Yeast Breads

Sugar, flour and water are what activate the microorganisms in yeast creating the gas bubbles that make dough rise.

Batter breads are a yeast bread that is usually beaten with an electric mixer and placed in a baking pan to rise just once. Batter breads are not kneaded. Most have a coarse texture.

Kneading dough helps distribute the gluten in the flour giving the bread its elasticity and texture. Usually kneaded bread requires 2 risings.

Dough rises (also called ?proofs?) best at 80 to 85* F. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn to coat; cover loosely with plastic wrap (optional); place a towel on top. Make sure your dough is in a draft-free place and let rise until double in bulk. If you think the dough has risen enough, poke 2 fingers in the dough (only about -inch) and if the indentations remain, the dough has risen enough.

Punch down, shape into loaves or follow recipe directions.

Always grease your pans unless your recipe says otherwise. For even browning use uncoated aluminum pans. Dark baking pans or glass pans will absorb more heat causing the crust of your bread to be darker.

For everyday homemade breads, I like to brush them lightly with butter or milk immediately after they come from the oven. For a nice crusty Italian or French bread, I brush the bread lightly with water before placing in the oven. For a really crusty Italian bread, I use a spray bottle of water and spray the bread every 5 to 10 minutes - 3 times starting from when I place it in the oven. For some breads I want a tougher crust and place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Other breads are best with egg wash (1 egg and 1 tablespoon water beaten) brushed lightly on them before baking giving a nice shiny crust - and a sprinkle of sesame or poppy seeds on top!

Bread is done when you hear a hollow sound when tapping the top of the loaf and the bread is a nice golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan (unless you?re like me and you make round loaves on pizza tins and long loaves on baking sheets!) If your bread browns too quickly in your oven, you can drape a piece of foil over the top loosely.

Once the bread is done, immediately remove from pans and place on wire racks to cool - this prevents sogginess. It smells absolutely delicious and nothing is better than warm bread with fresh homemade butter on it - but if you try to cut the loaves too soon you will make your bread crumble and tear. (a serrated knife is best for slicing bread!) Also remember to cool away from any draft so that your bread doesn?t shrink or crack.

Once your bread is totally cool you can place in plastic bags or wrap in foil. Store airtight, in a cool dry place. Homemade bread does not last as long as store-bought bread and will go stale or get moldy faster than store-bought. If it?s very hot and humid it will stay fresher longer if stored in the refrigerator.

Fresh made bread can last up to 4 to 5 days if stored properly - that?s if it will last that long!! Years ago we had to make bread everyday if we wanted bread - didn?t matter what the weather - bread had to be baked.

Bread can be frozen once it is baked. Use plastic bags and seal tightly. Do not keep frozen for more than one month. This rule applies for rolls too.

And speaking of humidity - when kneading dough you will be able to tell by the feel just how much flour you are to use. Depending on the weather and humidity and how it is stored, your flour can gain or lose moisture. And speaking of four storage - use your flour within 18 months after purchasing for best results.

A soft dough is very sticky and is usually used for breads that don?t require kneading.

Moderately soft dough is slightly sticky. This dough is usually used for rich, sweet breads. This dough is only kneaded about 3 to 5 minutes and no longer.

Moderately stiff dough is firm to the touch and it is not sticky. This type of dough is usually kneaded 6 to 8 minutes and is for most breads. (not sweet breads)

Stiff dough in usually kneaded 8 to 10 minutes and producing a stiffer dough-type bread, such as French breads - a chewier bread.

Any leftover bread that you do not want to waste can be made into homemade croutons or ground into bread crumbs.

If working with bread flour instead of all-purpose - knead a bit longer and let the bread rest 10 to 15 minutes before shaping into loaves and let it rise a bit longer.

With practice you can be an excellent bread baker!!