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Bread Baking Tips I Have Learned and Loved

BrocBroc Posts: 1,398
edited 12:15PM in EggHead Forum
Some time ago, I posted a No-Knead bread recipe.
Later, I posted an updated recipe.

I bake bread a lot -- and my kids and g-kids eat it so I can bake more, reading & experimenting along the way. If you haven't baked bread, yet... I have a basic recipe posted on the forum. Otherwise, here's some "important" stuff.

** If you want a basic French bread, which is good, but dries out rather quickly, follow the no-knead or other simple recipe.
** If you want a softer bread which will stay fresh longer, add 1 Tbs butter and 1 egg for each loaf.
** I no longer bake on a pizza plate. I have better results using a cloche or a dutch oven, both in the oven and on the egg. Be sure to let the dough go all the way through the second rise... and bring the Egg and the D.O./choche to 400+F [not 500! or it'll burn]... Just toss the risen dough in the Egg [seam side down]. I put the cover on.
** Slit the bread long-wise in several slits, so the bread can "spring"... the guts can puff up. Slitting across the bread doesn't allow for enough spring, and makes a more compact [heavier] crumb.
** Soften the crust [if'n ya wants ta!] by buttering the loaf right away when it comes out of the oven/Egg.
** Follow pre-mix instructions for the night before. Letting the flour and yeast "soak" overnight in the fridge is called "autolyse." Making the yeast work for a while at a slow speed enrichens flavor.
** Autolyse for two days if you want to, to deepen flavor. You may need to "stir" the mess ever-so-often so it doesn't take over the fridge.
** Note -- Autolyze doesn't necessarily mean overnight, or for a long time. Letting the yeast "grow" and the flour to soak up water [hydrate] is called "autolyze." You can do this for a few hours at room temp... still helps.
** Try substituting 20% of the flour with rye flour to enrichen flavor. I love it!
** When you bring the mix out of the fridge on Day II, allow it to come to room temp before adding the rest of the flour. I use a bench mixer for this.
** Keep the dough WET after adding the last flour. As soon as the dough seems to begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl... you're done! Bench rest it before proceeding.
** I have learned that either 5+ minutes of standing mixer kneading or 12+ minutes of traditional kneading, significantly enhances flavor and crumb. No-knead will only get you so far.
** Try to have the ambient temp for your dough to rise as close to 80F as possible. 70F is just too cold for the dough/yeast to do its thing well.
** Put the dough in a croc, cover it with a damp towel, then into the oven... with several cups of very hot water, to help the inside temp and humidity of the oven get your dough to that "perfect" 80F.
** I also turn my oven on for 1 minute before putting the dough in for rising. No longer -- we want to heat the oven, not bake the bread.
** When using the oven to bake, put as much mass in the oven as possible [thermal mass] and pre-heat the oven and cloche/D.O. for at least 30 minutes. 45 is "safer."
** When using the oven, I pre-heat to 440F. Once the dough goes into the cloche/D.O, I drop the temp to 420F for 20 minutes. Then, I remove the cover, drop the temp to 375F for another 20 minutes
** Then, check internal temp of the bread. Target -- 200F - 205F.
** Remove, apply butter, and cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing. Carry-over is just as important to bread as it is to roasts and steaks. The proteins in the bread haven't finished doing their jobs, yet, until the bread cools!

Comments from bakers more experienced than I are certainly welcome!
:) :) :)

Enjoy your baking!

~ Broc


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