Lesson Three: White Bread
Lesson 3, White Bread, will focus on understanding yeast and how it makes dough rise. Yeast is a tiny one-celled plant, a microorganism, about the size of a human red blood cell. It may be hard to believe that this microorganism actually causes bread dough to rise, but it’s true. Yeast breaks down sugar into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol gases. In bread dough, the gases form bubbles, which honeycomb the mass of dough and puff it out until it rises.
The equipment you will need:
- hand-held or stand mixer
- large mixing bowl
- liquid measuring cup
- dry measuring cup
- measuring spoons
- table knife to level off the dry ingredients in the measuring cup and spoons
- thermometer that will register 120° to 130°F
- two 9- x 5-inch bread pans
- plastic wrap
(makes 2 loaves)
6-1/2 to 7 cups bread flour
2 packages (4-1/2 teaspoons) yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1-1/4 cups water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
To measure the flour, use a large spoon to scoop the flour from its container into a dry measuring cup. Level off excess flour with the flat side of knife. Measure 3 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl; add sugar, salt and yeast, measuring with tablespoon and leveling with flat side of knife. Using a liquid measuring cup measure water, milk and oil; combine and heat to 120° to 130°F.
It is important to use a thermometer to check the temperature of liquids. If it is not warm enough, the yeast may not dissolve well in the dough. If liquid is too warm, it could actually kill the yeast so that it will not activate.
Think of yeast as similar to seeds we plant in soil. For example, if we cooked the peas before planting them, they would not grow. So it is with yeast, if the liquid is too warm, the yeast will not grow.
Hand-held Mixer Method
Add liquid ingredients to dry mixture; blend on low speed. Beat 3 to 4 minutes on medium speed. By hand, stir in enough remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead on floured surface 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Baker’s Note: Refer to Lesson 1 or 2 for a pictorial description of kneading. To determine if yeast dough is kneaded enough, break off a small walnut-sized ball of dough and begin to stretch it. If dough is kneaded enough, it will stretch easily and a translucent membrane will be visible. This is known as a gluten window.
Stand Mixer Method
Add liquid ingredients to dry mixture; mix with paddle or beaters for 4 minutes on medium speed. Gradually add remaining flour and knead with dough hook(s) 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Rising, Shaping and Baking
Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and turn to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent air from drying out the top of the dough; let rise. Rising improves the flavor and texture of breads.
The oven is an ideal place for dough to rise. For an electric oven or a gas oven with electronic ignition, turn oven to the lowest setting for one minute, then turn off. In other gas ovens, the pilot light will provide enough warmth. Place a pan of very warm water towards the back of the oven to provide moisture. Place bowl of dough on center rack and close door.
Rising times can vary with the temperature and relative humidity. In warm humid weather, dough will rise faster than when temperatures are cooler. Yeast dough is considered “ripe” when it has risen enough. Push two fingers into the dough up to the second knuckle: if the holes remain when taken out, dough is “ripe” and ready to be punched down. If not, cover and let rise longer.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; punch down to remove air bubbles. Divide dough into two parts; roll or pat each into a 14- x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place in greased 9- x 5-inch or 8- x 4-inch loaf pans. Cover; let rise until indentation remains after touching.
Bake in preheated 400°F oven 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan; cool on rack.
Baker’s Note: If you are in doubt about the doneness of your bread, you can check it with a thermometer. Bread is completely baked if the thermometer reads 190° to 195°F when inserted halfway in the loaf.
Enjoy your bread and new bread-making skills! Using the same techniques presented in this lesson, you can make other wonderful products in our Recipes section.