There are two different ways to make bread. The first is by hand and the second using a bread-making machine.
Baking by hand, also known as 'scratch' baking, is the traditional way of making bread. Making bread in this way involves lots of kneading. Dough needs to be kneaded for 5-10 minutes and then left to rise. Kneading ensures that the resulting dough is firm, smooth and elastic and then rises well. After the dough has been left to rise ('prove'), a second kneading is needed. This is called 'knocking back'. This needs to be done quickly and lightly to make sure air bubbles are distributed throughout the dough. If you do not do a second kneading then uneven air pockets might expand during baking meaning that your loaf will have holes in.
Baking from scratch is hard work and more time consuming than using a bread machine. However many home bakers consider it worth the extra effort, for the undeniable sense of achievement and satisfaction they get from making bread in the traditional way. Kneading bread especially can be very therapeutic. Using a bread machine to make your bread is a quicker, easier, cleaner and equivalent more convenient baking method. The machines are easy to use and once loaded with the correct ingredients, can be programmed and left to produce breads of a uniform shape and size. The minimum involvement frees up time, which is useful for people with busy lives.
A bread machine can also be left to cook overnight to provide wonderful, freshly made bread in time for breakfast the following morning.
How to make bread – bread-making ingredients
Flour, yeast, water and salt are the four key ingredients required to make bread. Extra ingredients such as fat (in the form of butter, olive oil and margarine), sugar, nuts, seeds and dried fruit can be added to enhance the taste of your loaves or create specialty breads. Wherever possible, use the highest quality ingredients.
Making white or wholemeal bread by hand
Start with a clear workspace and carefully weigh out all of your ingredients separately. Then, pour the salt and the flour into a large mixing bowl, followed by the yeast. Rub the fat into the flour, make a well in the center of the mixture and add enough lukewarm water to make a soft dough.
Lightly flour your working surface. Removing the dough mixture from the bowl, place it on the surface so you can begin the kneading process. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes by folding over the dough, repeatedly pushing it down and over.
This is a very important part of the bread making process and should not be hurried. This process enables the gluten to become more elastic. As a result your dough will rising properly to create a better loaf.
After kneading, place your dough in a bowl, covered with a clean dry tea towel then leave it for 20-30 minutes to rest. Lightly flour your work surface again, then turn the dough out onto it and knead it again shortly and lightly ('knocking back'). Then fold the dough into a pre-grown bread tin.
Cover the dough with lightly oiled cling film, before placing it in a warm, dry area to expand and rise for about an hour.
Preheat your oven to the desired temperature, remove the cling film covering and place your dough into the oven. The finished loaf should be even colored. To check whether it is cooked through, lightly tap the base of the loaf and it should sound hollow.
When the loaf is well colored and produces a hollow sound, remove it from its tin straight away and place it on a wire rack to cool.
Making bread using a bread machine
When using a bread machine to make your bread at home, there are a number of points to bear in mind. Most importantly, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines. You may find that some of the recipes that come with your machine need some fine-tuning so you may have to experiment with the first few loaves.
Some bread machine models enable you to select a light or dark crust setting and some come with preset settings for French bread. If your machine features a rapid bake setting, this will speed up the bread making process but be prepared that rapid bake loaves will not rise as much as those baked on a regular setting.
Try to be as accurate as possible with your measurements, especially with your water. Too much water can result in a leaden loaf.
Successful home bread making requires time and care
For the most successful home baking results, invest in a set of digital home cooking scales. These are invaluable when measuring out ingredients, especially fluids.
Get the room temperature right
Ensure the temperature of the kitchen is correct. It needs to be warm – not too hot or too cold – for making dough and leaving it to rise.
Save time and effort
Bread machines can save time and effort. If you have access to a bread-making machine you could use it for the kneading part of the bread making process. After kneading the dough should be left to recover before it goes into the final mold. The dough should ideally be left to rest for around half an hour.
As a guideline, the final bake and browning off should ideally be done at 230 ° C. If your oven does not reach that temperature (most modern ovens do not), then bake your loaf at as high a temperature as you can.
When storing your bread after baking, loosely wrap it in a clean dry tea towel before putting it in a bread bin. This will enable it to 'breathe'. Do not store your bread in the fridge; doing so is the quickest way to make bread go stale.
It is possible to freeze finished bread as well as dough and yeast. Dough should be frozen after its first kneading. Simply place your dough in a polythene bag oiled on the inside to stop it from sticking and then pop it in the freezer. Bread can be frozen either with a loaf or in slices, again within an oiled polythene bag. Ensure the bag is sealed tightly to avoid the bread drying out.
Fresh yeast can be frozen for up to one month, if placed in an airtight container.
Source by Hannah Marriage