While ingredients drive flavor many times it is how they are manipulated that will ultimately determine the texture or the crumb one can expect when preparing specific types of doughs. The most simple formulas include flour, salt, water & yeast. Depending on the ratio of these ingredients & the procedure utilized, you can prepare baguettes or pita bread. When enriched doughs are desired, eggs & dairy can yield a Cinnamon-Orange Swirl Bread loaf or a Citrus Apple Butter Braided BreadOver the next few weeks, drop by for a daily tutorial & learn how to prepare some of your favorite bread styles along with ways they can be integrated into your weekly meal solutions.

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Handcrafted artisan loaves are satisfying, filling & open up a bevy of possibilities in which they can be served. Slice them to accompany with soup, build an exceptional sandwich or toast them to present with a variety of dips & spreads. Consider passing along a loaf of rustic bread as a memorable hostess gift that the honoree can enjoy long after the social has wrapped. 

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From simple techniques to more complex traditional procedures. Hone your skills & learn to prepare some of your favorite bread styles. Brush up on a little knowledge now & put it to use in the weeks ahead. Here’s what you should know.

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The Ingredients

It is always a good idea to measure ingredients before beginning any of the procedures to ensure the most accurate results when preparing bread.

The Flour & The Salt

The mixing procedure develops the gluten in flour to build the foundation of quality yeast raised doughs. Salt gives dough flavor. Without out it, expect a dull tasting bread. However, salt can kill yeast so it should be evenly dispersed into the flour before the yeast mixture is added. Use a whisk to complete the task.

The Yeast & The Proofing

Dry active yeast can be purchased in 1/4-ounce packets or in small jars. I use both when preparing bread recipes, generally based on what my store has in stock at the time. If purchasing a jar of yeast, store it in the refrigerator after opening. Just be mindful of the expiration date so you don’t find yourself in a jam. You’ll find that 2 1/4 teaspoons is the equivalent to 1 {1/4-oz} envelope of active dry yeast. 

It’s a good idea to dissolve dry yeast before using it. Combine the warm water, the yeast & a little sugar in a measuring cup or a glass bowl. Allow it to stand until foamy & bubbly. If no bubbles are created during the proofing process, the yeast will not be able to do the job. Simply discard the batch & start again. At this point, you’ll only be five minutes into the procedure so don’t get discouraged. If the bubbles are present then the yeast has proved to you that it is indeed good & you can proceed. 

The Sugar

Granulated sugar can be used at different stages when preparing bread. When combined with the water & the yeast during the proofing process, it serves to feed the yeast. It can also be used to provide a slightly sweetened flavor as well as aide in the browning process while baking. 

The Enriched Dough Additions

Eggs, butter, olive oil, cream, buttermilk & milk are a few of the items that can be added to dough that not only provide flavor but they work to enhance it by offering a rich & tender crumb.

The Flavor Enhancer Additions

Dried fruits, toasted nuts, herbs & olives compliment some bread styles beautifully. Sometimes these items are added at the beginning of the blending procedure while other times these may be folded in during shaping. Seeds & salts offer wonderful texture & flavor over bread surfaces. These techniques generally involve brushing the dough with an egg wash & topping it with the desired ingredients after the second rise & just before baking. A pastry brush will prove to be a valuable piece of equipment when this process is included in a recipe.

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The Tools & Equipment

A few tools & equipment essentials will be necessary in order to achieve success. Most traditional bread making techniques will call for a heavy duty stand mixer fit with a dough hook attachment. It will take care of all of the muscle work when it comes to kneading the dough. Bread doughs will give your mixer a good workout. Do not leave it unattended during the blending process as it may rock & shake a bit as the dough mixes. If a starter is involved, have a large glass bowl available. A whisk, a rubber spatula or a plastic dough scraper will aide in removing the dough from mixing bowls while a bench scraper will help divide the dough so shaping can take place. Additional tools may include a scale, a rolling pin & a pastry brush. Loaf pans, half sheet pans & specific pieces of equipment such a cast iron Dutch oven may be needed for some recipes. Have plenty of plastic wrap, parchment paper & cooking spray available for different stages during the process. Be certain to assess these items well in advance so you do not find yourself in a bind.

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The Starter Method

Starters are a wonderful way to prepare breads with a sourdough-like quality to them. They rely on stand time to develop flavor & texture making it a simple way for the home cook to replicate a fine artisan bread loaf they may find at their corner bakery. The benefit is that only a few minutes of active time is utilized at each stage in order to achieve stellar results for minimal effort.

The most elementary procedures include combining flour, salt, yeast & water until a shaggy dough forms. The bowl is then covered with plastic wrap & set aside on the counter top for 12 to 18 hours. When you’re ready to bake the bread, it is just a matter of shimmying the dough into a ball, slashing the top & baking according to specific recipe instructions.

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The Traditional Method

Patience is the key to making successful yeast risen bread loaves, particularly when utilizing a more time honored procedure. Do not rush the rise time be it the first or the second. 

The Mixing & The Kneading 

The mixing procedure develops the gluten in flour to build the foundation of quality yeast raised doughs. Most standard recipes call to blend doughs for at least 5 minutes. Depending of the ratio of ingredients used in the recipe, softer more sticky doughs many cling to the bottom of the work bowl during blending while others may clean the bowl completely. Follow specific instructions for the most accurate results.

The First Shaping 

Take an extra minute to complete this task properly. The dough can be flattened into a disc then flipped over & shaped into a ball or it can be neatly shaped by spinning it in a counter clockwise motion quickly between your hands. Be certain the surface is smooth & good craftsmanship followed. 

The First Rise 

Generally, doughs should be placed in large bowls & given plenty of room to expand. Be certain to coat the bowl in cooking spray & that the top of that dough has been greased as well so it will not stick. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming over the dough surface. 

Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot free from drafts until the dough increases by half or double its original size. This can take anywhere from an hour to an hour & a half depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If it’s rising slowly, turn on the oven & place the bowl of dough beside it to speed along the process. 

The Second Shaping 

After doubling in bulk, remove the dough from the bowl & place it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide & shape the dough as directed according to specific recipe instructions. A rolling pin, scale & bench scraper may prove to come in handy during this stage of the process. 

The Second Rise 

Place the shaped dough onto or in the pan according to specific recipe instructions. Generously coat loaf pans with cooking spray or line half sheet pans with parchment paper & place the prepared dough in them. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & let them rise in a warm spot free from drafts 1 hour or until the dough increases by half its original size. Egg washes & toppings may be addressed during this stage or just before baking. Allow individual recipe instructions to guide you.

The Baking 

Preheat the oven well in advance of baking. Remove the plastic wrap & proceed according to specific recipe instructions. Generally, you should aim for an internal temperature of 200 degrees or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing.

The Tune
“Fine & Mellow” Billie Holiday 

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About Rebecca Gordon

* Southern Born * Southern Bred * Tailgate Queen * Southern College Football Fanatic * SEC Tailgate Strategist * Southern Recipe Writer & Sometimes Novelist * Half-Hour Hostess * Media Personality * Houndstooth Hound Owner * Small Town Dreamer * Big Idea Doer * 3rd Generation Pimiento Cheese Fixer * Casserole Maker * Budweiser Drinker * Bourbon Cocktail Sipper * Peanut Butter Love Affair * Cookie Monster * Calorie Burner * Retainer of Useless Pop Culture One Liners * Terrible Dancer * Even Worse Singer but doesn't care * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Rebecca Gordon shares over 20 years of cooking knowledge in the instructional filled original editorial content on Buttermilk Lipstick as well as the cooking class format videos that can be found on her YouTube channel through regular collaboration with numerous media outlets. Gordon draws from an extensive background in corporate publishing spanning over 13 years on both the business and editorial side focusing on women’s southern lifestyle. She is a classically trained pastry chef and draws from fine dining restaurant experience from a James Beard award winning chef as well as her southern roots upbringing to share cooking, entertaining & style content relevant to today’s modern woman.

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