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
2-3 quart mixing bowl
2-cup measuring utensil
Measuring cups, from ¼-cup size on up to 1-cup
Whisk or fork
Butter, oil or no-stick spray to coat breadpan
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
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!