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What Tools Do You Need to Bake Bread?

Few smells are more enticing than a loaf of homemade bread baking in your own oven, but perfecting the loaf is no easy task. Continue reading to learn more about baking bread.


What Tools Do You Need to Bake Bread?

You can make bread at home with very few ingredients, but there are a few tools that you should invest in.

1. Proofing baskets: Beautiful boules require cloth-lined wicker baskets (or colanders lined with clean dish towels). Your proofing cloth will develop a protective flour coating over time, allowing breads to slide in and out easily. Trace amounts of bacteria and yeast can also cut proofing time by up to 15%. Your proofing vessel's shape is determined by the type of bread you bake. You'll need a wavy proofing tray with ridges for each long, narrow stick of bread if you want to bake baguettes. Breads baked in pans, such as focaccia or sandwich loaves, are usually proofed directly on the baking sheet or loaf pan.

2. Lidded Dutch oven: A lidded Dutch oven, preferably made of heat-retaining cast iron, is a must-have for the artisan bread baker at home. It helps to recreate the atmosphere of large, traditional wood-fired ovens. Modern ovens do not get as hot as log-burners and have vents that allow steam to escape easily. Preheating a Dutch oven ensures that the baking vessel's surface is extra hot when the bread goes in the oven; the lid traps steam, allowing the bread to rise faster. Moisture is essential in this case. During the first ten minutes of baking, the soft dough encourages maximum expansion.

3. Kitchen scale: When it comes to measuring ingredients, there are usually two options: volume (tablespoons, milliliters) or weight (ounces, grams). Volume is a measurement of how much an ingredient fills a container; it is useful for liquids, which take on the shape of the vessel in which they are placed. However, it is less accurate for solid ingredients, which have their own distinct shapes. Furthermore, the accuracy of a volume measurement is entirely dependent on the container; when it comes to home-baking tools, minor differences in measuring cups can throw a recipe into disarray. Weight, on the other hand, refers to how heavy an ingredient is regardless of the container. (Note: The metric standard is grams, whereas the US uses ounces. Use the former whenever possible because it is more precise.) Unlike volume measurements, which may be affected by the size and shape of an ingredient, weight remains constant.

4. Cooling rack: Your loaf of bread is not finished baking simply because you remove it from the oven. The interior of the bread is much hotter than the exterior at this point; cooling the bread allows the heat and moisture to be distributed evenly throughout. For the most efficient cooling, use a wire cooling rack that allows air to circulate all around your bread.

5. Stand mixer with dough hook attachment: While you can knead many breads by hand (and some "no-knead breads" require very little kneading at all), it's sometimes easier to use a stand mixer. This is especially true for delicate brioche, which requires a long period of gentle kneading.

6. Mixing bowls: For combining wet and dry ingredients, a large glass mixing bowl is ideal. You can also watch your bread dough rise if you use clear glass.

How Do You Test Yeast?

Many bread recipes call for commercial yeast to rise. The majority of yeast breads are made with active dry yeast, which is made up of dried granules in a protective coating. The advantage of using active dry yeast is that it can be stored for a longer period of time, but this does not mean it will always be good. Dry yeast, like live yeast, will die after a few months. Before using yeast, always test it. Here's how it's done: In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast and one tablespoon of warm water with a fork. Allow for two minutes for activation. To check for activation, whisk the mixture briefly with a fork; the mixture should foam.

This blooming step is not required for instant yeast. When added directly to dry ingredients, it dissolves faster than active dry yeast. However, you can use the same method of whisking with warm water to test your instant yeast.


What Is a Sourdough Starter?

A sourdough starter is an acidic community of natural yeasts and bacteria that is used to leaven and flavor bread. Pre-ferment, levain, leaven, and la mère are all names for sourdough starter.

To make sourdough bread, use a sourdough starter (flour, water, and naturally occurring yeasts and bacteria) instead of commercial yeast. The natural yeast causes the dough to rise, while the bacteria add a pleasant tang. The only disadvantage is that sourdough starters must be maintained on a daily basis.


How Often Should You Feed a Sourdough Starter?

Refreshing your starter (removing most of the starter and replacing it with fresh flour and water) gives the yeasts new food, increasing production and, as a result, improving its ability to leaven your bread. Furthermore, stirring the starter introduces oxygen, which yeast requires for reproduction.

You'll notice that your starter rises and falls throughout the day as you observe it. You should feed your starter when it first begins to fall. The frequency and time of refreshment will depend on when you last fed your starter, the temperature of the room, and the specific microorganisms inhabiting your starter, but most bakers refresh their starter once or twice a day.

If you need to stop the starter's growth, you can put it in the fridge for up to a month and stop the discard-and-feed process. After removing the container from the refrigerator, continue the discard-and-feed cycle for at least three days before baking.


How can you tell if your Sourdough Starter Is Ready?

Whether you're baking sourdough bread for the first time or reawakening your mature starter from a brief hibernation, there are three basic ways to tell if it's ready to use. You can tell by looking at:

Smell: Your starter should have a pleasant funky aroma. Don't be concerned if it smells bad. That is simply an indication that it is time to refresh (also known as feed) your starter. Allow it a few days of regular feeding before baking bread.

Sight: A ready starter will be very bubbly. Keep yours in a glass jar to monitor changes.

Time: Keep a starter journal. It will provide you with valuable information and, ideally, reveal your starter's distinct rhythm and cadence.


How Long Does Dough Need to Proof?

The final stage of fermentation occurs when the bread dough rises in its final baking vessel or a proofing basket. Although many bread recipes specify a timeframe for proofing, volume is the most obvious indicator that fermentation is complete. For most breads, fully fermented dough will have doubled in size, while air bubbles on the surface indicate that the dough has over-proofed. You can also use your finger to poke the top of the dough: fully fermented dough will have an indentation. It can't recover because the gluten has been stretched to its breaking point.

You can visually monitor the progress of your proofing vessel by covering it with plastic wrap or a clear shower cap.


How Can You Tell When Your Bread is Done Baking?

The most visible indicator is a dark golden brown crust on fully baked breads. (If in doubt, err on the side of a darker crust.) You can also check for doneness by tapping or knocking on the bottom of the loaf. The bread is ready if the knock is clear; if the knock is dull and muffled, the interior has not fully developed. Don't forget to use your nose: you can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread.


Where Should You Store Your Bread?

To keep your homemade bread fresh, keep it at room temperature in a clean kitchen towel or paper bag, allowing it to breathe without becoming stale. Fresh bread can be stored in this manner for up to a week.

Freeze whole loaves (or quartered loaves) in zip-top freezer bags for up to several months before defrosting at room temperature.


Apollonia Poilâne™s Bread Recipes

1. Brioche: Brioche is a French buttery yeast bread. To make Apollonia's brioche, use 100 percent white flour, eggs, plenty of butter, and a pinch of sugar, resulting in a rich and airy bread with a tight crumb that begs to be dipped in hot chocolate.

2. Corn flour bread: Corn flour bread is cornbread made with corn flour rather than a flour-yellow cornmeal mixture. After attending several weekend roasts while at Harvard, third-generation baker Apollonia set out to create this unique, dairy-free recipe.

3. Pain de mie: Pain de mie is a type of French sandwich bread that is typically baked in a Pullman loaf pan. The crumb of this fluffy white bread is tight and there is very little crust.

4. Pain de siegle: Pain de seigle (which translates as œbread of rye) was one of the first items sold at Poilâne when it first opened in 1932. Although "pain de seigle" can refer to any type of rye bread (from pumpernickel to Jewish-style rye bread), Poilâne's version is most similar to the bakery's stone-ground wheat miche. The pain de seigle loaves from Poilâne are round and slightly sour.

Author: Wispaz Technologies