Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bread Making 101: Part 1: Understanding the Science...


Note: The pic on this post is not of the recipe in this post. I am having issues with my computer, so I used a different BREAD pic!  I'll resolve it ASAP , I promise!

Hello to all and a very Happy New 2013 to each and every one of you!  Lately I asked a question on my facebook page, "what do you want to see on my blog?" Every comment had something to do with BREAD! I decided to break all the information down into several different blog posts.  When people talk about making bread, the one word I hear alot of is ' intimidation'.  I want to be able to explain the whole process in terms that make sense.  To everyone. 
Part 1 is all about understanding the science of breadmaking.  Of yeast and the way it works, and of fermentation.  Fermentation is what happens when yeast comes in contact with flour and water.  I know, I know... when I hear the word 'fermentation', I cringe slightly.  However this is how they make wine and beer. There are people that like those things, so I suppose fermentation isn't all that bad, right?  And of course, fermentation is a MUST in the process of bread making, so I really like the word now.:)  So, pretty much, fermentation occurs when yeast eats all the sugar goodness from starches, like flour, and produce all those carbon dioxide gas bubbles.  I'm not sure where wine and beer-making go from there, but those little bubbles are our friends in bread making.  They are the 'leavener' and they give the bread its texture.
You see, it's a simple science really.  Surely nothing to be intimidated by! Once you understand how yeast works, you will feel more and more comfortable trying new bread recipes and eventually you will begin to reach for those 'no-way' kind of recipes.  Mark my words!  Soon the Sky will be your bread-making limit..:)
As a little curly-haired girl standing on the kitchen chair to the side of my mom making bread, I was absolutely flabbergasted at how you could mix those little brown specks of yeast with warm water and it wouldn't take long before they'd become all fluffy and bubbly.  My favorite part was when my mom would let me add just a pinch of sugar to "feed" the yeast.  Oh, how it would grow. You see, yeast is a LIVING, single-cell plant.  So it needs to grow in order to do its job. No better way to make something grow than feed it, right? Well, yeast eats sugars to grow.  So... let's think about it for a minute. Flour is a carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates are full of starch molecules.  Starch molecules are made up of oodles and bunches of sugar molecules.  In other words, CARBS=SUGARS! When you combine the yeast and water, the yeast becomes activated.  Then you add the flour. At this point, somehow all the flour enzymes break down the carbohydrates into sugar.  The yeast then eats these sugars, which allows it to produce the little carbon dioxide gas bubbles and alcohol.  At this point, you'll begin to notice that your gassy bubbly mixture becomes, well... stringy?... Once you add and knead more flour into the mixture, those 'stringy' strands become your elasticity in your bread, also known as gluten strands, or protein.
No worries... during the baking process, the carbon dioxide gases and alcohol from the fermentation process bake out.
Now.. because I know you want to try out your new "Bread 101 knowledge" and experiment, let's do it!
Let's start out with something simple.  Something that you can observe the whole fermentation process at work. 4 staple ingredients make up this great loaf of bread!  This recipe rocks! It is oh so very versatile and it doesn't require any more 'bread knowledge' than you have acquired in this post.

No-Knead bread
recipe from my mom :)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp yeast
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water (warm)

Mix your warm water with yeast. Then add all other ingredients in large bowl until well combined.  Cover with foil and let sit for 12-18 hrs.
After it has sat and you're getting ready to bake it, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Place a greased cast iron pot with lid in the oven for 30 minutes to warm it.  Flour your work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Form a ball, tossing the ball to cover it entirely with flour.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes or so.  Take your hot pan out of the oven and place the ball of dough (you really can't ruin it) into the hot pan.  It will sizzle:)  Cover with lid. Put in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove lid.  Bake 15 minutes longer.  Remove loaf from pan and cool on wire rack. EAT and enjoy!

Now, once you're comfortable with this recipe, go ahead and try some additions.  Right before rolling it into the flour to form the ball before baking, add additional ingredients to make flavored loaves.  I love adding shredded cheddar cheese and some garlic salt.  For a quick and easy appetizer, add chopped pepperoni, chopped sundried tomatoes (or just chopped tomatoes) and shredded cheese, then serve with warmed pizza sauce.  There are so many options! Let your imagination soar!:)

I hope you've enjoyed Bread Making 101. And I also truly hope that I made sense and that you will enjoy your bread-making experience!

Happy Cooking!

1 comment:

  1. I do not have a cast iron pot with lid what else will work?


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