This must be a fine week for bread on the Web. In addition to my own post yesterday about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I came across two other relevant posts to make your home-baked bread the best it can be:
- Down to Earth featured a tutorial and recipe for making basic bread. She bakes one beautiful loaf Down Under.
- And if you have questions — from “Why are there yellow streaks in my loaf?” to “Why is my bread so small?” — TipNut has answers.
My comments on a couple of TipNut’s tips:
- Their responses assume you have fat in your dough, but fat isn’t necessary for good bread. It is included in certain doughs to make them richer and smoother, but it’s not mandatory.
- If you are concerned about your yeast, “proof” some yeast in a bit of warm water with a sprinkle of sugar. Mix well and let it sit for 5 minutes. If you see activity, your yeast is probably still viable. If it looks exactly the same after 5 minutes, buy new yeast.
- You can keep yeast in the freezer to prolong its viable life.
- Use a thermometer to check what “warm” water feels like. Most people say you should use water about 100 degrees Fahrenheit to activate yeast. This might be warmer than you think. Check the temperature formally with a thermometer until you know it well enough to recognize the right temperature on your fingers or wrist. (It depends on your temperature, too — my hands are always freezing, so sometimes 100F feels very warm to my touch.)
And more info regarding yesterday’s bread recipe:
- A couple of commenters mentioned that they’ve made same-day bread by mixing up a batch, letting it rise for 2 hours, and then baking up part of it.
- One person asked, “Why not let the bread rise in the pan in a cold oven?” — instead of letting it rise on the counter and preheating the pan in the oven. The answer to that is that part of the beauty lies in the cool risen dough landing in the hot, hot lidded pan. When the bread goes immediately into a hot oven (in a hot pan), it quickly activates its last burst of rising, making beautiful bubbles and holes in the bread. Also, going into a hot pan (with a lid) traps the steam from the dough inside the Dutch oven, which helps the crust become chewy and crunchy. In turn, that crunchy crust helps hold moisture inside the loaf, keeping it moist. Together, this creates a perfect chewy, crusty loaf of bread. The processes of putting a steam pan inside the oven and spritzing a baking oven/loaf with moisture are designed to achieve the same result.
- Someone also asked that I direct readers to the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day Web site. That site was linked a couple of times in the post, but for easy reference, here it is again! Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day – they have errata on the site, and you can subscribe to their blog for updates and new recipes.
And that bread at the top? That’s a new loaf I baked yesterday morning … after my big dog apparently couldn’t resist the aroma and ate the remaining half loaf I baked on Tuesday while the dogs were left alone for a few minutes. Back to the crates for the dogs, and back to the oven for us!
Do you have other tips? Did you whip up a loaf last night? Let us know.