The quality of flour can be a basis to create good bread. Most of the best bread machine manuals call for using bread flour. This is made from hard winter wheat and has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. Bread flour can be found in the baking aisle of most local supermarkets.
When buying bread flour, you can save some money if you are going to buy in bulk. However, this should be stored property to prolong its shelf life. Flour should be stored in a moisture-proof container that has a very tight lid or any air-tight container. This will help keep the flour dry and fresh and will help keep the bugs away from it.
Flour from other grains such as wheat, rye, rice, oat, corn or buckwheat can also be used for some bread recipes. When using flour made from grains in baking bread, you need it to be as fresh as possible. Your best choice for this can be grinding it yourself. The quality and flavor of a home ground flour is better from any store-bought ones. With home-milled flour, you can make lighter and moister bread. Accomplish this with a specialized grain mill, or general food mill.
In making your own flour at home, it is ideal to grind only the amount of flour you need. This will make sure that you only use the freshest flour possible. However, if you happen to have more freshly ground flour than you can use, store it in a tight-lidded container in the freezer and you have to use it within a day or two.
Freshly ground wheat contains all of the B vitamins except for B12 and is rich in potassium and phosphorus. It also has other minerals, vitamins, fibers, and enzymes and a high gluten content. The oils and minerals of wheat flour can break down easily so it needs to be stored properly. You can store your whole wheat flour in the refrigerator or in the freezer given that it is placed in an airtight or tightly sealed container.
Using wheat flour from local supermarkets can also work just fine if you can’t ground your own whole wheat flour at home. However, you have to be more careful in choosing and buying it. Some of the commercial whole wheat flour has been processed to remove oils and sometimes this involves removing germs that serve as the main source of the oil in wheat or what is called being defatted. Sometimes what you get in the store is already old and not exactly 100 percent wheat flour.
There are various brands and types of yeast available in the market that you can use. There are active dry yeast, rapid rise yeast, quick rise yeast, instant yeast and bread machine yeast. All types of dry yeast are suitable to be used for recipes whether you are baking bread using the traditional method or using the bread machine
Bread machine yeast is an instant type that can work very well for both baking methods. This kind can be about 50 percent faster which also doesn’t require any proofing. Instant yeast is also stronger than other types and is a faster-acting yeast that can be very well-suited when using bread machines.
Although you can basically use any class of yeast there is, using the rapid-rise yeast especially in a bread machine is not recommended. It goes against one of the processes of making good bread which is the fermentation to create a better flavor. The quick rising of the bread dough will give it no time to develop its flavor. Avoid using this type of yeast except for when you are in a hurry or using the rapid bake cycle in your bread machine.
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Fat – Butter, Oil, and Margarine
Some of the fats you use in making bread include butter, oil, and margarine. They play an important role in making good bread. These fats help add flavor, moisture, and texture to the bread and also helps in keeping them fresh for a longer time.
There can be substitutions for fats other than the basic butter or margarine depending on what you like or what you have in your kitchen. You can use lard, olive oil or peanut oil and it will work just as fine. (Here’s some olive oil dispensers you may like)
In substituting one fat for another type of fat, you can use the one is to one ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, you can substitute it with another 1 cup of the fat of your choice.
However, if you are trying to cut the use of fat but still want the advantages it can give to your baked bread, you can use apple butter, prune butter or even applesauce will work as good. Substituting these to your fats will also take a one is to one ratio.
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The salt in baking can work two ways. This can help in controlling the yeast as well as to add flavor to the bread. Without salt, the yeast will react so much. It can cause your bread to quickly rise and even overrise but then collapse and can make your bread flat and tasteless. However, if you want to bake a salt-free bread, you might want to consider adjusting the amount of yeast in your recipe to a minimum. You may also have to rapid-bake your bread to rein it sufficiently.
The salt used in baking breads also helps the dough to rise by helping the gluten hold more carbon dioxide and water. Adding salt to your bread should not bother you even if you are on a strict sodium diet. You only need a little amount of salt for this and it will just spread all throughout the loaf of bread, giving you just a small percentage of salt for every slice.
Although there are many types of salt available and they can vary in texture, color, and flavor, you may use any type of salt you like or whatever is available when baking. There is no specific type of salt for every recipe; you can use sea salt, kosher salt, iodized salt, canning salt, or even the ordinary table salt can work as nicely as the others. When you’re at home, grind your own with a salt and pepper grinder set.
However, using salt substitutes is not advisable when baking breads especially when using the best bread machine. This can damage the yeast and this could also damage your bread. Also, avoid using curing salt as a baking ingredient. Curing salts are used for curing meats and not for bread.
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Sweeteners – Sugar and Honey
Sweeteners in bread can be in the form of sugar or honey. This is essential in baking since this serves as a food source for the yeast to help raise the bread. Most of the amount of sugar you use is consumed by the yeast and the rest is spread to add sweetness to the entire loaf.
Although you can leave the sweetener out if you are totally cutting your sugar intake, this will make the yeast work slower since it has to transform some of the flour starch into sugar. For those who are diabetic, sugar substitutes can also be made in the form of honey, maple syrup, or molasses which can be easier on the system. These substitutions can be made using the one is to one ratio.
All concentrated fruit syrups can be well-suited as sweeteners in using a bread machine. However, liquid sweeteners should be considered and counted as a part of the liquid ingredient especially when you are tracking the liquid to flour ratio of a recipe.
There are also artificial sweeteners available in the market that are sugar-free. This type of sweeteners can be a great source to add a sweeter taste to your bread but they contain certain chemicals that can kill the yeast. These are not recommended to be used when making bread.
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When baking, even the quality of the water you are going to use is very important. Having water with high minerals, fluoride, and chlorine content can kill the yeast in your bread dough. Using purified water or any bottled water can be your best choice. However, tap water can also be good enough to use and not harmful to your yeast if it tastes good and potable.
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Like with the purpose of fats in bread, milk also helps in improving the bread’s texture, flavor and in keeping it fresh longer. You can either use dry milk, fresh milk or buttermilk depending on what the bread recipe calls for or what you want to use.
However, for those who can’t or who doesn’t want to use dairy in bread, you can substitute the amount of milk for the same amount of soymilk or rice milk.
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Vital Wheat Gluten
You may come across some bread recipes that call for a small amount of vital wheat gluten. This works like a super-powered flour that is composed of all gluten with a very little amount of starch added. Technically, vital wheat gluten is not floured itself. It is made from hydrated wheat flour to activate the gluten. It is then processed to remove everything except for the gluten which is then dried and ground to make powder.
Vital wheat gluten can be added to any bread recipe you want but it is mostly used for bread recipes which use low-protein flours like whole wheat. This will also help in baking bread using rye flour which has trouble in developing enough gluten. Having a vital wheat gluten can make your bread loaves lighter since it is mostly pure gluten. It can also be effective when used in bread recipes that have a lot of extra ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
For bread recipes that use whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten can work for every 1 cup of the flour. However, when using 100 percent white bread flour when baking, there is no need to add vital wheat gluten since this has already a high protein content.
Vital wheat gluten can sometimes be hard to find at some ordinary grocery stores but you can also try looking for it in some health food stores or specialty stores. However, if you can’t find 100 percent vital wheat gluten, there is also something that is called Gluten flour. This is usually a 50/50 combination of vital wheat gluten and white bread flour. This can work just as fine as the vital wheat gluten but it may still need some adjusting.
Since gluten flour is only 50 percent vital wheat gluten, you will need to use twice as much amount compared to when you are using vital wheat gluten. This will be about 2 tablespoons of gluten flour for every 1 cup of bread flour.
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There are a lot of reasons why dough enhancers are used. They can improve the taste, texture and the crust of the bread. Some dough enhancers also act as a preservative that helps keeps the freshness of the bread for a much longer time. Also, dough enhancers are natural and this makes it an ideal and safe addition to your bread ingredients.
There are a lot of faces of dough enhancers. You may have been using it already but don’t even know it. Everything in your bread recipe except for flour, yeast, and water are considered as a dough enhancer. When using egg in your bread, you are already using a bread enhancer. Eggs are leavening agents that can give your bread lightness. The egg yolks that are rich in lecithin also help in improving the moisture level and the texture of the bread. This also serves as the bread’s mild preservative.
The sugar you use in baking the bread acts as the yeast’s food to give the bread a better rise and make it lighter. Honey as a sweetener in exchange for the sugar in your bread recipe also gives your bread a natural preservative. This can help your bread retain its freshness for a longer time.
There are also other dough enhancers you can add to your bread recipe.
The ascorbic acid can give the yeast an acidic environment to make it work better. This can also serve as a preservative to your bread that can help prevent mold or any bacterial growth. You can use 1/8 teaspoon of pure ascorbic acid crystals for every cup of flour. However, if you can’t find this, you can also use a crushed or powdered vitamin C tablet.
Using ginger in baking bread will act as a yeast booster that can give it a quick start and will keep it working. It has an astringent property that can help in keeping the bread fresher for a longer time and prevent any mold or bacterial growth. You don’t have to worry about it changing the taste of your bread since you are just going to use a tiny amount and you won’t really taste it in your baked bread. Adding ¼ teaspoon of powdered ginger is enough for every loaf of bread you bake.
Another thing that can help the yeast work quickly to give maximum rise is buttermilk. It also works to help soften the final texture of the bread. It works well in keeping bread fresher for a longer time and prevents mold and possible bacterial growth just like any other acid type additions. Half a cup of buttermilk can replace an equal amount of another liquid ingredient in your bread recipe. Adding buttermilk can, however, produce tartness on the bread so you may need to add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of baking soda to prevent this.
There are also commercial dough enhancers available in the market for you to choose from.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Best Bread Machines!
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