Did you know your bread baking method is at least as important as your recipe ingredients?
The reason: unless you properly activate your yeast, develop the gluten in your flour and give your dough a warm and moist environment to raise, you won’t get a rise high enough to produce the soft, tender bread you desire.
How to properly activate your yeast:
- Yeast thrives in a temperature range of between 105– and 110-degrees (Fahrenheit). This temperature range allows it to quickly feed on the sweetener your recipe calls for and prepare your dough for a classic, dome-shaped rise. To create this ideal temperature in your recipe liquid, either use your hottest tap water or heat your liquid. Dissolve your recipe sweetener in the warm liquid, then use a digital thermometer (or any thermometer) to verify the temperature. Instant read thermometers (most convenient) are available for under $20. Once you verify the liquid temperature, dissolve the yeast thoroughly (stir with a spoon) and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes to begin working.
- To help keep your dough warm throughout the knead/rest/knead cycle, use hot water to preheat your bread machine canister. Just before you begin placing recipe ingredients in the canister, dump the hot water out.
- Do use a bread machine and this mix/knead cycle: mix/knead 15 minutes; rest 20 minutes; mix/knead 15 minutes. This will thoroughly activate gluten in your flour. You may knead up to 18 minutes each time if desired.
- Once the second kneading cycle is complete, place your dough into a bread pan (ideally 8.5×4.5) that has been warmed with hot water, then coated with butter or a non-stick product.
- For the final rise, cover your dough with a light cloth and place your dough in a warmed oven. Within 30-40 minutes your dough should be ready to bake according to your recipe directions.
You will be pleasantly (and perhaps greatly) surprised at how much better your bread rises and tastes when you use this method.
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at www.bakeyourbestever.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterestand Facebook.