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Awards1999 James Beard Award Winner
Awards1999 James Beard Award Winner
THE BASIC TYPES OF BREAD (9)
CRUCIAL CONCEPTS (12)
MASTER TECHNIQUES FOR MAKING WORLD-CLASS BREAD (13)
DEFINITELY READ THIS BEFORE MAKING ANY OF THE MASTER FORMULAS (28)
TERMS YOU SHOULD KNOW (30)
On one particular occasion, and I remember it as if it just occurred though it happened more than ten years ago, we took our customary sample bites and heard the crust crackle in what I now think of as The Moment. I said to my assistant, "That's it! That's the sound! It's as important as the taste. It's the sound of perfection and it is so deeply satisfying!" Then I stopped my exclamation because my eyes were watering and I was beginning, in this perfect bread moment, to cry.
"The Sound of Crust,"
Brother Juniper's Bread Book
I use the term world-class bread rather freely throughout this book. It is an arbitrary term—more poetic than actual—an image to differentiate between everyday, run-of-the-mill bread and bread that is good beyond belief. Where the line falls is both subjective and objective.
The subjective aspect depends upon your experience: the extent to which you have known the depth and breadth of bread possibilities. There was a time when tasting a wide variety of breads and encountering exceptional examples was only possible in Europe. In recent years, artisan-style bakeries have appeared in this country, exposing us to better bread and expanding our expectations and imaginations. We may not always knowwhy or how, but we can sense when a bread has moved up to the next rung of wonderfulness.
My bread epiphany occurred a few years before the bread revolution hit full force. I was cooking for the seminary of a Christian order in San Francisco (I am still a lay brother in that order, the Christ the Saviour Brotherhood). One of my friends, a very talented cook named Brother Philip Goodrich, took on the then-practically-unheard-of challenge of following all eight pages of Julia Child's instructions, in From Julia's Kitchen, for making French bread. The results were so spectacular that I followed his example, forcing myself to carry out every little step and consulting with him when I stumbled. The bread was so much better than anything we could buy, even the fabled sourdough of San Francisco, that I began making bread every day. Sometimes the results were disastrous, especially when I strayed too far from what I now know to be common bread sense. However, when the bread came out Right—even accidentally—when the crust crackled and then dissolved into sweet, roasted wheatiness and the interior felt cool and buttery even without butter, I was hooked. This was my subjective initiation.
Objective criteria also cause this passionate reaction. These criteria are especially important as we attempt to bake world-class bread at home because they give us guideposts to assure us we are on the right track. Permit me an analogy: There is a school of thought that says the best way to learn tennis is to identify the sound of the "sweet spot"—the spot that delivers the most power from your swing when the ball hits your racquet—and then keep aiming for that sound. It is difficult, of course, to hit that spot without good fundamentals, repetition, a smooth stroke, and proper hand-eye coordination. But once you know the sound and lock into it, your game will never be the same. Likewise, the objective and subjective characteristics of world-class bread help us lock into the sound of the sweet spot, or more appropriately, the sweet sound of crust.
In general, hearth breads (also called lean breads because they are made without fat or other oils) depend upon great crust. Conditioned, flavored, or enriched breads—that is, breads made with more than the basic flour, water, salt, and leaven—are less dependent on crust and instead should have an exceptional crumb (the inside of the bread), as well as great flavor throughout. In either case the feel of the bread in our mouths is crucial; we want a cool and creamy mouthfeel. Lean breads should have a pleasant burst of flavor, a particular kind of crackle in the crust (again, the sound of crust), and a long, pleasant finish in which the complex, fermented grain flavor lingers on the palate after swallowing. (This brings to mind the old story of the butler who tells a visitor that his master, a famous gourmand, cannot come to the door because he is still enjoying dinner. When the man protests that it is far too late to still be eating, the houseman replies, "I didn't say he was still eating dinner; I said he was still enjoying dinner.")
These qualities are all functions of careful fermentation, proper pH balance, judicious use of steam and high heat, and high-quality ingredients mixed in the right proportion.
A properly baked crust has a sweetness that comes forth the more one chews. The natural sugars inside the wheat grains caramelize from the intense oven heat, a process that makes them turn golden brown and retain their crisp crackle even after the bread cools. (In contrast, mass-produced hearth-style breads are often purposely underbaked so they will stay moist longer, since shelf life is the key to profitability.) Because Europeans prefer a more intense flavor, European village bakeries make their loaves so dark they seem almost burned in comparison to American versions.
When a dough is fermented correctly—slowly, over a long period of time—the starchy interior of the loaf develops a gelatinized sheen, a nutty flavor that is a result of the large, open-holed structure exposing the gluten strands of the dough to the fullest heat, and a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The bread should taste almost buttery; adding butter, in fact, hides the true flavor.
In flavored and enriched breads much of the taste is provided by enrichment ingredients such as sugar, milk, eggs, oil, and butter, and supplemental ingredients like spices, cheese, and seeds. The most critical components are the flavor burst and the mouthfeel. A moist, light crumb (interior webbing) is also crucial, a result not of extra liquid or fat but of a full final rise that exposes the gluten/protein strands to more heat and the starches to a deeper gelatinization.
Fermentation is trickier when sugars are added to the dough to make flavored breads, because overproofing yields a beery, yeasty aftertaste. When these doughs are mixed properly, however, the protein strands bond and the gluten develops fully, just as in lean breads. After the dough is given its two full rises, flavored breads can be every bit as satisfying as classic French bread, developing not only a long flavor-finish but also a beautifully rich, golden, caramelized crust.
THE BASIC TYPES OF BREAD
Now let's take a closer look at some of the better-known and more distinctive breads of the world, many of which you will learn to make in the subsequent chapters.
French baguette and pain ordinaire, or pain français: Though only about 150 years old, the baguette loaf has become the universal symbol of bread. It is characterized by a thin, crackly crust, diagonal cuts across the top that "bloom" open into crusty flaps called ears, a length of 18 to 36 inches (or longer!), and color varying from light gold to deep gold with tones of reddish brown. The coloring is caused both by caramelization and by the Maillard reaction, two types of sugar—heat reactions that affect all yeasted breads. (The Maillard reaction, which also causes the browning of roasted coffee and cocoa beans, nuts, and meats, occurs when carbohydrates and certain types of amino acids are exposed together to high heat.)
The interior crumb of French bread has irregular holes, some very large and barely connected by strands of gluten and others tighter and smaller. If this webbing is composed of uniform-sized holes, it means the loaves have been shaped too roughly or by mechanical equipment rather than gently by hand, and the flavor of the grain will be less complex.
Baguettes and French breads of other shapes, or pain ordinaire, are leavened by commercial yeast, as are the similar Italian-style breads. This dough can easily be made by the "direct," or single-mixing method, but the best loaves are made using pre-fermented dough techniques, or the "indirect method."
Levain: A levain is a naturally leavened bread made with a pre-fermented starter developed from wild yeast. There are many versions of this bread and numerous ways to build such a loaf. Country levains are made with a small percentage of whole-grain flour, usually wheat or rye, to add complexity and texture. The crust is thicker and chewier than pain ordinaire or other yeasted breads. The flavor usually includes acidic sour tones, though Europeans like their levain minimally sour.
The crumb should have the same irregular hole structure as a baguette. Because levain is often baked in round (boule) or oblong (bâtard) shapes, it has more interior crumb than a baguette. This allows for even larger, more open holes than in a baguette. The mouthfeel should be cool and creamy, not dry. The crumb webbing should have a slightly shiny, almost translucent quality.
Ciabatta and rustic breads: Loaves made from wetter doughs are called rustic breads, of which the best known is the Italian ciabatta. Other Italian versions include pugliese, francese, stirato, pane rustico, and stretch bread. These breads may be made with as much as 80 percent hydration. (Most breads are made with 55 to 66 percent hydration, based on the baker's percentage system in which the flour equals 100 percent and everything else is a percentage of the flour weight. For example, in baguette dough, 100 pounds of flour can be hydrated by 60 pounds of water, for 60 percent hydration.) Rustic bread doughs are sticky and difficult to handle, so it is often necessary to sprinkle additional flour on the dough when shaping it and transferring it to the oven. This accounts for the floury crusts and stretch marks many of these loaves exhibit.
The crumb is extremely open, barely holding the loaf together and sometimes tearing to reveal large holes or tunnels. The gluten is stretched to the maximum, exposing it fully to the heat. This gives the bread a pleasant toasty flavor and a gelatinized, shiny interior. The crust is sweet and nutty from the natural caramelization of the sugars. Rustic breads are often yeasted but may also be naturally leavened.
Pumpernickel and other ryes:There are many versions of rye bread. Pumpernickel is a German/Russian-style bread made with coarse, whole-grain rye flour. Other rye breads use finer, more refined rye flours in various configurations with wheat and other grains.
Rye bread usually has a tighter crumb than wheat bread because, as with all grains other than wheat, there is very little gluten in rye. However, it is possible to make open-crumbed rye breads by following slow-rise techniques and using a high percentage of wheat flour. Rye breads have a distinctive earthy quality and a sweetness from the natural sugars in the rye berry. Some versions are yeasted, but rye bread tastes better when made with natural sourdough starters and is assimilated more easily by the body when fermented with the lactobacillus organisms found in these starters. The use of seeds and flavorings such as caraway, onion, anise, flax, and orange is traditional in various cultures, but it is in no way necessary for a good rye.
White bread (pain de mie): Yeasted white bread—for sandwiches, toast, or as an accompaniment to meals—is as much a European tradition as it is an American one. Dough conditioners such as butter, milk, potato starch (from either cooked or dried potatoes), and sugar are added to soften the crumb and crust.
White breads are baked in loaf pans at a lower heat than hearth breads to prevent early caramelization and a crispy crust. The crumb is uniform in appearance with medium-size holes and a tenderness not found in lean hearth breads. Despite its softness, the mouthfeel is drier than that of hearth breads.
Brioche and enriched breads: The generous addition of butter and eggs pushes some breads into a category called rich or enriched breads. Brioche is the most famous but other yeasted rich breads include kugelhopf (sometimes spelled gugelhopf), savarin, baba, la mouna (a crescent-shaped brioche variation with an orange flavor), and fruited holiday breads like stollen, kulich, and panettone. (Croissants, which are made by a "laminating" method in which the fat is rolled into the dough and folded over many times to create hundreds of layers, are also enriched breads but they belong in their own category because of the special handling required.)
Brioche has a beautiful golden color and a soft-as-satin feel. It practically dissolves in the mouth, filling the palate with rich, buttery flavor. The crumb can range from fairly open to tight, but the crust is always thin and tender. Many enriched breads, such as kugelhopf, function more as coffee cakes or tea breads, because of the richness that comes from the additional ingredients.
Flatbreads and focaccia: International flatbreads, especially focaccia, have become very popular in the recent years. Loosely translated, focaccia means "everything that's left in the oven"—in other words, a good way to use up leftovers. There are both savory and sweet versions of this pizza-like, Genoese flatbread. The finest focaccia is made from a soft, wet dough. A long fermentation with a small amount of yeast and the addition of olive oil gives the crumb a spongy, shiny aspect similar to but softer than that of the rustic breads. Sometimes the extra ingredients, such as olives, herbs, and cheeses, are incorporated into the dough and sometimes they are placed on top. The dough, baked in sheet pans, is often poked all over just before baking, giving it a dimpled appearance. Pizza is simply another type of focaccia that originated in southern Italy, probably Naples (though New Haven, Connecticut, claims to be the place where pizza, as we currently know it, was invented!). The Tuscan version of focaccia is called schiacciata.
Flatbreads like tortillas, naan, crackerbread, matzoh, and chapati are international and universal. They may be either leavened, as in the case of the dozens of versions of naan, or like matzoh and chapati, unleavened. However, the master formulas in this book can be used to make many of these breads, as they are all variations on a simple theme.
Flavored specialty breads: Flavored breads, such as Cajun-style spice breads or cheese-and-herb-filled dinner rolls capture the tastes associated with particular regions and cultures. Their flavor is determined more by added ingredients than by long fermentation, so they are perfectly suited for the direct mixing method and bread machines. They are often, but not always, yeasted rather than naturally leavened, risen once in bulk and then once in the pan. They can be made in four or five hours. The dough texture is determined by the proportion of wheat to nonwheat flours, and by the use of supplementary ingredients such as garlic, raisins, nuts, peppers, and cheese.
Quick breads: Banana bread, corn bread, and other quick breads are not made from fermented doughs, except in rare instances, so their chemistry is very different from that of most breads. Leavening is usually done chemically by neutralizing acid with alkaline ingredients, such as buttermilk with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which creates carbon dioxide. The crumb of quick breads is much tighter than that of yeast-leavened breads, and is always very tender due to the inclusion of high levels of oil or butter. Quick breads are so popular in American folk culture that I have included a chapter of master formulas just for these breads.
Finally, here are a few concepts to keep in mind as you prepare to make world-class bread:
There is a difference between "yeasted" and "leavened" breads. All risen breads are leavened, and whether made with commercial yeast or a wild yeast starter, all leavened breads are leavened by yeast. In this book, however, the term yeasted refers to commercial yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), whether instant (fine and powdery), active dry (coarse and gritty), or fresh (compressed, moist cakes culled from beer vats). The term leavened refers to breads such as sourdough and levain, raised with starters made from a strain of wild yeast (Saccharomyces exiguus) that grows on fruit and grain.
Nearly everything that a professional bakery does can be replicated, to some degree, at home. Great bread is primarily a result of dough technique and only secondarily of oven technique. This means you can make bakery-quality bread at home if you understand proper dough technique and adapt your home oven to replicate a professional oven.
Bread machines are tools that simulate in one device steps done by many machines in professional bakeries. When their use is appropriate, do not hesitate to use them. Bread machines are especially good for making and raising wet doughs because of the containment provided. You can then finish these breads by hand, baking them in your oven, or simply leave them in the bread machine.
There are many ways to make worldclass bread. Where one baker uses a poolish starter, another uses a biga pre-ferment, and yet another uses neither. Some bakers use 20 percent pre-ferment in their doughs, others 50 percent. Only a few guiding principles exist for making worldclass bread, and there are many ways to apply them. Choosing from among these options is the art and the craft of baking.
The ingredient and technique information that follows pertains to all the master formulas in this book and will often be referred to in the text. Please read it carefully before beginning your doughs, and mark it for easy reference.
Flour: Most of the formulas in this book call for unbleached bread flour. Bread flour (11.5 percent or more gluten, a particular protein that gives the bread its structure and elasticity) is stronger than all-purpose flour (9 to 11 percent gluten and best for soft rolls, quick breads, and some pastries). High-gluten flour, which contains up to 14.5 percent gluten, is not preferred for basic all-white hearth breads (with the exception of rustic breads) because it makes the dough tough and chewy. It can, however, be used to good effect in combination with weaker flours such as whole wheat or rye. High-gluten flour should not be confused with vital wheat gluten, a pure gluten powder that is sometimes used in small amounts to strengthen weak flours. Vital wheat gluten is much more expensive than flour and is usually found in small bags at specialty and natural food stores.
When baking whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat bread flour, made from either hard winter or spring wheat and available from natural-foods and mail-order sources, is the best choice. Hard flour usually indicates a higher gluten/protein percentage. Spring wheat (i.e., planted in the spring) is often harder than winter wheat.
Unbleached flour retains its natural beta-carotene pigments, which contribute a pleasant though very subtle flavor to the bread. In bleached flour this pigment is chemically removed to make the flour as white as possible. While this may be useful in certain cakes and pastries, bleaching serves no useful purpose in bread and actually diminishes its flavor and aroma.
Some brands of flour, such as King Arthur, Giusto's, White Lily, and locally milled flours, are better than others, but these formulas will work with almost any commercial unbleached bread flour, and when designated, unbleached all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour. If you have access to locally milled ingredients with a good track record, by all means use them. (See page 199 for more information.) I have an ecological preference for certified-organic flours, but I have not specified them in the formulas because they have not proven to make better bread and can cost as much as 50 percent more than nonorganic flours.
Salt: All salts work in bread baking, though some are ground finer and thus measure differently. The measurements in the master formulas are for regular-grind table or sea salt, though many bakers prefer the clean, rounded flavor of kosher salt. If you are using weight measures, all salt is interchangeable. If measuring by spoons, use 1 ½ to 2 times the amount of kosher or coarse salt as regular grind to equal the same weight. You will have to experiment by weighing out equivalent amounts and seeing how they relate and taste, depending on the brand.
Milk and eggs: I love to use buttermilk because it is low in fat and has wonderful flavor and acidity, but with the exception of the quick breads, the formulas will work with equal amounts of skim, low-fat, or even regular milk with very little flavor difference. (The buttermilk is necessary as an acid to neutralize the baking soda in the quick bread formulas.) When using eggs, always use large grade.
Temperature:Temperature, like time, is an important ingredient in bread baking. With the exception of water, all ingredients should be at about room temperature when you use them (unless otherwise specified). If the ingredients are too cold, a longer mixing time may be needed to achieve the desired dough temperature. This could oxidize the flour and adversely affect flavor. If the ingredients are too warm, however, you may have to shorten the mix time, which could be detrimental to the gluten development. Because the ideal temperature range for a mixed dough is usually 76° to 80°F, cool water helps control the mix time to achieve the proper time and temperature balance. (Dough temperature increases about one degree per every minute of kneading or two degrees per minute if kneading in a medium-speed mixer.)
Water: Regular tap water makes good bread as long as it is not overly chlorinated or hard with minerals. In such cases, use bottled or filtered water.
Yeast: As a "new generation" baker, I am partial to instant yeast. I have found it the most dependable of the three types. It is readily available in supermarkets, and it keeps for up to a year in the freezer. It is also more potent than other yeasts, which means you can use less of it.
Instant yeast works best in most breads if stirred in with the dry ingredients. The one exception is in dry doughs, such as bagels, where even instant yeast needs to be hydrated in warm water in order to fully activate, as there is not enough moisture in the dough to completely dissolve the grains.
Fresh, or compressed, yeast has a shorter shelf life, but many bakers still prefer it because it has a longer history (in other words, they initially learned how to bake with it, just as their predecessors did). Fresh yeast can be added directly into the dough without rehydration, though it will activate quicker if first stirred into lukewarm water.
Active dry yeast also performs best if rehydrated first. The grains are bigger and coarser than instant yeast, so they may not completely hydrate and fully activate if added directly to the dough.
The master formulas generally call for instant yeast, but any yeast will work if you make the proper substitution. The ratio is as follows: 100 percent fresh yeast equals 40 percent active dry yeast equals 33 percent instant yeast. In other words:
· Multiply the amount of instant yeast by 3 for the equivalent amount of fresh yeast.
· Multiply the amount of active dry yeast by 2.5 for the equivalent amount of fresh yeast.
· Multiply the amount of instant yeast by 1.25 for the equivalent amount of active dry yeast.
Here's an example:
The formulas indicate both weight and dry measures. Professional bakers prefer weighing ingredients because it is much easier to vary batch sizes when using the baker's percentage system, which is based on weight. Weighing is also more accurate than scooping, since almost everyone scoops dry ingredients differently. However, when ingredients are in very small amounts, such as 1/8 teaspoon, dry measures are preferable. Most scales have a margin of error of about ¼ ounce and are not accurate at these minute levels. For this reason, you may find yourself using weight measures for part of a formula and dry for another.
For dry measuring using measuring cups or spoons, spoon the ingredient into the measuring tool to over-full and then scrape off the excess with a knife or spatula so that the ingredient is level with the top of the tool. Don't scoop the measuring cup into the flour or you will compress the flour too much.
For weight measures, excellent digital platform scales are available for $30 to $75 through cookware catalogs, as well as at many kitchenware shops. Classic balance scales, using counterweights on two platforms, are the best of all measuring tools and never break or wear out. Professional scales are too expensive for most home bakers, ranging from $350 and up. However, the Baker's Catalogue from King Arthur sells a small balance scale for about $90 (see page 199).
MIXING AND KNEADING
Although kneading by hand is one of the joys of baking bread, many people prefer to use a machine. If so, you may use either a mixer with a dough hook attachment or a food processor with a plastic or metal blade (see page 18). You may also use a bread machine for kneading only, and then shape the loaf by hand and bake it in the oven.
It is hard to overmix a dough by hand but easy to do so with a machine, so monitor dough temperature and cell structure closely when using a mixer or food processor. Most doughs are at their best when kneaded to between 76°F and 80°F, and just long enough for the gluten to develop (see page 29).
Kneading has three purposes: to disperse the ingredients, to hydrate the yeast and grain and thus initiate the fermentation process, and to develop the gluten or protein bonds that give the bread strength and structure. With kneading, most flours set up—that is, the gluten strands bond—within 8 to 15 minutes. If the dough gets too warm or is overmixed, the gluten bonds break down and the dough can be ruined. This usually happens only when an electric mixer has been left on for too long and the dough has heated up from the friction against the bowl.
To knead by hand, use the heels of your hands to press down and away for a couple of strokes. Turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue this as long as it takes for the dough to set up, which means the gluten/protein develops a strong elastic texture, tested by gently stretching a small piece of dough to see if it can maintain a paper-thin, translucent membrane or windowpane (see page 29). If the dough is sticky, flour your work surface and your hands. If the dough is too stiff, add small amounts of water or other liquid and continue kneading. Keep the dough close to you; reaching across a table is hard on the back. Hand kneading usually takes 12 to 20 minutes, slightly longer than it takes by machine. The ball of ingredients will change before your eyes from a coarse mixture into a smooth, soft, elastic, and springy dough.
These are the tools a bread baker needs, constituting a work station, or what professionals call mise en place ("everything in its place"):
[ ] Measuring tools (cups and spoons)
[ ] Scale
[ ] Mixing bowls
[ ] Rubber spatulas, plastic or metal scraping
tools, and large mixing spoons
[ ] A hard, stable surface for kneading and
shaping (wood, Formica, or stainless steel
are all acceptable)
[ ] Bread pans and/or rising baskets (wooden
or plastic molds such as bannetons; see page 30
[ ] Plastic wrap or plastic bags
[ ] Vegetable oil cooking spray
[ ] Dough (probe) thermometer
[ ] Sheet pans (preferably professional size—
16 by 24 inches—but only if they fit your
[ ] Baking stone, tiles, or pizza stone
[ ] Wooden or metal bread peel
[ ] Empty metal pan for creating steam
 Spray bottle or spritzer
[ ] Sharp serrated bread knife
[ ] Sharp razor blade or lame (curved bread
slashing blade; see page 32)
[ ] Baking parchment paper (not wax paper)
[ ] Cooling racks
[ ] Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting
[ ] Baking canvas (also called a touche; see page
30) or cloth napkin or dishtowel (optional).
[ ] Electric bread mixer or food processor (optional)
[ ] Cloche clay oven (optional; see page 27)
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