Bread Making For Dummies book cover

Bread Making For Dummies

By: Wendy Jo Peterson Published: 11-10-2020

Craving fresh-baked bread?

The 2020 pandemic has highlighted our love of bread, especially when it was nowhere to be found! Bread making took center stage for many of us stuck at home and craving comfort food. Fresh baked bread definitely soothes the soul. As it should, bread baking has been a tradition for thousands of years and across all continents. Bread Making For Dummies explores the science behind the art of bread making and our cultural connection to wild and commercial yeasts. Break out your kitchen scale and favorite wholesome grains and join us on the journey, from classic German Pretzels (Brezeln) to warm Salted Pecan Rolls to Rustic Sourdough. 

Popular culinary author and dietician Wendy Jo Peterson has your foolproof loaf, flatbread, and roll needs covered. If you want to really start from scratch and culture your own yeast—no problem! She’ll also let you in on the secrets of the fashionable no-knead and sourdough recipes that have been drawing chefs’ kisses of discerning delight from bread-aficionados for the past decade.

  • Discover the tools and ingredients needed in bread making
  • Grow your own sourdough starter
  • Form savory or sweet loaves
  • Stuff breads for a complete meal
  • Boost the nutritional quality of breads with wholesome ingredients, like nuts, seeds, and old-world grains

Whether you’re a nervous newbie or a seasoned, floury-aproned baker, Bread Making For Dummies is the beginning of a delicious, doughy adventure—so get your butter knife ready and discover just how easy and extra-tasty home bread-making can be!

Articles From Bread Making For Dummies

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6 Steps to Making Great Bread

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Whether you’re using your hands or a stand mixer, making bread requires patience, strength, and skill. Many people assume that making bread is as simple as tossing together flour, water, yeast, and salt — and in some breads, it is that easy. But most yeast breads require more. In this article, I explore the finite details of making a great bread. I also fill you in on how to store your bread so you can enjoy it for days (or even weeks!) to come. Before you break out the bread pan to bake your first loaf, you need to understand the steps required to reach a great loaf of bread. Bread doesn’t lie: If you rush through or drag out these steps, your bread will show it. Bread baking isn’t magic, but it is a science. And when you stick to the steps, you can master the chemical reactions, too. Step 1: Measuring your ingredients Accuracy is key in bread making, and the plain truth is that weighing ingredients on a kitchen scale is more accurate than measuring volume with cups and spoons. 120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour Because of variances in humidity, flour mills, and temperature, you may need to adjust how much flour you use. Experience will teach you when to use more or less flour and water. The more you make bread, the better you’ll be at making these adjustments on your own, but especially if you’re just getting started with bread, stick to the recipe your first time through. Step 2: Mixing the dough Two key mixing methods are used in bread making: Straight dough method: In the straight dough method, you combine and mix all the ingredients. Then you knead the dough until it is smooth and can be stretched without breaking. Sponge method: The sponge method has two stages. First, you mix together the yeast, the liquid, and part of the flour and allow it to rise. When the dough has doubled in size, you add the remaining flour and ingredients and knead the dough. The sponge method is often used with denser flours that absorb more water, such as whole-wheat flour. The sponge method allows the flour to hydrate before it’s mixed more, allowing for a lighter, airier product in the end. Step 3: Letting it rise You’re starting to smell the flavors of your bread taking shape. But don’t get impatient and pop the dough into the oven too soon! You need to let the dough fully rise and ferment first. As the yeast feeds on the sugars in the bread, they release gas. The gas is captured in the gluten matrix, and the dough rises. Fermentation, or rising, is complete when the dough has doubled in size. The length of time it takes varies based on the type of flour, the amount of yeast, and the temperature. While the dough is rising, keep it in a warm, draft-free place. To help the dough not dry out, place a dampened tea towel over the bowl. The towel will keep the dough from drying out and add humidity to the air as the dough rises. Step 4: Punching and shaping the dough When the dough has doubled in size, it’s time to use a dough scraper and place the dough onto a floured surface. You don’t literally need to punch the dough — instead, you gently fold it down to redistribute the gas throughout the dough. If you do this too many times, you may end up with a flat baked product, so be gentle to your dough. Folding over one or two times should be enough. After the dough has been folded over, it’s time to shape the dough. Whether you’re making rolls, baguettes, or loaves, there’s technique involved. If the dough seems difficult to shape or too wet to work with, cover the dough, place it into the refrigerator, let it chill for an hour and see if it’s easier to shape. Some doughs, like sweet breads, require at least 6 to 12 hours of chilling for best results. Shaping can take time. Measuring out equal pieces of dough is a process. If you’re rolling the dough into knots or pretzels, it can take a couple of tries to stretch and shape the long pieces, allowing the gluten to relax and stretch. Step 5: Proofing the dough After you’ve shaped the dough, it’s time for a final rising, referred to as proofing. Some ovens are equipped with a bread proofing setting, which is a slightly warmer temperature than a standard home (usually between 80 and 115 degrees F). For each recipe, the length of proofing required is different, but usually it’s anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Step 6: Baking Now you’ve come to the fun part! Depending on the recipe, you may brush the bread with an egg wash for a golden glaze or top the dough with seeds. Some recipes even have you score the dough, or mark it with a serrated knife or bread lame (a scoring knife that looks similar to a box cutter or razor). Regardless of what the recipe calls for, just be gentle and make sure not to deflate your gorgeous creation before baking. When you place the dough into a hot oven, you’ll see a quick, initial rise, often referred to as oven spring. This is when the gases from the yeast get trapped in the matrix of gluten, allowing the bread to rise and hold its form. Avoid opening the oven — when you open the oven, you allow cool air to enter and disrupt the baking process. When is your bread done? Instead of thumping the loaf and playing a guessing game, use an instant-read thermometer. For a typical loaf of white or wheat bread, the goal is 190 to 210 degrees F. For a bread that’s rich in fat or egg based, like challah, aim for 180 to 190 degrees F. To take the temperature, wait until the bread is near its baking time. Then pull the bread out of the oven with potholders and shut the oven door to keep the heat inside in case you need to continue baking. Insert the thermometer in the center of the dough, making sure not to touch the thermometer to the sides of the pan. If the temperature is lower than the desired doneness, place the bread back into the oven for a couple of minutes, approximately 5 minutes for every 5 to 10 degrees the temperature is off. How to knead dough Most recipes specify an exact time to use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and at what level. But it’s still important to know how to knead dough by hand. Follow these steps to knead dough: Form the dough into a ball. Pat the dough into a flatter ball. Lift the part of the dough that is closest to you, and fold it over the top. Use the heal or palm of your hand to push the dough down into the rounded dough (see the figure). Turn the dough a quarter turn to the left, and repeat Step 3. Keep repeating until the dough is smooth and has elasticity. If the dough is sticky, coat your hands and dust the dough with a little flour before continuing to knead. How to Store Bread Before you place another loaf of bread in the refrigerator, hear me out. The quickest way to stale bread is through the refrigerator. The breads you bake at home won’t have preservatives, so the bread will turn stale more quickly. Most freshly baked breads only last one to five days at room temperature; the higher the fat content, the longer the shelf life. Don’t slice bread before it has cooled completely. Yes, you may be tempted to slice bread fresh from the oven, but that can result in a gummy bread. Some loaves, like a rye sourdough bread, actually need up to two days to form a crust! But for most breads, one to three hours of cooling is best before slicing. When the bread is cooled, place it in a brown paper bag or wrap it in a tea towel. A bread with a softer crust should be stored in an airtight, sealed container. If you know you won’t be able to enjoy the bread before it becomes stale, wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap or bee’s wax paper and place it in a freezer-friendly resealable bag. You can store it in the freezer this way for up to a month. You can even freeze sliced bread for quicker toast in the morning — just grab a slice and place it in your toaster. The heat from your toaster will be ample to defrost and toast your bread. You may need to toast it twice to get the perfect crust. If you’re reheating a frozen loaf of bread, spritz or rub the surface with water and then bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Bread Making For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 10-04-2021

Bread making is making a comeback, and you’re not alone if you’re ready to try your hand at making your very own loaf at home! It helps if you know how to form a round roll. And if you’re considering sourdough, discovering the benefits of sourdough bread may be enough to push you over the edge. Finally, a key aspect of bread making is timing — setting a schedule is key to success!

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10 Ways to Upcycle Stale Bread

Step by Step / Updated 10-04-2021

If you're enthusiastic about baking bread and/or using some extra time to learn a new skill, you’re bound to find yourself with more bread than you can eat. Before you toss it to the chickens, share it with your compost, or (gasp!) throw it away, consider some creative ways to make that stale bread taste fresh again. You may note the European influence in many of these recipes. Bread is cherished in every country throughout Europe, and without using preservatives, their breads go stale fast. So, of course, Europeans are well-versed on upcycling breads. If you like gnocchi, try the German classic Spinat Knödel (Spinach Dumplings) — it’s a family favorite in my home and created by my dear friend, Franzi. If you’re craving something savory, check out the Breakfast Strata. Have a sweet tooth? Skip down to the Tropical Bread Pudding. Inspired by the Mediterranean diet? You’ll definitely want to check out the Panzanella. Don’t despair when you find yourself with excess bread! Instead, get creative with one of the dishes in this list.

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3 Basic Bread Recipes

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Close your eyes and imagine fresh-baked bread, hot out of the oven, the aroma dancing through the hall and on to the street. Enjoy these recipes for a couple of classic breads, white and wheat, and an old-world favorite, dark rye. Many bread recipes call for a standard loaf pan lined with parchment paper, as shown in the first figure. Most of the doughs are gently patted into a square (see the second figure), and then rolled up. As you roll the squared bread dough, you slightly tuck in the ends (see the third figure). After rolling, you can pinch the seam closed before being placed into the parchment-lined loaf pan for baking. Cutting into a warm loaf of bread is tempting, but let your breads cool completely before taking that first slice. Following are three basic bread recipes for you to try: Dark Rye Bread, Grandma's White Bread, and Wheat Sandwich Bread. Dark Rye Bread Prep time: 20 minutes plus 1 hour 15 minutes for rising Bake time: 35 minutes Yield: 10 slices Ingredients 7 grams (2-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast 207 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) warm water 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour 103 grams (1 cup) dark rye flour 11.4 grams (5 teaspoons) caraway seeds, divided 9 grams (1-1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt 30 grams (2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) canola oil or bacon fat drippings, divided 1 egg, whisked Directions In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, place the yeast, water, all-purpose flour, rye flour, and 8 grams (4 teaspoons) of the caraway seeds. Stir together on low speed (level 1) for 1 minute. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Add the salt and 28 grams (2 tablespoons) oil and knead on medium-low speed (level 2) for 5 minutes. Rub the surface of the dough with the remaining 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Place the dough onto a floured surface. Gently press and flatten the dough to release excess air bubbles. Form the dough into an 8-x-8-inch square. Roll up the dough into a log, tucking in the ends as you roll the dough. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper. Place the dough, seam side down, into the bread pan. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the top of the bread dough with the whisked egg and sprinkle with the remaining 2 grams (1 teaspoon) of caraway seeds. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 180 to 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the bread pan by lifting the parchment paper. Allow the bread to cool at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. Per serving: Calories 164 (From Fat 39); Fat 4g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 21mg; Sodium 357mg; Carbohydrate 27g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 5g. After cooling, wrap in a tea towel and store up to two or three days in a bread box or brown paper bag at room temperature. Vary it! Add a teaspoon of dried dill for a vibrant twist in flavors. Grandma’s White Bread Prep time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours for rising Bake time: 35 minutes Yield: 10 servings Ingredients 300 grams (1-1/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon) warm water 7 grams (1 packet or 21/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast 20 grams (5 teaspoons) granulated sugar 500 grams (4 cups) bread flour 28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter, softened or at room temperature 9 grams (1-1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt Directions In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, place the water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to mix on low speed (level 1). Allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes to see that yeast is active and bubbly. Add the flour. Turn the stand mixer on to low speed (level 2) and knead the dough for 3 minutes. Add the butter and salt to the mixing bowl, and turn the stand mixer on to medium-low speed (level 2 to 3). Knead the dough for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed at the beginning. Remove the dough hook. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel, and place in a warm, draft-free spot in your kitchen. After 1 1/2 hours, check to see if the dough has doubled in size. If it hasn’t, cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for another 30 minutes. If it has doubled in size, take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Gently press and flatten the dough to release the excess air bubbles. Form the dough into a 8-x-8-inch square. Roll up the dough into a log, tucking in the ends as you roll the dough. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray. Place a piece of parchment paper into the bread pan. Place the dough, seam side down, into the bread pan. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 to 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the bread pan by lifting the parchment paper. Allow the bread to cool at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. Per serving: Calories 211 (From Fat 28); Fat 3g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 6mg; Sodium 351mg; Carbohydrate 39g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 6g. After cooling, wrap in a tea towel and store up to two days in a bread box or brown paper bag at room temperature. Wheat Sandwich Bread Prep time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours for rising Bake time: 30 minutes Yield: 10 servings Ingredients 245 grams (1 cup) milk 28 grams (2 tablespoons) cold butter 170 grams (1-1/2 cups) whole-wheat flour 12 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar 40 grams (2 tablespoons) molasses 7 grams (1 packet or 2-1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast 42 grams (1/2 cup) wheat germ 120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour 9 grams (1-1/2 teaspoons) kosher salt Directions In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until small bubbles begin to form, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter to cool the mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, add the whole-wheat flour, sugar, and molasses. Pour in the warm milk and turn the mixer on low speed (level 1). Mix for 1 minute. Add in the yeast and mix for 1 more minute. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together the wheat germ, all-purpose flour, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer bowl. Knead on medium-low speed (level 2) for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and allow to rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. Place the dough onto a floured surface. Gently press and flatten the dough to release excess air bubbles. Form the dough into a 8-x-8-inch square. Roll up the dough into a log, tucking in the ends as you roll the dough. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper. Place the dough, seam side down, into the bread pan. Cover and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 to 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the bread pan by lifting the parchment paper. Allow the bread to cool at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. Per serving: Calories 174 (From Fat 36); Fat 4g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 9mg; Sodium 363mg; Carbohydrate 30g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 6g. After cooling, wrap in a tea towel and store up to three to five days in a bread box or brown paper bag at room temperature. Vary it! If you have bacon fat drippings, you can replace the butter with bacon fat. It adds a subtle, smoky flavor to the bread and is a great way to use up rendered fat.

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Spelt Baguettes with 3 Spreads

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Many breads taste amazing with just a dip of olive oil or a smear of butter. You can also elevate your favorite toasted bread or sandwich with sauces or spreads. An absolute favorite — the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seed Spread — may shock your taste buds. Most dips and sauces can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for at least five days. Perfect for party planning and prepping in advance — and the best way to compliment your delicious breads! Spelt Baguettes Prep time: 20 minutes plus 11 hours for rising Bake time: 30 minutes Yield: 9 servings Ingredients 50 grams (1/4 cup) sourdough starter 360 grams(1-1/2 cups) room-temperature water 400 grams (4 cups) whole spelt flour 50 grams (1/3 cup) bread flour 12 grams (2-1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt Directions In a large glass bowl, mix together the sourdough starter and water, stirring to dissolve the starter. Add in the whole spelt flour and bread flour, and stir to combine until it’s a shaggy dough. Let rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough. Stretch and fold the dough 4 times. Cover the dough bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough 4 times. Cover the dough bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough 4 times. Cover the dough bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough 4 times. Allow the covered dough to rest an additional 6 to 8 hours or until doubled in size. Dust a flat surface with flour. Transfer the risen dough to the floured surface. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, setting aside 2 pieces. Keep in mind the elongated shape of a baguette while shaping the dough: With the first piece, flatten it gently and then focus on lengthening the dough. Fold the side closest to you over the center and press down. Turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat, folding the dough over the center and flattening with your hand (see the following figure). Using two hands and starting at the left side, fold with your right hand in toward the center and press with your left palm to stick the dough. Coat your hands with flour, as needed. Turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat on the other side. Turn the elongated piece of dough over with the seam side down on the flat surface. Pinch the seam closed. Starting from the center, use your fingers to rock the dough back and forth from the center to the ends, elongating the dough as you go. This is a gentle process to roll the dough out to create a long baguette shape, about 15 to 20 inches in length. Set the baguette aside and repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of dough. Place a piece of parchment paper on a heavy baking sheet and place the baguettes about 4 inches apart on the baking sheet. Let rest for 30 minutes. Set the oven rack to the middle position of the oven, and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. After the oven is preheated, score the top of each baguette with 3 angled slices, about 1/2-inch deep, to allow steam to escape. Place the baguettes into the oven and reduce the temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 180 to 190 degrees F and the crust is golden in color. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for 30 to 60 minutes before slicing. Per serving: Calories 184 (From Fat 11); Fat 1g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 521mg; Carbohydrate 38g (Dietary Fiber 5g); Protein 8g. After cooling, wrap in a tea towel and store up to two days in a bread box or brown paper bag at room temperature. Vary it! If you can’t find spelt flour, you can use bread flour instead. Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus Prep time: 10 minutes Yield: 16 servings Ingredients 14 grams (1/4 cup) sun-dried tomatoes, canned in oil One 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 61 grams (1/4 cup) garbanzo bean liquid from the can 10 grams (2 teaspoons) tahini 14 grams (1 tablespoon) lemon juice 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt 75 grams (1/3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil Directions Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. Pulse the tomatoes for about 1 minute. Add in the garbanzo beans, the liquid from the can, the tahini, the lemon juice, and the salt. Pulse until mixed. While running the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. Per serving: Calories 84 (From Fat 52); Fat 6g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 161mg; Carbohydrate 7g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 2g. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Saving the water from the garbanzo bean can is a great way to thin out hummus without it becoming too oily. Serve with your favorite crackers, sandwiches, or smeared onto crusty bread. Vary it! Hummus has many variations -- you can add almost any addition, from olive to beets. Get creative and have fun with combinations like pumpkin seeds or artichokes. Olive and Pine Nut Spread Prep time: 5 minutes Yield: 8 servings Ingredients 67 grams (1/2 cup) pine nuts 90 grams (1/2 cup) canned black or green olives (pitted) 60 grams (1 cup) fresh parsley leaves 1 garlic clove 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional) 43 grams (3 tablespoons) olive oil Directions In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a food processor. Add the olives, parsley, garlic, and red pepper. Pulse a few times to roughly chop. Add the olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, while pulsing, until the desired consistency is reached. Per serving: Calories 118 (From Fat 108); Fat 12g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 104mg; Carbohydrate 3g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 2g. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you prefer a smooth consistency, process for 2 minutes. For a chunkier consistency, pulse for 30 seconds. Stir into olive oil and vinegar for a quick vinaigrette, add on top of pizza for a salty addition, or spread onto your favorite Greek- or Italian-inspired sandwich. Vary it! If you’re looking for a tapenade, add anchovies and capers to this mix. It’s a fun twist on an Italian classic! Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Seed Spread Prep time: 55 minutes Yield: 12 servings Ingredients 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed 73 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil, divided 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) garlic powder 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) onion powder 60 grams (1/2 cup) hulled pumpkin seeds, divided 43 grams (3 tablespoons) fresh lime juice 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) ground cumin Directions Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the salt, the garlic powder, and the onion powder. Transfer to the parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Let the sweet potatoes cool completely, about 20 minutes. Place 6 tablespoons of the pumpkin seeds into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until a coarse texture is reached. Add in the sweet potatoes, lime juice, and cumin. Pulse while slowly adding the remaining olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. Top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds for serving. Per serving: Calories 376 (From Fat 354); Fat 39g (Saturated 21g); Cholesterol 81mg; Sodium 245mg; Carbohydrate 5g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 2g. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Serve this savory sweet potato dip on toast with fresh arugula and goat cheese on top, or dip your favorite crackers into the savory spread. Vary it! Make this spread Spanish-style, using paprika and lemon juice instead of cumin and lime juice.

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10 Common Sourdough Questions

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Sourdough can be so simple and yet so complex. Because your starter is alive, your dough is also alive, which means you have to treat it with care. Many variables can apply to sourdough baking. But specific to sourdough are some frequent questions answered in this list. Why Is My Sourdough Bread Gummy? If you’re finding that your bread is gummy, make sure you’ve allowed it to cool completely before slicing into the loaf. Cutting into a warm loaf can create a gummy crumb. If you really can’t resist the taste of warm bread, bake your sourdough as rolls instead. Then you can allow some to cool completely and still savor the taste of warm bread. Why Is My Loaf Flat? A light, rounded loaf is typically the goal of sourdough, but even experienced bakers sometimes end up with a flat disk. Doing routine stretches and folds really helps add volume to a loaf. Make sure the temperature is about 70 to 75 degrees F when it’s bulk fermenting. Then be sure to get a tight shape. After you shape, place the dough into a well-floured banneton or into your parchment-lined Dutch oven and let it rise (covered) for 1 to 2 more hours (or do a cold proof for up to 36 to 48 hours). Get your oven very hot. Then quickly score the bread and bake. How Do I Know if My Starter Is Ready? If you’re not sure whether your starter is ready, feed it again and let it rise before using it. If your starter has sat in the refrigerator for a while, do twice-daily feedings for a couple days before baking with it. The more you bake, the happier your starter will be and the better it will perform. In addition to feeding the starter regularly, consider feeding with rye flour. Rye flour naturally imparts a beautiful color and tang (sour notes) into the starter. The starter is alive! Treat it with care, feed it appropriately, and try not to neglect it. What Do I Do If My Dough Is Too Sticky to Handle? A dough scraper can be your best friend and help transfer dough from a bowl to a work surface. As you shape the dough, you’ll feel it become more pliable and less sticky. If you’re still struggling, use wet hands. Doughs with a higher level of hydration (more water than a standard loaf) can be trickier to work. Wet your hands and try your best to stretch and fold. If it seems impossible, place your dough in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and then try again. A wetter dough is actually preferred among sourdough bakers and will yield the desired airholes sourdough lovers crave. If you’re a beginner in sourdough baking, you can use 50 to 100 grams less water, and see if the dough is easier to handle. A high hydration loaf can be found in this Spelt Baguettes recipe. Baker’s percentages calculate the percentage of water to flour in a loaf. This topic is a common point of discussion among serious sourdough bakers. You don’t need to know baker’s percentages in order to bake a successful loaf — my grandmother never did and most folks I know don’t calculate it. However, most bakers understand higher- and lower-hydration loaves. If you’d like to learn more about baker’s percentages, head over to King Arthur Flour’s website and check out their excellent explanation of this complex topic. How Do I Tighten the Dough after Bulk Rising? Without the risk of sounding like your mother, practice makes perfect. Practice. Practice. Practice. When I first got started baking sourdough, I watched my friend shape and mold hers. Then I found videos on YouTube. And then I practiced on my own. With practice, I’ve figured out techniques that feel good to me, where I tuck and pull back on the dough, creating the desired tension. When I’ve rushed it, my bread tattled on me. The loaves that arch beautifully, have perfect crumb, and have great spring (when you press on the baked loaf after it has cooled and it springs back into shape), are letting you know that you’re doing something right! A double scraper is your friend. This nifty, flexible piece of plastic can help you transfer and work the dough. Use it to your advantage! Why Is My Loaf So Dense? There are a couple of plausible explanations. Is your starter viable -- that is, bubbly and healthy? Is your dough too cold? Sourdough loves 70 to 75 degrees F for the bulk ferment. If it’s winter and your home is cold, try sticking the loaf in the oven with the light on (make sure the oven is turned off!), cover it, and see if this helps it double for a bulk ferment. How Do I Get Those Fancy 'Ears' or Lifts in the Crust of My Sourdough? Many people long for the curved flap produced from scoring the bread at a certain angle and a perfect oven spring at the start of baking. My recommendation is to worry less about scoring and more about getting the taste and texture right. You can find many videos online, explaining how to score bread. If you feel artistic and you’re ready to move toward that goal, seek out videos explaining the tricks of the trade. To nail a good scoring, you need to have a tightened and shaped dough, a solid second rise, and a sharp scoring tool. Then practice, practice, practice! Why Is My Bread Dense with Giant Holes? Yes, holes are desired, but not giant holes! Generally, this can mean you’ve over-proofed your dough (in other words, you’ve let it rise too long). Another possible reason can be your oven. Your oven may not be hot enough or you may not be baking your bread long enough. Set your oven temperature to 450 degrees F and give it a solid hour to heat up. Rushed on time? Shoot for 30 minutes. This helps you know that your oven is truly hot and ready for the bread. Use a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your bread. Has it fully cooked? Aim for 190 to 210 degrees F for sourdough. Bake your dough enclosed in a Dutch oven for the first 30 minutes; then uncover and continue baking until the desired color is achieved. Some folks really prefer a softer crumb and crust. If that's so for you, don't let the crust get as dark in color. But for a true artisan look, feel, and crunch, the crust will have a deep golden color and a classic crunchy sound when tapped. Why Does My Bread Keep Burning on the Bottom? Baking sheets are your friend. Placing a high-heat baking sheet under your Dutch oven can add a layer of protection so your loaf doesn’t burn.

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10 Tips for Successful Bread Making

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Every baker — from novice to professional — does, at some point, have a bread-baking flop. It happens to us all! Some people have them more often, though, so if you find your trouble is not a one-time thing, it’s time to dive deeper and look at some common mistakes that can cause trouble in baking bread. Use a Digital Scale There is a reason why grams are listed before volumetric measurements in many recipes: Weight measurements are more accurate than cups. Whether you consider yourself a beginner or an advanced baker, scaled measurements are better. A good digital scale is a $12 to $15 investment, and it’ll make all the difference in the quality of your breads! Use a Digital Thermometer A digital thermometer will help you make sure your bread is baked. After years of baking, I still pull out my thermometer and check. Oven temperatures can waiver, especially over time, and the result can be disastrous. My favorite times to use my digital thermometer are when I’m making sweet stuffed or rolled breads, because fillings can quickly make breads behave differently. No one wants an uncooked bread. A good digital thermometer will run you about $20 and save you plenty of heartache. Use a Stand Mixer with a Dough Hook A stand mixer with a dough hook is an investment, but kneading dough by hand, although very satisfying and a great workout, can put your dough at risk for under-developing the gluten. With a stand mixer, you can mix a dough in 5 to 20 minutes, as opposed to about 10 to 30 minutes by hand. I’m exhausted just writing it! There are many brands to choose from, including top-rated KitchenAid, budget-friendly Hamilton Beach, ever-popular Cuisinart, and the new rising star, Swedish-made Ankarsrum. You don’t have to break the bank buying a stand mixer, but less expensive models may have a shorter lifespan. My current KitchenAid mixer is over 20 years old and still going strong. Use the Right Flour Most recipes have been tested with the ingredients listed, but if you find yourself in a crazy situation — like, oh, for example, a pandemic — and the only flour you can find are low-protein flours, grab a bag of vital wheat gluten flour and add it to lower-protein flours to give them the gluten structure you need for a successful loaf. Vital wheat gluten flour is also a useful product to use if you want to make 100 percent whole einkorn or Khorasan breads, which are lower in gluten. A good rule of thumb is 1 to 2 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten flour for every 2 to 3 cups of flour. Use Less Flour This lesson was probably the hardest one for me to learn. I had been raised hearing that bread should pull from the sides of the mixing bowl and create a slapping sound on the sides. For many breads, yes, but for enriched breads, I haven’t found this to be the case. Actually, in many of the sweet and enriched bread recipes, you refrigerate the dough before you work with it. That’s a good tip to keep in your mind if the dough you’re working with is moister and harder to handle. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size. Then press out the air and try to shape it. Then put it in a bowl topped with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight. The chilling of the dough can really help with shaping. Many bakers recommend kneading with wet hands, instead of adding more flour. This helps keep the dough from sticking to your hands and from surfaces. The more bread you bake, the better you’ll get at identifying these subtle tricks of the trade. Pay Attention to the Weather Bread behaves differently in cold weather than it does in hot, and in dry climates than in humid weather. And altitude affects bread, too. Yeast is alive, and because it’s a living, breathing thing, bakers need to understand how to work with dough in varying conditions. Here are my suggestions: Temperature: As temperatures creep up, you may find your dough doubling in size quickly, or your sourdough starter may bubble over the top, or your breads may look over-proofed. In hot weather, yeast gets more active. There are a couple things you can do: Reduce the amount of yeast or sourdough starter you use. Cut it in half and see how quickly the bread responds. Check your dough frequently to make sure it hasn’t doubled in size too fast. Cut the time to 1 hour in traditional yeast breads and maybe just 6 to 8 hours for a sourdough bulk ferment. Alternatively, in cold weather, things really may slow down. You may need to rise your bread for 4 hours in a cold house or put it into an oven with the heat off and light on to warm the space. Typically, I don’t recommend adding in more yeast, but if you find yourself in a hurry that may be the solution you need. Humidity: Humidity may require you to bake your breads longer to evaporate the moisture. On the other hand, in dry, arid climates you may find your breads overbake quickly. Where I live, in the summer, the humidity goes up, so I cut back on water and just use wet hands to knead to help address this situation. If you’re having trouble, take notes on the temperature and humidity on the day you’re baking, and try a single recipe multiple times until you figure out what’s best. After all, baking is a science! Altitude: If you live high in the mountains, there’s a good chance you’ve already discovered the frustrating reality that breads made at altitude behave differently. Most recipes are tested at sea level, so if you live above 3,000 feet, you’ll have to make adjustments. Some facts to consider: Water boils faster at altitude. Moisture evaporates quicker at altitude, which is also why the air is often drier. Gas expands more rapidly at altitude, so your bread may be fluffier. To adjust for these conditions, you may need to: Heat your water longer. Add more water (working with wet hands helps). Keep your flours fresher. Bake longer or increase the oven temperature and bake less. Use less yeast. Use a higher-protein flour or add in vital wheat gluten flour. Decrease rise times. Search the web for “high-altitude bread baking” and see if you can find a recipe baked in your area. This can help you get an idea of how to adjust recipes. Whatever you do, don’t give up! You can bake bread at altitude — and it’s worth the effort to get it right. Use High-Quality Baking Pans A cast-iron Dutch oven and a heavy baking sheet are my go-to picks for baking. Cast iron can handle very high heat (well above 700 degrees F), so you’ll be safe using these products. I have a cast-iron baking sheet and Dutch oven that I use primarily in baking. I recommend avoiding nonstick pans, because the coating is often not safe when heated to high temperatures like the kind used in bread baking. Stoneware is best with temperatures less than 450 degrees F. Aluminum is safe in household ovens with temperatures below 600 degrees F. Find a high-quality baking vessel and take good care of it. My method of keeping my cast iron seasoned and in top shape is to season it by frying thinly sliced potatoes until black. (Clearly, I don’t serve these potatoes to anyone.) Also, any time I use the pan, I clean it with oil and coarse salt, not soapy water. I may rinse with water, but I never use soap. When in doubt, check with the manufacturer of your cast iron to see how they recommend you care for it. Experiment with Flours Using white or wheat flours is easy, but the depth of flavor you get with grains like spelt, rye, and einkorn is interesting to explore. These grains will give you a new respect for the way grains are grown, how they behave in recipes, and their unique flavor profiles. In my own kitchen, I regularly use spelt and rye, and I dabble with einkorn and Khorasan. Don’t Skip the Salt Do you have health concerns that make you want to drop the salt? If you’re thinking of cutting back on salt, I don’t recommend using less than 5 grams per loaf. Salt works with gluten and creating the ever-important matrix. To give your bread structure and flavor, you need salt. Play with Different Baking Techniques Steaming (putting boiling water in a hot pan as you place the bread in), using a bread stone, covering bread and then uncovering it halfway through the baking process, using a little sourdough starter and yeast combined, using less yeast and letting a dough rise longer, trying out a tangzhong or yudane to extend the shelf life (see Appendix C for more on these techniques). There are so many great ways to play with breads. Before settling on just one favorite recipe, do your best to try new recipes and techniques. You may be surprised which techniques and recipes become your favorites.

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2 Bread Recipes That Are Complete Meals

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Bread may be the staff of life, but man does not live on bread alone, or so they say. Regardless, many of us enjoy some protein and/or dairy with our bread. These two recipes for klobasneks and flammkuchen are delicious meals in and of themselves. Josh’s Texas Klobasneks Prep time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours 15 minutes for rising Bake time: 18 minutes Yield: 16 servings Ingredients 242 grams (1 cup) half-and-half 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided 9 grams (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt 420 to 480 grams (3-1/2 to 4 cups) all-purpose flour, divided 50 grams (1/4 cup) active sourdough starter 28 grams (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil 2 egg yolks 56 grams (1/2 cup) grated colby jack cheese 1 jar (32 slices) pickled jalapeños 1 pound smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 16 pieces (2 inches long and quartered lengthwise) Directions In a microwave-safe measuring cup, heat the half-and-half for 1 minute 30 seconds. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and stir to cool the milk slightly. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, stir together the yeast, sugar, salt, and 1-1/2 cups of the flour. Pour in the warm cream mixture and sourdough starter. Mix until the ingredients come together. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Add in the oil and egg yolks, and blend until fully incorporated. Slowly stir in enough of the remaining 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour until the dough comes together and is not sticky. Knead on speed 2 for 6 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be soft and not stiff. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After the dough has risen, press out the gas and divide into 16 even pieces (45 to 50 grams per roll). Roll each piece of dough into balls and then flatten them into 3-inch circles. In the center of each piece of dough, place 1/2 tablespoon of the cheese, 1 slice of jalapeño, and a piece of sausage. Fold one side of the dough over the other and roll; then seal by pinching all seams together. Place on the baking sheet 1 inch apart, seam side down. Cover and allow to rise for 45 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a microwave-safe dish, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in the microwave on high for 1 minute. With a pastry brush, brush the tops of the klobasneks with melted butter and top with an additional jalapeño slice on top of each. Bake, uncovered, for 18 minutes or until golden. Per serving: Calories 311 (From Fat 171); Fat 19g (Saturated 8g); Cholesterol 69mg; Sodium 387mg; Carbohydrate 27g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 8g. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Flammkuchen (German Pizza) Prep time: 25 minutes plus 8 hours 15 minutes for rising Bake time: 8 minutes Yield: 6 servings Ingredients 300 grams (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour 3 grams (1 teaspoon) active dry yeast 11 grams (1-3/4 teaspoons) salt 30 grams (2-1/4 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil 140 grams (1/2 cup) water 500 grams (2 cups) crème fraîche or sour cream 2 grams (1 teaspoon) ground black pepper 12 grams (4 tablespoons) chopped chives 12 slices cooked bacon, finely chopped 1 large red onion, thinly sliced Directions In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached, place the flour, yeast, 5 grams (3/4 teaspoon) of the salt, the olive oil, and the water. Knead together all the ingredients on speed 2 for 6 to 8 minutes until elastic and smooth. Cover and let rise in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours. The next day, cut the dough into 6 equally sized pieces. Hand-knead each piece of dough for 2 minutes, round each dough piece, and press it flat. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let rest for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 to 550 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out very thin, about 1/4 inch in thickness. Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Spread 1/3 cup crème fraîche or sour cream over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining 6 grams (1 teaspoon) of salt, pepper, chives, and bacon, and then equally distribute the onion slices. Immediately place the prepared flammkuchen into the hot oven and bake for 8 minutes. Per serving: Calories 500 (From Fat 264); Fat 29g (Saturated 14g); Cholesterol 55mg; Sodium 1141mg; Carbohydrate 44g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 14g. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Flammkuchen is a specialty from the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France, but it’s also made in Saarland, Pfalz, and Baden in Germany. There are countless variations. The classic topping is made with cream, sour cream, or crème fraîche; raw (red) onions; and bacon (speck). Variations on a theme Here are popular variations to try: Leek and cheese (with or without diced bacon) Cream topping as in the classic version Thinly sliced leek Shredded Swiss cheese Vegetarian with goat cream cheese Cream topping as in the classic version Goat cream cheese Thinly sliced (red) onion Goat cream cheese and figs Cream topping as in the classic version Goat cream cheese Sliced fresh figs Thinly sliced red onion Serrano ham Potato and rosemary Cream topping as in the classic version Sliced boiled potatoes Rosemary, olive oil, and salt (optional) for sprinkling Pear and gorgonzola or goat cream cheese Cream topping as in the classic version Thinly sliced pears Gorgonzola (or goat cream cheese) Walnuts Thinly sliced onion Arugula as topping after baking (optional) Sweet Cream topping (without salt and pepper) Thinly sliced apple Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

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Sourdough Discard Recipes

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Quick, before you dump your sourdough discard, check out these recipes. Discard contains flour, water, and, yes, yeast. So, it has a little rise, a slightly sour taste, and thickening powers. When you’re trying to manipulate a recipe and throw in your sourdough discard, you want to think about it like this: 120 grams of discard is 60 grams of flour and 60 grams of water, so about 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water. This is what it needs to replace in an existing recipe in order to be used successfully. Many people realize that discard works great in muffins and quick breads, but in this article, you find some sweet and savory ways to upcycle your leftover discard. Remove the starter from the refrigerator. Let the starter revitalize and bubble to double in size. Pull what you need for a bread recipe. Then take 50 grams to feed and restart another jar of starter (50 grams of starter, 50 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water). The remaining amount you can creatively use in another recipe. Baked Dutch Oven Pancakes Baked Dutch Oven Pancakes Prep time: 5 minutes Bake time: 20 minutes Yield: 6 servings Ingredients 57 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter 6 eggs 454 grams (2 cups) sourdough starter 82 grams (1/3 cup) milk 4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract 13 grams (1 tablespoon) sugar 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt Directions Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sourdough starter, milk, vanilla, sugar, and salt. (Keep an eye on the butter as it melts to make sure it isn’t burning.) When the oven has heated, add the pancake mix to the melted butter and swirl around in the Dutch oven. Remove from the heat and bake for 20 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Serve immediately. Per serving: Calories 303 (From Fat 125); Fat 14g (Saturated 7g); Cholesterol 233mg; Sodium 273mg; Carbohydrate 34g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 12g. Store these pancakes in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Feeding your starter with rye flour will give these pancakes a unique and interesting flavor. Serve with fresh berries and maple syrup or sprinkle with powdered sugar. Vary it! Add lemon zest to the batter and serve with fresh blueberries and a drizzle of lemon sauce (made with lemon juice and powdered sugar). Sourdough Flatbread Prep time: 15 minutes plus 1 hour for rising Bake time: 6 minutes Yield: 6 servings Ingredients 227 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour 6 grams (1 teaspoon) salt 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking powder 113 grams (1/2 cup) sourdough starter 82 grams (1/3 cup) plain yogurt 60 grams (1/4 cup) canola oil, divided 28 grams (2 tablespoons) butter Directions In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir in the starter, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. Form the dough into a ball. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of flour on a flat surface. Place the dough onto the floured surface, and knead in more flour, as needed. The dough should be pliable, neither dry nor wet. Knead about 5 times. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a circular or oblong shape (whichever you prefer). For a thinner flat bread, roll out to 10 inches; for a thicker flat bread, roll out to 8 inches. In a small heat-safe bowl, melt the butter and mix with the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brush the tops of the bread with the butter-and-oil mixture. Cook each flat bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until it puffs up and begins to brown with bubbles. Per serving: Calories 296 (From Fat 122); Fat 14g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 11mg; Sodium 435mg; Carbohydrate 38g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 6g. Flatbreads are best consumed the day they’re prepared. The range in flour for kneading is based on the starter. Some starters are more wet, due to humidity in the air. The dough should feel like pizza dough. Serve with hummus, grilled meats, or as part of a charcuterie board. Vary it! Add roasted garlic and chopped herbs (cilantro, parsley, or thyme) for a pop of flavor. Fluffy Biscuits Prep time: 15 minutes Bake time: 12 minutes Yield: 12 servings Ingredients 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour 14 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda 6 grams (1 teaspoon) salt 113 grams (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter 454 grams (2 cups) sourdough starter 28 grams (2 tablespoons) salted butter, melted Directions In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the small butter crumbles. Add in the sourdough starter and stir to combine. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a lightly floured flat surface, place the biscuit dough. Knead the dough 3 times and flatten into a 12-x-12-inch square. Brush the tops with the melted butter. Cut the dough into 12 biscuits, about 2 x 2 inches. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the biscuits on the parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 425 degrees F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Per serving: Calories 231 (From Fat 91); Fat 10g (Saturated 6g); Cholesterol 25mg; Sodium 448mg; Carbohydrate 31g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 5g. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Biscuits perform better when everything is cold. If it’s a hot day, place all the dry ingredients in the refrigerator and let them chill before adding in the starter. Serve with fresh jam and whipped honey butter, like honey cardamom butter. Vary it! Craving a savory biscuit? Add 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Cheesy Kinder Crackers Prep time: 15 minutes plus 1 hour for rising Bake time: 25 minutes Yield: 8 servings Ingredients 100 grams (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whole-spelt flour or whole-wheat flour 170 grams (3/4 cup) sourdough starter discard 50 grams (1/4 cup) room-temperature unsalted butter 3 grams (1 tablespoon) chopped thyme leaves 4 grams (3/4 teaspoon) salt Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing or spraying the surface of the crackers 58.7 grams (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan Directions In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, starter, butter, thyme, and salt. Knead the dough into a ball. Divide the dough in half and tightly wrap each rounded dough with plastic wrap. Place the wrapped dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Lightly flour a flat surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough into a square, about 1/8-inch thick. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the dough on top of the parchment paper. Brush or spray the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. (It’s okay if the squares aren’t perfectly shaped.) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. While the first batch of crackers is baking, roll out the second batch of dough. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Place the dough on top of the parchment paper. Brush or spray the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-inch squares. After you’ve removed the first batch from the oven, place the second batch in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Per serving: Calories 142 (From Fat 58); Fat 6g (Saturated 4g); Cholesterol 16mg; Sodium 244mg; Carbohydrate 18g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 4g. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Serve with thinly sliced apples, tomatoes, or salami for an afternoon snack. Vary it! Add in 1/4 cup sesame seeds and cracked black pepper for a savory spin. Beer-Battered Vegetable Tempura Prep time: 30 minutes Bake time: 2 minutes Yield: 4 servings Ingredients 872 grams (4 cups) avocado or grapeseed oil, for frying 454 grams (2 cups) sourdough starter discard 2 eggs 1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) paprika 1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) black pepper 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt 8 asparagus spears 16 green beans 1 sweet onion, thickly sliced into rings 1 medium sweet potato, roasted and cooled and sliced into 1/2-inch circles 120 grams (1/2 cup) ranch dressing, for dipping Directions In a Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat the oil to 355 degrees F. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the starter, eggs, paprika, pepper, and salt. Place the asparagus, green beans, onion, and sweet potato into the batter and toss to lightly coat. Place a brown paper bag or paper towels on a baking sheet. When the oil has heated, work in small batches to cook the tempura vegetables. Add 4 to 6 vegetable pieces in at a time and cook the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping the vegetables periodically as they fry. Remove the vegetables to the baking sheet to cool. Return the oil temperature to 355 degrees F and then add in the next batch of vegetables. Check the seasoning, and salt if needed. Serve the tempura vegetables with the ranch dip. Per serving: Calories 448 (From Fat 162); Fat 18g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 106mg; Sodium 348mg; Carbohydrate 62g (Dietary Fiber 7g); Protein 13g. These are best consumed the day they’re prepared. To preroast the sweet potato, slice it into rings and roast at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly tender. The idea is that the sweet potato is mostly cooked, because it won’t be fried long enough to fully cook the vegetable. Vary it! You can use a variety of vegetables, like mushrooms squash, zucchini, broccoli, or potatoes. Pre-cook harder vegetables by blanching, boiling, microwaving, or roasting. This is a fun way to repurpose leftover vegetables! Salted Dark Chocolate Brownies Prep time: 15 minutes Bake time: 45 minutes Yield: 9 servings Ingredients 150 grams (5.3 ounces) dark chocolate (65% to 70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces 50 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter 40 grams (1/4 cup) canola oil 6 grams (1 large) orange, zested 36 grams (3 tablespoons) brewed coffee or espresso 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sourdough starter 150 grams (2/3 cup) sugar 110 grams (1/2 cup, packed) light brown sugar 25 grams (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder 25 grams (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour 3 eggs 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) coarse sea salt, for topping Directions In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate and butter, and microwave on high for 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir to melt the remaining chocolate chunks. Add the canola oil, orange zest, coffee, salt, and vanilla to the melted chocolate, and stir. When the chocolate feels slightly warm, mix in the starter, sugar, light brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and eggs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-x-9-inch baking sheet or glass casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until an internal temperature of 190 degrees F has been reached. Sprinkle the sea salt on top as the brownies cool. Per serving: Calories 353 (From Fat 158); Fat 18g (Saturated 8g); Cholesterol 83mg; Sodium 289mg; Carbohydrate 47g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 5g. Note: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Vary it! Add in chopped pecans or walnuts for a little crunch.

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The Basics of Bread Making

Article / Updated 10-04-2021

Bread is king, and bread making is equal parts art and science. Explore the science behind bread making and find out why a scale is so important for success. If science wasn’t your favorite subject in school, you may be tempted to just dive into a recipe, but especially if you’re new to bread making, I urge you to give this article a read. It’s only a few paragraphs, and the information about how and why bread making works will not only help you understand what you’re doing in the kitchen, but also give you the knowledge you’ll need to figure out what went wrong if something does. Donning Your Lab Coat: The Science of Bread Science is everything in bread making. Each ingredient plays a specific role in the formation of bread. The good news is, this kind of science is fun! Plus, unlike in school, there won’t be a test on Friday. Gluten Gluten is the protein found in flour, and it’s why the type of flour you use matters when you’re baking, whether you’re making cake or bread. The forming of gluten is what gives rise, literally, to bread. Without gluten, your bread would feel like a brick. When you add water to flour, it creates long, elastic strands from the gluten (known as the gluten matrix). Kneading the flour strengthens those strands, which is important in giving your bread structure, so it can rise. Yeast Yeast is another key ingredient of bread. Yeast is a living thing — it feeds off the carbohydrates in flour and expels carbon dioxide (a gas), which gets caught in the gluten matrix. That nifty matrix you formed while you were kneading holds the gas inside its chambers, and the dough rises. Magic! Salt Salt has an important role to play in bread making, and it’s not just about flavor (although nothing is quite as tasty as a well-salted bread). Salt conditions the gluten, making it stronger and strengthening the elasticity of the strands. If you use too little salt, not only will your bread taste bland, but it will rise too quickly in an ill-formed matrix. If you use too much salt, it can kill the yeast. Heat When you place your bread in the oven to bake, the gluten solidifies and holds its form. And when the baking is complete, the bread won’t deflate. Instead, your well-formed gluten will hold its form as the bread cools and after it’s sliced. Don’t slice your bread too early! You’ll probably be tempted to eat your bread straight out of the oven, but bread needs to fully cool before slicing or the texture will turn gummy and sticky. Taking the Guesswork out of Baking Bread Bread making is precise, and in order to have precision, you need a scale. A food scale is one of the most important pieces of equipment when it comes to successful baking, and not just for breads. For around $12, you can purchase a decent food scale that measures in grams. As a culinary teacher, I do an experiment where I ask each of my students to measure out 1 cup of flour and then have them weigh it. Some students measure out 128 grams; some, 142 grams; and others, closer to 200 grams (if they’ve packed the flour in the cup). The correct weight of 1 cup of all-purpose flour is 125 grams. Being a few grams off can make a huge difference in the outcome of your bread.

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