Making Breads

Making Breads

Perhaps the most essential of all foods, bread is extremely gratifying to make and to eat. The basic ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast can yield an enormous variety of loaves with a huge range of flavors, textures, and shapes. Bread has a reputation for being time consuming and difficult to make, but almost anyone can make a satisfying loaf. In fact, the actual hands-on time spent making bread is less than the average prep time for a meal.

To knead yeast dough - pulling and stretching dough helps develop its gluten and incorporate air, both necessary for the chewy texture and proper rise of good yeast bread. Don't be too gentle during initial kneading. The harder you work dough, the better the gluten develops.

Place your hands side by side on the dough and press firmly down with the heels, flattening the dough to about 1/2 inch thick. With your hands still side by side, grasp the far end of the dough and fold it back on itself, flattening again. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Continue kneading and rotating until the dough feels elastic, pliable and somewhat sticky.

To clean sticky scraps of dough from a work surface, scrape off with a plastic or metal pastry bench knife. Or use warm water and a woven mesh scrubbie. Avoid hot water, which "cooks" the dough and leaves a sticky mess. Also avoid using a sponge, which will quickly become clogged with dough.

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