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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).

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!

BIGGEST BREAD BAKING SECRET

Adding this one small step to your bread baking method will give you the lightest, tastiest bread you’ve ever made!

And the secret: warm your recipe liquid to a temperature range between 105 and 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) before you dissolve your recipe sweetener and yeast in it. Keep it warm by warming your bread machine canister with hot water before adding the recipe ingredients. Maintain a warm temperature throughout the mixing and kneading process so that the yeast has an ideal environment and produces a satisfactory rise.

Why use this temperature range? Because yeast thrives in this condition. There are numerous websites for commercial yeasts and breads that confirm the importance of warming liquids to this range for traditional bread recipes. If you’re seeing recipes that call for cooler temps, they’re talking about artisan breads and sourdough recipes.

Some of those sites call for cooler liquid temperatures when you’re using a bread machine. However, that has not been my experience. Whenever I’m baking bread, I warm my liquids to a temperature range of 105 to 110 before dissolving my sweetener and yeast in it. If your liquid is more than 115 degrees, it will likely kill the yeast. I come as close as possible to the 110-degree mark, not going over 112.

One caution: this method will not work if you use a delay setting on a bread machine. However, using this method, you can mix and knead your dough in the bread machine, bake in the oven, and produce a gorgeous loaf of bread in under 2 hours. (See the recipe at the end)

To warm my water, I use the hottest tap water from my faucet. My sweetener is typically refrigerated maple syrup, which cools the water to nearly the right temperature.

My first step in preparing bread dough to go into my bread machine is to measure my hot tap water into a measuring cup, thoroughly mix in the syrup, then check the water temperature. If it’s too warm, I give it a minute or two to cool, then add the yeast, stirring it to thoroughly dissolve it.

I then fill my bread machine canister with hot water so it’s warm by the time the yeast mixture is ready. It takes a couple of minutes to measure my flour and salt. By then, my yeast mixture is activated and ready to add to my bread machine canister.

The rest of the recipe directions are found in this go-to recipe I use every time I bake. You can use your favorite bread recipe, too. Just integrate the yeast activation method and warm your utensils – even the measuring cup and bread pan if your house is really cool – and keep your dough warm and comfortable until it’s ready for the oven.

100% WHEAT BREAD

Equipment:

2-3 quart mixing bowl

2-cup measuring utensil

Tablespoon

Measuring cups, from ¼-cup size on up to 1-cup

Whisk or fork

Digital thermometer

Bread machine

Bread pan

Spatula

Butter, oil or no-stick spray to coat breadpan

 

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups water, ranging from 105 to 109degrees

1 ½ teaspoons yeast

¼ cup sugar, honey or maple syrup

 

1 Tablespoon gluten

3 ½ cups 100% whole wheat flour (I recommend white wheat for the flavor)

1 ½ teaspoons salt (recommend Himalayan pink salt)

2 Tablespoons of melted butter or oil

Method:

If necessary (typically during the winter months), use hot tap water to heat your measuring utensil and bread machine canister before preparing your bread dough. This usually takes just a few minutes once the hot water is placed in the utensil. Once you’re ready to use them, pour the water out.

Place 1 ¼ cups of hot tap water in 2-cup measuring utensil. If you’re using refrigerated syrup or honey, it will significantly cool the water’s temperature. Once you’ve added the sweetener, and stirred it thoroughly to blend it with the water, check the water’s temperature. If it’s too cold, heat it (microwave or stove top) to the appropriate temperature (105-110 degrees); if too hot, allow it to cool for a few minutes. Once the mixture is within the desired temperature range, add the yeast and stir to dissolve it.

Allow the yeast mixture to rest for 3-5 minutes. It will form a foamy “head” to indicate that the yeast is activated.

While you wait for the yeast, blend your dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, measure flour, gluten and salt. Sift the ingredients together using a whisk or a fork.

If using butter, melt it just till it’s soft enough to easily blend into the bread dough.

Once your yeast mixture is ready, pour out the water used to heat the bread machine canister. Carefully pour the yeast mixture into the pan, using a spatula to clear the measuring cup. Slowly add the flour mixture to the canister. Pour the oil or melted butter on top of the flour. Select your machine settings and start the mixing/kneading process.

Once the initial kneading/mixing is complete, allow the dough to rest in the bread machine pan until the second kneading cycle is completed.

Before the second cycle completes, prepare your bread pan. If necessary, warm the pan before coating it (spraying with non-stick product, insert parchment, etc.).

Once the second kneading cycle is done, gently place the dough into the coated bread pan, cover it and place it in a warm area (I use my oven, which I heat to close to 80 degrees). It will take 30-45 minutes for the dough to raise.

Once the dough is raised, place it in a pre-heated 350-degree (Fahrenheit) oven to bake for 30-45 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and immediately place on a cooling rack. Try to give it some time to cool before you cut any slices!

Once it’s completely cooled, store the bread in a plastic bag or bread keeper. In summer, home-made bread quickly spoils and should be refrigerated or frozen once it’s cooled.

All this information, many more bread baking tips, plus 4 additional recipes are available in my book, “Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever!” You’ll find a link to purchase the book on my Welcome page and also on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. My weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, and on Pinterest and Facebook. Happy baking!