Bread making basics #2

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These notes are condensed from 'Beard on Bread' by James Beard, 1974, Alfred A. Knopf, NY


Active dry yeast is commonly available in packets containing approx. 1 tablespoon, and in larger containers. Yeast generally comes marked with an expiration date, but in bulk quantities may not be dated and should be "proofed" before using. Dry yeast should be dissolved in a liquid at a temperature of 100 to 115 F. This limit should be strictly observed and the first few times you make bread you should measure the temperature of the liquid and note how it feels on your wrist. After that you can guage the temperature accurately enough just by feel. There is a method of just mixing the yeast with other dry ingredients and then adding the liquid. A lot of people like this method because it is faster, but I prefer the old-fashioned way; perhaps the dough rises faster, but at the expense of the final flavor it seems to me.

For yeast to become activated it must have something to feed on, sugar in one form or another is generally used for this purpose; not just as flavoring in the bread. Salt is used to slow the action of the yeast, as well as bring out the other flavors in the bread.

Sourdough and salt-rising starters are 'homemade' leavening agents, and can be unpredictable. You can get better results if you use yeast as well, and your bread will be lighter and have more flavor.

Baking powder is another leavening agent and is included in many fruit or vegetable breads such as banana or zucchini bread. Baking soda is often used to counteract the acid in fruit breads, and is used with yeast to sweeten the batter in recipes like English crumpets.

The time required for the rising of the dough will vary greatly depending on such factors as temperature and humidity of the day, the character of the yeast and flour, and the kneading.

To proof yeast: pour the yeast into the warm liquid and add the sugar, stir well and set aside. After a few minutes the fermentation of the yeast will become apparent as the mixture swells and small bubbles appear on the surface. A characteristic aroma will also be apparent. Submitted By ROBERT WHITE On 03-03-95

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