The first meal I made all by myself included my first lesson in how to make bread. It was a recipe called Twin Mountain Muffins, and they turned out very well. This isn’t so much skill on my part; rather it was good advice and the teaching of my mother. Since then, I’ve learned to make many different bread recipes.
This type of bread doesn’t just include loafs of bread. The basic dough can be used to make pretzels, pizza dough, bagels and English muffins. The differences have to do with the amount of time the dough is allowed to rise and certain pre-baking steps.
Yeast: If you look on the top shelf in the baking aisle, you will see a couple of types of yeast. One is in packets and the other is in glass jars. Which to choose depends on how much bread you plan to make. If you don’t think you’re going to be making a lot, the packets are better. If you plan on doing a lot of baking over the course of several months, the jar is better.
Yeast is what makes bread rise. The amount used is in proportion to the amount of dough you wish to prepare. Two packets, or about a tablespoon, are enough for most basic dough recipes.
Salt: You can make bread without salt. I don’t recommend it, having forgotten to add it a time or two. The bread will turn out fine, but it will be devoid of flavor. Salt is used to enhance the other flavors in the bread.
Sugar: The yeast is alive, but not activated. When it activates, it’s hungry. Sugar is its food, and will help it survive and provide the rising power needed for bread making.
Liquid: Most recipes call for water as the liquid in this type of bread. It is conceivable that other fluids might work, but they will change the flavor of the bread and possibly the color. Liquid is what wakes the yeast up.
Oil: Olive oil, corn oil, shortening and even butter often play a role in these recipes. I have made bread without adding oil, so it can be done. However, two problems can result. Like salt, the oil enhances flavors. Bread also becomes stale more quickly, at least in my experience.
Flour: This is the main ingredient in bread. Flour can be made out of a lot of grains and even nuts. Unless you want a door stop, it is recommended that at least a quarter of the flour is white. I’ve made bread using whole grains and using nut flour without adding any white flour. They make very effective bricks or door stops.
Quick Bread Ingredients
Salt, baking soda and baking powder: This combination can provide the rising needs for most quick breads. Salt is more than just a flavor enhancer here; it is also part of the rising power.
Liquid: In this type of bread, many liquids can be used. As an example, Boston brown bread is best when made from buttermilk.
Sweetener: Not all quick breads require a sweetener. Muffins and the above bread do. Sugar, corn syrup and molasses are often recommended for these breads.
Oil: Some recipes require oil as a part of the liquids. Others don’t require oil at all. Again, the Boston brown bread recipe highlights this…no oil is added.
Flour: As with yeast bread, many different types of flour can be used in these breads. Unlike yeast breads, it isn’t always necessary to use white flour. Boston brown bread uses whole wheat, whole rye and corn meal. No white flour is required.
Optional Rising Ingredients
Egg: This is often an addition to salt, baking powder and baking soda. The white of an egg is very good at rising, but not strong enough on its own to qualify as sole source.
Beer: Done properly, beer can be the sole source of rising. Usually some salt is recommended, but once again, it’s for flavor enhancing. The reason beer helps in the rising process is because yeast is a part of this liquid.
Now that you understand the ingredients, it’s time to learn to put them together. That article is coming up next.