Quarantine Tips: Five Things To Remember When Baking Bread At Home
Always Use A Kitchen Scale
Accuracy is the key in baking. Unlike cooking where you can eyeball almost all ingredients and adjust the taste as you go, with baking you have to nail the proportions as much as possible. To do that, having a kitchen scale helps a lot. While measuring cups offer some precision, it's easy to pack too much flour, baking powder, or baking soda in them thus adding more to the dough than what is originally needed. Plus, cleaning is so much easier when using a kitchen scale as you'll only need a bowl or two to mix the ingredients in!
When To Use Dry and Fresh Yeast
Some recipes call for Dry Yeast, while some requires Fresh Yeast. So what is the difference between the two? Dry Yeast comes in two different options: Active and Instant. Active Dry Yeast is easier to find as most groceries have them. They are coarser and requires "activation" prior to usage. To activate this type of yeast, you just have to let it sit with lukewarm water for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, instant dry yeast, as its name suggests, can be used directly from the packet.
Fresh yeast is sold refrigerated in tubs. When bought, fresh yeast must be pale gray-brown in colour, fragrant, and soft. Prior to usage, fresh yeast must be proofed in tepid water.
It is best to use Dry Yeasts for breads that require shorter amount of time to rise or proof, while breads that need long cool rise requires the usage of Fresh Yeast. Also keep in mind that Dry Yeast lasts longer, for about four months when refrigerated, while Fresh Yeast only lasts for about two weeks.
Under-Kneading And Over-Kneading The Dough
Properly kneading the dough is very important as it affects the texture of the bread. It is quite tricky to know when to continue kneading or stop. Under-kneaded dough is usually loose, sticky, tears easily, and looks lumpy. Another sign that the dough is under-kneaded is when it cannot hold its shape. A properly kneaded dough is smooth and springs back when you make an indentation.
In terms of overworked dough, this is really hard to do unless you are using a stand mixer. It is always advised to knead the dough by hand to make sure that when it gets tough to stretch or work with, you would know when to stop. To further test whether the dough is properly kneaded, try the Windopane Test.
Letting The Dough Rest
Proofing and letting the dough rise is a crucial step in baking, even though it is also the least exciting. Having to wait must be excruciating for some but it needs to be done! The yeast you have added requires time to fully activate and respirate. Proofing allows for air pockets to form, thus producing a fluffy, flaky bread.
There are two steps to resting the dough: bulk fermentation and proofing. Bulk fermentation refers to resting the dough after the kneading process, prior to shaping. It usually takes about one to two hours to occur. Meanwhile, proofing is the final rise that occurs after the dough has been cut and shaped prior to baking.
How To Tell When The Bread Is Done
Are you unsure if your bread is fully baked? Well, there are a couple of indicators and tests you can conduct to check the doneness of your bread. First is the appearance. Is your bread golden brown and has a bit of browning on the edges? If so, it is most likely done. If you are baking a loaf, the edges must be slightly separating from the pan.
As for the insides of the bread, you can use a stick thermometer to check the temperature. It must be around 190 to 210 F. If you do not have a stick thermometer at home, you can use a toothpick to poke a hole and it must come out clean and dry. You can also try tapping the bottom or sides of the bread and it must sound hollow and firm.
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