Monday, September 20, 2010

My Favorite Bread-Making Tip

I haven't bought a loaf of bread in six months. Now I also no longer buy buns, rolls, french bread, pitas, pizza dough, or bagels. Why? Because I can make them!

I've learned a lot in the last year about making bread, but the single greatest trick that turned my bread from hockey puck to a heavenly cloud was: how to get the dough consistently to "double."

You know that little line in all bread recipes that reads: "Let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until double"? Well... my house is always an ice box and after two or three hours my dough was barely poofing. The poor little baby dough was just too cold.

Yes, I'm sure all of you earthy baking homesteading women know this is the oldest trick in the book, but I didn't know about it until recently and it has given me confidence in my ability to make consistently good bread.

So here it goes.

My Favorite Bread-Making Tip
  • Turn the oven to 350 for exactly 1 minute.
  • Shut the oven off and turn the "oven light" on.
Congratulations. You've just created a "warm place" to put your bread for one hour. It works like magic every time.

Excuse me while I go be domestic.

Give Us This Day, by the very talented Jeffrey T. Larson


Sahmatwork said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Thanks for this tip. I've never found just the right place for my dough to rise, and end up getting so frustrated! I'm going to try this tip immediately, as I have always loved the smell of fresh bread in the kitchen. Thanks for this post!

Unknown said...

Okay - I'm seriously thinking about giving bread-making a try. So two quick questions for you. Do you use a bread-machine? Or, do you just throw it on a cookie pan? Also, I saw a Costco huge bags labeled "Flour" and "Bread Flour" - which do you buy?

Kate said...

my mom taught me to do this growing up and it definitely works, i do it every time!

Maria said...

"The poor little baby dough was just too cold."

When you phrased it like that, I actually felt a pang of pity for the dough. Am I losing it?

My warm place: my car, sitting in the sun, with the windows rolled up! Worked like a charm. But I'll keep the oven tip in mind for the winter.

Farmer's City Wife said...

SAHMAW: Hope it worked for you!

Lisa: I don't use a bread machine, but I do use my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook. I'm not sure I would be quite so gung-ho if I were hand kneading! But I've heard lots of people have great success using a food processor with a dough blade, too. (My sister-in-law uses a bread machine but often laments that you're stuck with odd-shaped loaves and a one-size-fits-all mold).

As far as flour goes, there is a huge difference between all-purpose and bread flour. Because of its higher gluten and protein content, bread flour always results in a lighter, chewier, airier, softer bread. Despite that, I don't buy it. The way I figure, you can use all purpose flour for bread, but you can't use bread flour for cakes, cookies, pie dough, breading meat for frying, thickening gravy, etc. It's kind of a one-note-Joe.

So here's what I do. They have this stuff in the bulk section of my grocery store called "high gluten flour." It's kind of like concentrated bread flour, I suppose. I think it also goes by the name of "vital wheat gluten" or something like that (though if you buy it in a box it's a lot more expensive than in bulk sections, even of the same store!).

If you replace one tablespoon per cup of that flour (in other words, 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp. of all-purpose or even whole wheat flour, + 1 Tbsp. of high gluten flour), you've just made your own bread flour. For pizza crust and bagels I add a little more than a Tbsp. per cup (gotta have chewy dough there).

Keeps me from having to store huge sacks of various flours, and allows me to make whole wheat bread flour or white bread flour quite easily.

Maria: LOL. You have a wonderful sense of empathy :).

Kansas Mom said...

I do something similar in the winter, if I'm not using the bread machine: I preheat the oven to 200, turn it off and set the dough in there to rise as long as necessary. Nice and puffy.

I love my bread machine and wouldn't give it up. For me, having to return to the kitchen to punch down down and shape loaves just wasn't worth it. Dump everything in and forget it. Five hours later (for whole wheat) I have perfect bread (it rests for a while first, great for me since I keep all the ingredients in my freezer or fridge).

I have the Baking with Whole Grains cookbook from King Arthur Flour. It's probably my favorite cookbook ever. It suggests using the bread machine or mixer to knead the dough even if you plan to bake it in the oven. It's easier and more consistent.

Cathy LeBlanc said...

I love my bread machine, too, except I only use if for mixing and rising the dough. The dough comes out perfect for shaping every time, because it maintains a perfectly warm environment for the dough to rise after. Then, I take it out and shape it the way I want and bake.

Unknown said...

I have to comment on this post again. Because I think I completely botched my bread trying to interpret. I turned my oven on, let it preheat to 350 all the way, left it there for a minute and then turned it off. It cooked my bread both times :) HA! I think I finally understand though. You just start the oven to 350 and turn it off after a minute, right? I'm feeling a little silly, but I really want to make sure I finally understand!!

Farmer's City Wife said...


Ack! Poor dear. Yeah, just turn it on for 1 minute, don't let it get all the way to 350. The goal temperature is about 90 degrees, which happens in about 1 minute in my oven... if it feels a little warmer than that then you can crack the door for a little while (or just preheat it for 30 seconds).

Good luck on future bread-baking (and sorry for the two botched batches!).

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