Bread Baking 101

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Calling all bakers and wanna-be bakers!

Raise your hands if you have:

a) never made a yeast bread dough
b) failed miserably at making yeast bread dough
c) fare passably well with basic yeast bread recipes but would like to get better and/or expand your horizons a bit

My guess is most of us will have to say we fit one of those categories. So, before we hit runza season, let's talk turkey, errr....yeast.

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

I probably fit into category c. I do a pretty fair job most of the time. I've had some failures, but it's because I either accidentally killed the yeast or worked in too much flour.

I had an elderly neighbor teach me how to make a good bread dough. If you want, I'll post her recipe and tips when I get a chance. She is VERY meticulous and when she was younger people bought her bread and dinner rolls because they are so good. The main thing she stressed to me is that you should work in the minimum amount of flour. When you start to knead the dough, it should be sticky and nearly run off the counter when you turn it out to knead, and that did happen to me once because I wasn't quick enough to catch it. Then knead in only enough flour so that the dough is workable.

-South Central-, IL(Zone 6a)

...never made bread before, so it's a mystery to me.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

It's all about the yeast and the feel of the dough.I've been baking bread for fifty years, and there is always something new to learn so I'll be a reader for sure, and maybe can offer a hint or two along the way.

Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

subscribing for a really good Kolache dough recipe.

REALLY good.

Mid Gulf Coast, TX(Zone 9b)

Me, Me, Me, Me!!!!!(waving my hands wildly in the air)

I have made some door stops that have defied rain, wind and termites and are still breaking toes when I run into them.......

I believe that puts me in the b category!!!!! I would love to learn to make really good textured and good tasting yeast bread that can be molded into any shape....loaves, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls.......even RUNZAS!!!!!

I'm looking forward to this!!!!!

Mae Belle

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Quote from 1_Lucky_Texan :
subscribing for a really good Kolache dough recipe.

REALLY good.

Oh, AMEN. I would love a good one. Not too sweet, not too crumbly, not too thick - tender, moist and just a smidge of sweetness. I know everybody has their idea of perfect kolache texture, but to me, my grandma's were the best and I have yet to even come close.

So where do we want to start?

We can start with the really, really basic stuff (which I needed desperately when I started in), like how to test your yeast, proof your yeast, and basic kneading.

along with our favorite basic white bread dough and any tips for kneading, resting, smoothing, baking, etc. If this goes well, we can always do subsequent threads devoted to things like pizza crust, ciabattas, sweet doughs, dinner rolls, etc.

Mansfield, TX

Joan - would you please post the tips and recipe for the bread that your neighbor shared with you.

The last two loaves of bread I made were terrible. I am hoping to learn from any advice, tips, and/or recipes provided here.

Longboat Key, FL(Zone 9b)

i will join but have been making breads, for many years, one can always learn more.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

While Joan is rounding up her recipe, I'll dart in with my $0.02 worth on yeast. I buy it in 1-pound packages and keep it frozen. A tablespoon is approximately equivalent to a package of yeast. (I know there's a more precise measurement out there, but I use a tablespoon=package and rarely have any problems.

It's better for the water to be too cool than too hot. (My first bread-baking adventure got off on the wrong foot because the water was too hot.) If you've had to warm a baby's bottle, you know that "just-right" temperature? I shoot for the same - maybe a tad cooler.

If the recipe calls for sugar, I will take a teaspoon of the recipe's sugar and mix in with the yeast. It helps it proof (bubble up) faster. Some recipes will give instructions for getting a slower rise, but for basic sweet rolls and even my pizza crust, that seems to work fine.

If anyone has different ideas or approaches for that all-important yeast step, please share them!

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

I fall into category C--although from my breadmaker doing the mix and kneading cycle. I take it from there and do the rising/punch down and form loaf part.

I have a ridiculously small kitchen and just don't feel like I have the room to get into full scale bread making. Even as I write that I think it sounds kinda dumb:lol: My mom and grandma were great bread bakers and until I was about 16 we had fresh baked bread and yeast rolls every day. I was never interested in learning how and regret it now. That leads me to find small local bakeries and dropping what I think are big bucks on fresh bread.

My on sale $15 bread maker finally kicked the bucket so I either have to get a new one or get over my nervousness about making bread from scratch w/out the machine assist. All tips and advice are welcome.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

I do like all the "new" yeasts, the rapid rise and such, but for my use I still prefer the old fashioned cake yeast. It's hard to find, and you have to watch the expiration date because it isn't a big seller and sometimes sits too long on the cooler shelf. I buy the large cake and freeze it, in smaller portions. It lasts a long time that way and when you thaw it, it's just like fresh and new. I think it proofs better too, you can see activity much sooner than with dry yeast.

And, oh yeah, I often use the breadmaker for the kneading and the first rise. Sometimes you still have to knead it a little after the machine has done it's work. When my kids were small, and we were mostly broke all the time, I used to make 6 or twelve loaves at a time, and sometimes sold some to neighbors.

This message was edited Aug 12, 2011 2:28 PM

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

dmac, do you have a heavy-duty stand mixer? I know it's heresy among some, but I use my professional 6-qt. KitchenAid to do the "heavy lifting" when it comes to kneading the dough. I have a few recipes I like to knead by hand because there's a particular texture I'm trying to achieve, but it's a time saver to have a bread machine or mixer do the hard work for you.

I know what you mean about kitchen space, but - like you - my grandmother made a lot of her bread and rolls from scratch and she had less counterspace than I have ever endured, except maybe in my very first little apartment.

I guess they just did what they had to do, and cleaned up the mess when they were done, eh?

meezers, I'm a neophyte here. I've never bought a yeast cake. I've seen the term, but I don't know that I've ever encountered the critters.

Clay Center, KS(Zone 5b)

Enjoying the thread, like meezers I've made bread for over 50 years, but can always learn something new.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

Terry--I haven't invested in one yet and I'm not quite sure why:lol: Guess I think those are for "serious" cooks and don't quite think of myself like that. Guess I am though--I do make cakes from scratch and would definitely make bread too. This may be my bonus check spend this year. Plus if I go the qvc route I can do it in payments. Great suggestion!

I've only used dry yeast packets or the fast rise jar for bread makers.

I do have a book called Electric Bread w/ a bunch of bread maker recipes and bought another book about bread making called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The gist of it is make premixed, high moisture dough (without kneading) and store in the fridge so you can take some each day and form a loaf and have fresh bread daily or as needed. I'll be happy to post any info from the book if anyone is interested or recipes/tips.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I think you'd find a stand mixer (don't go the Artisan line if you plan to use it to knead bread dough - refurbs are a nice way to get a professional one without the new price tag) is a good investment if you bake much.

In our last home, counterspace was at a premium, so the bread maker was a no-go. But I made room for my Kitchen Aid - which is a good thing considering it weighs a good 20 pounds or more and I wouldn't want to try to move it from cabinet to counter and back on a regular basis :-)

Edens_Gardener, are you sure about that 50+ year thing? I do happen to know your age, you know :-) Right at 50 years, I'd buy. More than that? Maybe, but you'd have to convince me.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

If you have the time to haunt garage,rummage,estate sales, you can often find a breadmaker. Not so much stand mixers though. I got my breadmaker at a warehouse sale for $20. Had to drive through a blizzard to get it though. I was lucky the store was open!!!

Also watch Craigslist, often seen there too.

Alba, TX(Zone 8a)

I think I might be a "b". I use a bread machine but mix from scratch. Sometimes the bread turns out great, sometimes not. Still haven't got the hang of it. Must keep trying. The dogs love my mistakes. Will follow this thread with interrest although Santo and Ernie will be hitting the reset key when they can!

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Wow - it looks like this is going to be a lot of fun! The heat is just beginning to break here, and I celebrated by making homemade pizza last night for the first time since last winter.

I'll wait for Joan to post her bread recipe and tips (I'm here to learn, too!) and anyone else who wants to join in.

But here's the challenge for those of you who are starting at ground zero. You can read and read and read...but eventually you're going to have to get your fingers good and gooey because it's the only way to learn. And please post your successes and ooopsies. Bread baking is most definitely a trial and error process and we're going to hang with you while you get the hang of mixing, kneading and baking.

And I think it would be good if we all posted as many pictures as possible when we're describing a particular technique and/or we want to show off our results (good and bad!) So whip out those aprons, flour, yeast and have your camera handy!

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

Good ideas on the mixer and bread maker. Mine was a smallish Magic Chef. I lost the instruction manual way back and someone on eBay actually sent me a photo copy of theirs for free (still have it actually):lol:

Oostburg, WI(Zone 5b)

me me me I'm here too. I've made a lot of bread in my 50+ years. I've made my own yeast a few times too. Anyone up to making their own yeast? I'll post instructions if anyone wants to give it a go. It's not difficult. And I've made rolls that I threw out the patio door into the garden for the birds - who passed on them also. LOL

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

Here it is. I've passed this on to many novice bread makers, and they seem to all have had good luck with it.

Martha's Bun Recipe

Small Recipe
1 cup milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. margarine (stick, not tub) Melt in the hot milk
2 extra large eggs, very well beaten
2 pkg. yeast,, (2 level Tbsp.)
1/2 cup lukewarm water to soak the yeast in. Add a rounded tsp. of sugar over the yeast, it feeds it. Stir and let sit 5 minutes.
5 cups sifted bread flour (use no more than that)

Medium Recipe
2 cups milk, scalded
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks margarine - Melt in the hot milk
4 extra large eggs, very well beaten
4 Tbsp. yeast
2/3 cup lukewarm water to soak the yeast in. Add a rounded tsp. sugar over the yeast. Stir and let sit 5 minutes.
10 cups sifted bread flour (no more than that)

Large Recipe
3 cups milk, scalded
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks margarine - Melt in hot milk
6 tsp. salt
6 extra large eggs, very well beaten
4 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water to soak yeast in. Add a tsp sugar over the yeast. Stir and let sit 5 minutes.
14 cups sifted bread flour (use no more than that)

Extra-large recipe
4 cups milk, scalded
3 sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
8 tsp. salt
8 extra large eggs, very well beaten
6 Tbsp. yeast
1 cup lukewarm water to soak the yeast in. Add a tsp. sugar over the yeast. Stir and let sit 5 minutes.
18 cups sifted bread flour (Use no more than that)

Scald the milk, add the margarine.
When the margarine has melted, add the sugar and salt.
Cool to lukewarm and then add the eggs, Mix.
Add the yeast that has been dissolved in the lukewarm water with the tsp, sugar.
After you have stirred in the yeast, let it set for 5 minutes.
Then add (3 cups flour - small recipe) (4 cups flour - med. recipe) (5 cups flour - large recipe) (6 cups flour - extra large recipe) and stir until there are no more lumps.
Let the stuff rise to the top of the kettle or saucepan, stir down.
Sprinkle a cup of the flour on the surface where you will do the kneading.
Remember never to use all the flour the recipe calls for.
For the small recipe, use 4 or 4 1/2 cups.
Knead the dough with the palms of your hands and work toward the center.
When kneaded enough the dough should be smooth - not floury - and have many little blisters. Also, the dough should spring back when you punch it lightly with your finger.
Grease the bowl lightly before putting it in to rise. Then turn it over and give it a few punches.
Ideal room temperature is 85 degrees (Joan's note: My house is never this hot and I think the dough just doesn't rise as quickly)
Cover with a dish towel
Let rise until dough doubles in size.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

Martha's tips:

One of the secrets of making good yeast bread is to use as little flour as possible and still be able to handle the dough. The dough should be quite moist. Adding flour beyond this point will make the dough heavy and tough.

It's nice to have a good supply of buns in the freezer. When you want to use them, put some in a pie tin and warm them in a regular oven. This makes them very nearly like the freshly baked product. Warming them in the microwave makes them wet and icky.

Mulberry, FL

I only bake in winter here have posted some of my home made breads here make them all drool lol and home made lemon pies and coconut lol too hot here to bake during summer months

Longboat Key, FL(Zone 9b)

after a few? mishaps I know do this: always: i use tap water letting it run u=over my wrist until it feels hot. add 1/2t sugar, whether the recipe calls for it or not, add the yeast. stirring to disolve the yeast and let sit for 5 min. if it bubbles the yeast is fine. If not NG. - If I want to be sure, sure, i add a little flour at this point and let sit another 5 min. Called proofing.

I'hv noticed that some flours do better than others in dif. climates. Up North always used 'king arthur" flour for bread and rolls. Heckers for cakes - I bake Viennese type things.
here in Fl. I can;t get Heckers so I use Pillsbury. Not the same but it works better than most. Also Wal-Mart Value works very nice here. Still use KA for Bread.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

I've been picking up King Arthur flour at Walmart as it is cheaper than at the other supermarkets. It is a superior flour.

I do that with proofing too, add a sprinkle of sugar to feed it and let it sit. You can't rely on the expiration date on the top or sides of the dry yeast jars or packets. I take a black marker and write a date a month before the exp. date on top so I can be sure it's usable. Then I proof it to make sure.

I mark the date on most pantry products, ie.,, Bisquick, cake mixes, and other things that have barely legible expiration dates on them. I can't see them without my glasses and if I wear my glasses for cooking I soon can't see out of them either.

This message was edited Aug 13, 2011 10:43 AM

Oostburg, WI(Zone 5b)

I keep yeast in my freezer and have used it for years after the exp date and had no problems. I do proof it first always too ....ever since I made a big batch of Oliebollen (dutch apple fritters) and it didn't rise. PANIC! This batch made abt 300 and the dough wld fill my 13 qt bowl after it had risen. I visited with a senior across the back yard who was a great baker and discussed it with her. We decided it wouldn't hurt to try adding more yeast. I dissolved the right amt of yeast in some warm water, proofed it, and stirred it in. Worked like a charm! I was concerned it wld taste doughy with that much yeast but it didn't. Maybe dead yeast doesn't taste yeasty? lol But since then, I always proof yeast.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

I used to make herbed fococcia, whole wheat, and pizza dough from scratch prior to developing a yeast intolerance. Hand mixer and no bread machine. Miss those days. Faccocia was onion, thyme, and Rosemary. Pizza dough was grilled outside.

Favorite cookbooks are The Bread Bible and King Author Whole Grain Baking. Now I used them for the quick breads recipes.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Joan, on your recipe, do you use margarine, or can unsalted butter be substituted? (I have used margarine and shortening when a recipe specifically calls for it, but when possible, I tend to substitute butter.)

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

kooger--you make your own yeast? I'm curious--how do you do it?

Oostburg, WI(Zone 5b)

I don't do it regularly but it is fun to do it once in awhile. Because you use one cup of liquid, I adjusted recipes to decrease the liquids called for.

Mix together:
1 c. cooked mashed potatoes
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. salt
1 c. warm water (105-115 deg.)
Pour mixture into 1 qt. glass jar (Mason), cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place (80-85 deg.) for two days or until it ferments and bubbles up.
One cup of this mixture is equivalent to one package of active dry yeast or one cake of compressed yeast.
Every time you use a cupful, replenish the starter by stirring in 3/4 c. flour and 3/4 c. potato water, water, or milk.
Allow to ferment for a day or so and return, covered, to the refrigerator.
It is best to use the starter once a week.
If you do not, stir it down after three or four weeks, discard half of it, and replenish the balance wtih flour and one of the liquids.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

That's like a sour dough starter, Laura, or what my DS calls a "herman". My DGS used to love the bread she made with this. My problem is finding a consistently warm location to get it fementing. Also known as Amish friendship bread starter.

This message was edited Aug 13, 2011 7:06 PM

Longboat Key, FL(Zone 9b)

My mother made this and it was called "Schwamerl" for "Sponge" or "Dampferl" She kept it going on top of the fridge in NYC. Did make wonderful bread.

Oostburg, WI(Zone 5b)

yup makes good bread. Very similar to Herman/Friendship/Amish starter.

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

Terry, I've used butter and didn't have any adverse effects. I very seldom buy margarine except when I'm doing massive amounts of Christmas baking.

Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

Terry--my eyes lit up when I saw your first post about Runzas. I went to school out in Omaha--I don't think anyone outside of the area had ever heard of them.

I started making them a few years ago, using Cooking Light's recipe for bierocks. Their dough recipe is just perfect (we make the dough in our bread maker). It's just the right amount of soft, sweet and rich, and is so easy to make. We have adjusted the seasoning in the meat a bit, though. These are now one my my husband's favorite simple meals, and they freeze well!

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7a)

Please post the dough recipe=) Can never have too many good options ya know:lol:

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Quote from mom2goldens :
Terry--my eyes lit up when I saw your first post about Runzas. I went to school out in Omaha--I don't think anyone outside of the area had ever heard of them.

I started making them a few years ago, using Cooking Light's recipe for bierocks. Their dough recipe is just perfect (we make the dough in our bread maker). It's just the right amount of soft, sweet and rich, and is so easy to make. We have adjusted the seasoning in the meat a bit, though. These are now one my my husband's favorite simple meals, and they freeze well!

Is it this one?

Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

That is the recipe I use. The dough is so nice and easy to work with.

Do you have a favorite runza recipe?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Alrighty, so who among the uninitiated is up for making some bread soon?

And when?

Let's set a date and all give it a whirl. A virtual baking party is not exactly the same as having someone standing in your kitchen cheering you on and showing you how, but it's the next-best thing.

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