HOW TO MANAGE BREAD DOUGH TEMPERATURE

Did you know there’s one simple tool that could revolutionize your bread baking forever?

that tool? It’s a digital thermometer.

 

If you’re thinking that the last thing that you need in your kitchen is another tool, no worries. Digital thermometers are generally about the length of an everyday spoon and less than 2 inches wide.

 

When it comes to cost, some digital thermometers cost as little as $5.

So how will this simple tool make help you improve your bread baking? By verifying the temperature of the liquid used to dissolve your yeast. At a temperature range between 105- and 110-degrees (Fahrenheit), yeast thrives and produces a light, high-rising loaf of bread. Once your liquid falls within this temperature range, you can be certain your yeast won’t be killed by liquid that’s too hot. You’ll also know that it’s warm enough to start working in your dough once you’ve combined all the ingredients.

 

If you use an instant-read thermometer, it will take you about two seconds to check the liquid temperature. If you opt to use a less expensive model, it may take up to 10 seconds. The step adds very little time to your bread baking process and contributes greatly to the quality of your loaf.

 

So, what kind of digital thermometers should you use in baking bread? There are numerous types to consider.

 

  1. The least costly digital thermometer that I’ve come across, $5.49, will work just fine for this task. Since it’s being used for a few seconds each time, it’s likely to last for many years.
  2. Higher priced digital thermometers range from $10 to more than $30. The one I currently use cost $13 and has worked just fine for the past two years. If I find I need to replace it, I will try the less costly option to see how it holds up.
  3. Instant-read thermometers are very convenient, but much more costly. Prices often begin at the $80 range. While the convenience is nice, it’s not necessary to accomplish the task of verifying the liquid temperature.

 

If you’ve never used a digital thermometer in your kitchen before, you may find that you like it and can justify paying a higher price for one. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

 

Whichever model you select, I highly recommend implementing the practice of checking your liquid’s temperature, especially if you’ve struggled to produce satisfactory loaves of bread. This step, in combination with the use of a bread machine, took my bread baking results from disappointing to amazing.

 

And what role did the bread machine play? Since the mixing and kneading take place in a canister, you can warm the canister before placing your ingredients inside it. This helps maintain that ideal temperature range you set up by checking your recipe liquid. Your bread dough will start at an ideal temperature range and remain there until it’s baked in the bread machine or, you prepare it for the final rise to bake in your oven.

 

If you decide to bake the bread in your oven, warm your bread pan before coating it and placing the dough in it. Complete the final rise inside your warmed oven (just don’t leave the oven on during the rise time) or in an area where you can manage the temperature to help keep it warm (90-100 degrees is ideal).

BREAD MACHINE RICE BREAD

RICE IN BREAD DOUGH?

Substituting cooked rice for part of the flour in my bread dough was an entirely new concept for me until I found a recipe noting that rice “makes delicious bread that is moist, flavorful” and has an interesting texture.

My go-to bread machine recipe has always been quite moist and soft. However, when I decided to try using some leftover rice, I found that rice does indeed produce a very soft, moist bread. Be aware, though, that, for some reason, it doesn’t toast very easily.

Here’s my Bread Machine Rice Bread recipe:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour (may need to add some additional flour)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ cups water

3 Tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 ½ teaspoons yeast

1 egg

1 ¼ cups cooked, cooled rice

3 Tablespoons butter (you can soften or melt this or cut it in chunks when you add it to the canister)

Heat the water to a temperature range between 105 and 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) (or use hot tap water that’s in this temperature range). Dissolve the sugar in the water; add the milk. At this point, check the temperature of the mixture with a digital thermometer. It should be a minimum of 105 degrees (Fahrenheit) and not more than 110 degrees (Fahrenheit). If it’s too cool, warm slightly on the stovetop. If it’s too warm, stir it to cool it down.

Once the water/sugar/milk mixture is in the desired temperature range, dissolve the yeast in it. Set the mixture aside.

Blend the flour and salt thoroughly and set aside.

Beat the egg slightly; set aside.

Before you place the yeast mixture into the bread machine canister, warm the canister with hot water. This helps maintain an ideal temperature range for yeast activity.

Once the canister has been warmed, pour out the water you used. Place the yeast mixture in the canister, followed by the flour mixture, then the beaten egg, cooked rice and butter.

Set your bread machine on a mix/knead cycle of mix/knead for 15 minutes, rest for 20 minutes, mix/knead for 15 minutes. If your bread machine can’t be programmed for this cycle, simply set timers so you know when to start and stop the machine.

Once this cycle is complete, you can either bake the bread in the bread machine or place it in a bread pan (ideally 8.5×4.5). Prepare your bread pan by warming it (if your kitchen is somewhat cold); then use non-stick spray, butter or some non-stick ingredient to coat the pan. Place the dough in the pan and set it in a warm place to rise. Your oven, heated to at least 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), is a great place to raise bread dough. Don’t leave the oven on while the dough rises. Cover the dough with a light towel to help keep it from drying out while it raises.

It will take approximately 30 minutes for the dough to rise. At that point, remove the dough from the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit). Bake the bread dough for 30 minutes. Once you take the bread out of the oven, immediately remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack.

To store the bread, use a plastic bag or bread keeper. Unless you plan to use it within 24 hours, always store homemade bread in the refrigerator.

THE GIFT OF BREAD!

Since homemade bread is a somewhat rare commodity today, you may have family and/or friends who will appreciate receiving a homemade loaf.

Depending on how many people make it to your “homemade bread gift list,” you may need to produce multiple loaves in short order. Within 8 to 10 hours, you can make at least 6 loaves of bread using my “streamlined” method.

Step 1: Inventory your ingredients. Make sure you have enough flour, sugar, and yeast on hand to make as many loaves as you need. Here’s a typical ingredient list for 6 2-pound loaves of bread:

  • Flour – an average of 3 ¾ cups per loaf = 22.5 cups. A five-pound bag of flour will make an average of 5 loaves.
  • Sugar – generally, a recipe for this loaf size will not call for more than ¼ cup of sugar per loaf. For 6 loaves, you’ll need 1 ½ cups of sugar. If you use another sweetener, multiply the amount for one loaf by 6.
  • Yeast – my recipe for a 2-pound loaf calls for 1.5 teaspoons of yeast. To ensure you have enough yeast to make multiple loaves with your recipe, multiply the yeast amount by the number of loaves you’re making.
  • You’ll also need salt and either butter or oil in your recipe.
  • Depending on your recipe ingredients, you may need milk and/or some additional ingredients (i.e., potato flakes to help keep the bread soft).
  • If necessary, measure out each ingredient so you can verify that you have what you need.

When baking multiple loaves, it helps to assemble all your ingredients in one place to speed measuring activities. You may also consider measuring all dry ingredients one or two days before you’re ready to bake. You can combine flour and salt but keep sugar and yeast amounts separated until you’re ready to use them.

If possible, set up an area close to your oven where the final rise can be completed. Once you start baking the loaves, the area around your oven should be warmer than the overall room temperature, which means the dough will rise more quickly.

To keep track of what stage each batch of dough is at, you can set timers (I use both the microwave and an old dial-type timer) so you don’t forget to put the dough into a loaf pan or into the oven. You’ll also want to time the bake time for each loaf (generally 30 minutes). A sheet that lists “Loaf 1,” “Loaf 2,” etc. can also help. Before you begin, estimate the time each batch of dough will be ready to put in a loaf pan and the time you expect it will be ready for the oven. This can help you accurately track each batch of dough since you’ll be able to work on other things as the process progresses.

It will be helpful to set up an area where each loaf can thoroughly cool before you bag it. If you don’t have enough cooling racks to accommodate all the loaves, you can suspend the loaf between two objects, with each edge of the loaf (set them up lengthwise) on boxes, pans, even plates. Just make sure heat can escape from the bottom of the bread, or it will become soggy.

Bag each loaf as soon as it’s cool. You can decorate the bag with stickers, ribbon, even wrapping paper if you like. Since homemade bread has no preservatives, be sure to store the loaves in a cool location (equivalent to a refrigerator) until you share them. You may also consider including a note about how to store the bread to keep it from spoiling.

Happy baking!