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Bread Basics

Discussion in 'The Burrow' started by Xiph0, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Administrator Admin

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    Explanation of basic principles for making bread was requested so I will do my best with the pre-warning that it will be a little... ad hoc.

    The things you need:
    Clean water
    Salt
    Yeast (I use dried yeast)
    Some kind of wheat flour (rye, barley, sorghum etc won't work the exact same/they can be finnicky)

    Basic process:

    1. Run some warm water out of the tap into some kind of bowl. I would start with one cup of water for your first batch, and scale up when you get comfortable/know for sure you have enough flour in the house. Running out of flour during the mixing sucks ass.
    Note: If you don't have warm water access, warm some water up on the stove. If it starts to boil, turn it off and add some cold water. If your house is really cold, I use hotter water. Short of boiling you probably won't kill the yeast, so don't worry about it too much. You just need to give them enough juice to work.

    Note 2: You can easily substitute all the water you use for beer. Even cold beer. Any level of beer quality. It will make the bread taste excellent.
    2. Add some salt; a spoonful or two would work fine. If you have some sweetener (sugar, molasses, honey, whatever) also add some of that.
    Note: The ratio of salt to sweet will carry over into the final bread, so skew it the way you like. I like my bread salty and mustard-y so I will either put straight mustard in the water + a lot of salt, or mustard powder and salt.​

    3. Mix the salt/sweetener/water up, sprinkle in a bit of yeast. Let it settle in there for a few seconds.

    4. With one hand, scoop flour out of a container into the bowl. With your other (clean) hand, mix the flour into the water. This shit will get very goopy, just deal.
    Note: If you want the bread to be 'sour' you can mix in just enough flour to thicken the water into pancake batter type stuff, and leave it on the counter for however long you can be patient. The flour you add just traps some of the gas the yeast makes, which helps make the bread more acidic/sour to the taste.
    5. Continue mixing in the flour this way maybe a handful of flour at a time, mixing well with your hand and not being bothered at all by how much it's sticking to your fingers.

    6. Once the dough starts to come together and stops sticking to your hand so much, start really working it. Continue adding flour in smaller amounts.
    Note: The dough will start to look 'good' as you work it and beat on it, but it will start to get sticky again in the process. You will ultimately be adding a lot of flour, don't let it intimidate you, that's supposed to happen.
    7. Once you can freely play with the dough without it sticking to the bowl/your hands, transfer it in a ball to a clean bowl/clean countertop that either has more flour or some oil in/on it. Go wash the bits of dough stuck to your mixing hand off, making sure to get all the crusted flour bits off your fingernail beds and stuff. Cost of doing business.

    8. Oil/flour your now clean and dry hands, and then go Chris Brown up that dough. You will want to use your knuckles to push it into the bowl/counter, fold it, do it again, fold it, do it again etc etc for a good amount of time. You're developing gluten, it's an important step. You can slap the dough down into the bowl/counter, whatever. Impact force is the goal, do it however you please.

    9. Cover the bowl in a moist towel and let it sit. If you read bakers stuff, this is the 'first proofing'. You can go as short as one hour and up to maybe 3-4 days. You just need to keep the towel moist.
    Note: The longer you let it sit, the better. The yeast will eat and fuck and expel a lot of interesting molecules that taste cool to humans.

    Note 2: Some bakers will say to put it in the fridge to slow down the process and let the yeast grow in a more controlled pace. These bakers are cowards.​

    10. Once it's risen, you now have a fork in the road. Neither is right/wrong, just depends on the final use.
    Path A is if you want a 'tight crumb' and not random holes in the final bread (think sourdough type holes or like the holes in good pizza crust).
    Path B is if you like or are aiming for a bread with a lot of holes in the final product.
    11a. Path A: Punch the risen dough down in the bowl very tightly, shape into a dough loaf approximately, and bake on any kind of pan that you have access to at 400 F/204 C. I'd check in on it at around 40 minutes and if I had any doubt at all, I'd leave it for a full hour and then leave it to cool in the turned off oven.

    11b. Path B: Punch the dough down, re-wet the towel and re-cover the bowl. This is the 'second proofing'. Once it rises again, you'll very gently bring the dough out of the bowl and onto some kind of baking surface and bake that bad boy the same way as above. You're trying not to push out any of the trapped gasses to keep those bubbles in.
    Note: If you want to do a specific shape, like a sourdough loaf, then shape it after you punch it down the first time and transfer it to the baking sheet/loaf pan/whatever you're baking it on. Cover that with a warm towel and let it do the second proofing there, then remove the towel and bake it.​

    Any dough you have leftover can either be kept in the bowl (as long as you keep the towel damp - it will dry out otherwise) for a pretty long time, or kept in the fridge in ziplock bags for an even longer time.

    You can get as fancy as you want (I will substitute in beer for the water, spice the beer, boil some water in the oven to get it steamy and get harder outside crust, etc). You can also add a significant amount of milk/fat (butter, oil, whatever) to the original liquid to get a much softer bread. It's really up to your tastes to fuck around and find what you like.

    Ask questions if you have 'em :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  2. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Administrator Admin

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    Forgot to mention, the towel you cover the bowl with should be wet with warm water. If your house is cold, I'd go as hot as I could on the water to create a warm environment for the yeast.
     
  3. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Administrator Admin

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    Note since it wasn't clear: I mostly meant dish rags when I was talking about towels. That's what I use. You can easily use paper towels if that's what you have. I wouldn't use a bath towel unless damn desperate.
     
  4. CareOtters

    CareOtters Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    I'm a convert to the world of bread.

    Two attempts so far, and I haven't got them to rise as much as I'd like, but both of them were absolutely delicious. My first crust was a little too hard, but the second was the perfect shade of brown, textured and chewy as all fuck. Both tasted better than anything I've ever had from a supermarket shelf.

    I ain't never going back.
     
  5. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Prestige DLP Supporter

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    In regards to the outside have you considered spraying with some water about half way through the bake?
     
  6. CareOtters

    CareOtters Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    That's how I got the second perfect - sort of. I put a tray of water in the oven under the loaf to get some steam going.
     
  7. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Prestige DLP Supporter

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    That's one way to do it I suppose. I'd just use a spray bottle and coat it real good half way through. No need for a pan. If it's burning yuu might wanna consider a lower heat.
     
  8. Perspicacity

    Perspicacity High Score: 3,994 Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Bread shouldn't be complicated.

    6.5 (cups flour)
    3.0 (cups warm water)
    1.5 (tbsp salt)
    1.5 (tbsp yeast)

    Mix dry, add water, mix with hands until combined, put in covered container, leave. Come back, punch down the dough, leave. Set the oven to 475° F with a baking stone. Roll into baguette shapes, pinch the ends into nipples, cut notches in the top with a serrated knife, brush with water, toss onto the stone with a pie tin of water in the broiler slot. Cook until done (30-ish minutes, depending on your oven and altitude).

    Actual labor is about 5 min/loaf.
     
  9. Banta

    Banta The Chosen One DLP Supporter

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    @CareOtters: perfect timing, there's a new Basics With Babish video about bread.