Marianne's Secrets on Using the Bread Machine
by Amy Hunt
I will be the first to admit that the thought of making homemade bread is very intimidating. I have spent countless hours with my bread making genius mother trying to master the art. Still mine never turns out quite as well as hers. There are so many different secrets and techniques out there it is hard to keep track. The following article is one that I found very helpful… and it let me use my bread machine with out feeling guilty. This is wonderful advice from Marianne Wright on whatscookingamerica.net.
1. My machine has a regular dough cycle and a quick dough cycle. I usually use the quick dough cycle. It also has a rise after mixing the dough. After the rise has completed, I remove the dough from the machine.
Follow the instructions for your machine regarding order of loading ingredients. The important thing is to keep the yeast away from the liquid and the salt until the bread-making begins; this is especially important when the machine won't start mixing the dough for several hours. I follow the liquids-first-then-dry method, but instead of putting the sugar and salt on top of the flour, I add them to the liquid. I recommend placing ingredients in the pan in the following order:
1. Liquid (milk, water)
2. Eggs, oils, melted or softened butter
3. Salt, sugars (including honey, molasses)
4. Dried milk
5. Dried orange or lemon peel
6. Dried herbs, dried flavorings, seeds
7. Whole wheat flour
8. Bread flour or all-purpose flour
2. Adding Ingredients:
Water - I usually start out by adding fairly hot water (120 degrees) and find that by the time I have added all the ingredients, the water has cooled to the proper temperature. (Do not do this if you are using a delayed heating cycle.)
Butter - Melt butter or margarine in the microwave before adding it to the machine.
Eggs - I bring my eggs to room temperature by placing them in a cup of really warm water for several minutes before adding.
Refrigerated Ingredients - Heat anything taken from the refrigerator (milk, buttermilk, cottage cheese, etc.) in the microwave until it is warm to the touch, about 1 minute.
Salt - Use only non-iodized salt (iodine attacks the yeast activity, slowing down the first fermentation). Salt is a yeast inhibitor and it is best to add it so it is not touching the yeast. If you are having trouble with short loaves, try cutting back on the salt (sometimes this solves the problem).
Other Ingredients - Orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel or zest, as well as cinnamon and alcohol, will have a retarding effect. Too much will stop the yeast activity completely. Cinnamon has a direct effect on the yeast activity and in large quantities it will stop fermentation completely. Keep high percentages of cinnamon out of the dough itself and it in the fillings where it can have only a limited effect on the yeast activity.
Vital Gluten - Add 1 teaspoon of vital gluten per cup of whole grain flour in your recipes. This will produce a taller loaf. If you find the loaves are still short, increase by adding and extra teaspoon until you get the results you desire (be sure to note the amounts on the recipe).
Flour - For most breads, you should use bread flour. It has a higher protein content, which forms more gluten during kneading. If you use all-purpose flour, the bread doesn't rise as high, but it certainly rises. The bread is denser and not as fluffy.
Yeast - I use Red Star Instant Active Dry Yeast in all my breads. I use 1 teaspoon of instant yeast per cup of flour. If the recipe calls for over 3 cups of flour, I still use only 3 teaspoons. This gives me a taller and well-textured loaf. Sometimes, if the day is warm and humid, I cut back 1/2 teaspoon to prevent over proofing. The rapid dough cycle is the only cycle I use on my bread machine.
3.The most important hint or tip! Learn to read your dough. Don't be afraid to open the lid to check how your dough is doing. It should form a nice elastic ball. If you think the dough is too moist, add flour a tablespoon at a time. The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly. Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time). If you can't judge your dough by looking, stick your finger in and feel the dough. It should be slightly tacky to the touch.
4. Another secret is not to flour the surface on which you form the dough. Instead, lightly oil the work surface to prevent the dough from sticking. It is often the case that one uses too much flour on the work surface and, since dough that has risen will not accept any more flour, the excess flour used on the work surface just toughens the bread. I spray lightly in one spot and use my hands to spread it over the entire work surface. It's a sure bet that oiling your work surface will produce wonderful rolls and loaves of bread.
To oil the surface, you can either use oil or a nonstick cooking spray. If you wish, flavored oils may also be used, provided they are compatible with your bread. The nonstick cooking sprays should be used carefully, since it is easy to spray them unevenly. I have achieved better results with Mazola spray or Veelene spray than I have with PAM. I also use the Gold-n-sweet spray from Price Bluc/Costco with good results.
5. I knead the dough just a little on the sprayed surface and form into a oval, cover with a cotton towel, and let rest for 10 minutes. This is an important step to let the dough rest after turning it out of the bread pan. This is called "benching" and it allows the dough to relax, making it easier to handle and shape.
The type and size of towel used to cover the dough is also important. Be sure it is large enough to cover your entire dough or you will have a "crust" form and the dough will no longer rise. Use a large cotton towel with a smooth surface. Do not use a terry towel (it will stick to the dough and flatten the loaf). An even worse consequence is that you might end up with a bread studded with bits of terry loops.
6. Handle dough gently. Over molding could cause breaking of the surface tension and will result in a smaller finished loaf. After resting, turn dough bottom side up and press to flatten. Then fold dough into shape you want. Place on a jelly roll pan dusted with cornmeal or the new "Silpat" (this is what I now use - wonderful!). Cover and place in a warm spot to rise, approximately 20 minutes. It is often difficult to determine when hand-shaped dough has risen enough, so test it by pushing on the dough with your finger (if it springs back up and hesitates, it has risen sufficiently).
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (this is the temperature I use in a regular oven for all bread). After rising, slash the bread with a very sharp knife, razor blade, or a lame (a lame is a sharp blade that gets under the dough as you cut, giving you just the right shape for expansion). Brush or spray the top of the bread with cold water (this keeps the dough wet so that it won't form a crust from the heat of the oven, thus allowing the bread to get a good "oven spring: during the first 5 minutes of baking) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned. (A good check is to use an instant meat thermometer to test your bread. The temperature should be between 200 and 210 degrees. I do this all the time).
8. Another secret to give your bread the professional bakery look is to use a cornstarch glaze. I keep this mixture in my refrigerator to use on all the bread I bake.
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
In a small saucepan, with a small whisk, stir together water and cornstarch. Heat mixture to a gentle boil. Stir, reduce heat, until mixture thickens and is translucent. Cool. Brush on loaf about 10 minutes before baking is finished and again 3 minutes before bread is completely done.
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