Principles of bread baking

Bread baking with Doris #1, see here for #2 Sourdough bread baking and here for #3 Fermented Buckwheat loaf

I have loved baking bread for many years. In particular I love that moment when you open the oven door and all your senses embrace the fruits of your labour! Over the last few years, I have offered bread baking classes, gathering up to a dozen enthusiastic bread bakers around our family table to learn from each other. By the end of the morning we shared lunch and of course ‘broke bread together’ and tasted all the different types of bread. How much would I love to offer this right now!! I watched bags of flour jump into supermarket trolleys this week and it made me wonder how many people are familiar with the traditional skills of bread baking. Well, we can’t gather around our table now but how fabulous that technology offers an alternative. I hope this is helpful. Happy bread baking!!

Ingredients for a good loaf of bread

· Good quality fresh flour: ideally organic, ideally freshly ground

· Yeast or starter: dried or fresh yeast

I always use dried yeast.

Fresh yeast is available in Moore Wilson.

Starter stays well in the fridge for about 4 weeks, then it needs to be ‘renewed’, see ‘Bread baking with Doris #2 Sourdough baking

· Luke-warm water or milk

· Salt

· Sweetener (molasses, treacle, honey, sugar; to nourish the yeast or starter)

· Oil or butter (optional)

· Time, happiness, love and care!

Variables

· Flour

Use wholemeal flour as much as possible. It is tastier, more nutritious (containing the whole grain) and better for digestion (includes fibre).

White flour makes the bread rise more (containing more gluten) but the grain has been stripped of its nutritious outer layer. Try to find a happy middle ground and keep the white flour baking as a treat and not as your stable daily bread.

My wholemeal wheat and rye loaves DO include white flour, the amount depending on who I cook for. Find your own way.

The sourdough process makes the grains easier to digest. I warmly encourage you to make a type of sourdough bread your ‘daily bread’.

· Temperature

Yeast likes being dissolved in ‘lukewarm’ liquid: it gets killed when it is too hot and would take a long time ‘to wake up’ when it is too cold.

The whole rising process for dough at room temperature is directly related to temperature, faster in summer and slower in winter. You can speed it up in a warm oven but watch it is not too hot (max. 40o C). ‘Speeding up’ is not ideal though. Good bread likes it ‘slow’!! Take your time, now that we all have become ‘time millionaires’!

· Time of rising process

Directly related to the amount of yeast (the more yeast the less time it takes) and temperature (see above)

Again, ideally you should use small amounts of yeast or none and do it with a starter instead and give it time.

· Amount of salt

Subject to your taste. Recipes give more salt to white flour breads.

· Amount of liquid (water or milk)

Wholemeal and rye breads need to remain more liquid as they keep absorbing moisture; they should be too moist to be kneaded.

· Kneading

White flour breads need to be kneaded with lots of gusto to release the gluten, folding it as you knead it.

The moist and ‘sticky’ wholemeal and rye bread doughs can be stirred with a sturdy wooden spoon, folding it as much as you can. With gusto!

· Your mood and the amount of time, happiness, love and care that you have spare to work into your bread!