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More Bread Machine Magic
More than 140 New Recipes from the Authors of Bread Machine Magic for Use in All Types and Sizes of Bread Machines
By Linda Rehberg, Lois Conway, Durell Godfrey
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1997 Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway
All rights reserved.
Tips for Baking the Perfect Loaf
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WE'D LIKE TO PUT IN A WORD about what qualifies as "the perfect loaf." Over the years, we've observed that many people consider their bread a success merely if it's tall ... a "lid-thumper," as we call it. Let us tell you that we've had many a tall bread that was disappointing. They were full of air, the texture was coarse and crumbly, they lacked flavor, mouth appeal, and fell apart when sliced. So, height isn't everything! We say this so you won't feel as deflated as your bread if you bake up a loaf that doesn't reach the top of the pan. It can still taste superb! Treat yourself to a hearty, authentic European bread from a good bakery to see what we mean. Bottom line: When you're looking for the perfect loaf, consider taste and texture as well as height.
As far as bread baking hints and tips, we could fill a book with what we've learned over the past few years. In fact, we have. It's called The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful Hints and we went into great detail about every aspect of bread machine baking. We're pleased that many of the bread machine manufacturers use it as a handy reference book for their telephone operators. We hope you'll refer to it if you ever need a helping hand with your breads. Here we're just going to list a few crucial things we've found that contribute to good bread and will help steer you away from disasters and duds, plus a couple of new tricks we've learned since The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful Hints was published.
Would you have guessed that proper measuring techniques and equipment would be first on the list of helpful hints? If you've ever baked bread by hand, you know you can be rather lackadaisical about measuring your ingredients. The same is not true when baking bread in a machine. It's very important to use accurate and proper measuring equipment and techniques. Sometimes as little as one tablespoon of liquid can make the difference between a great bread and a not-so-great one.
Always use a dry measuring cup for your flours and grains. They normally come nested in ¼-, 1/3-, ½-, and 1-cup sizes. Avoid using the cup as a scooper. We'll repeat that: Avoid using the measuring cup as a scooper! This tip alone can make the difference between success and failure. To measure your dry ingredients properly, gently spoon them into the cup (do not pack it down with the back of the spoon or tap the side of the cup to settle it) and then level it with a straight-edged knife or spatula. Why be a spooner rather than a scooper? Because, when dipping down into your canister or bag of flour with the measuring cup, you can pack in at least one extra tablespoon of flour per cup, enough to make a big difference in your final product. When people call us complaining that all their breads are too short, heavy, or dense, this is the first question we always ask them: "Do you scoop up your flour with your measuring cup?" Bet you can guess what their answer is!
Use a plastic or glass liquid measuring cup for your liquids, set the cup on a flat surface and check the measurement at eye level.
If a recipe calls for both oil and honey or molasses, measure the oil first. The honey or molasses will then slide easily off the tablespoon.
Observing the Dough
Another secret for success, and one we feel ranks right up there with proper measuring, is taking time to judge the dough. We call it the "peek-and-pinch test." This is a must the first time you bake a new bread or when the atmosphere is quite humid or very dry. You're looking for a dough that forms a smooth, pliable ball after about 10 minutes of kneading. It will be slightly tacky to the touch. It shouldn't be crumbly. It shouldn't be sticky. It shouldn't leave traces of dough in the bottom of the pan as the mixing blade rotates. And it shouldn't be so stiff that the bread machine sounds like it's straining to knead it or about to stall. There are always exceptions but we let you know which recipes will produce the atypical dough. Just read the "blurbs" at the start of the recipe. By the way, rye bread doughs will normally be on the wet side so you need to allow for a moister dough in all rye bread recipes.
We usually give the dough the "peek-and-pinch test" after several minutes of kneading to look and feel for moisture as well as pliability. Some doughs can look perfect but have no give to them. Doughs that are stiff will invariably bake up into short, dense loaves. Think sensuous! What you're looking for is a dough that is warm, soft, alive, and makes you want to pull it out of the machine and work with it for hours because it feels so wonderful.
Early in the kneading cycle is when you have a chance to make adjustments to your bread dough. If it looks and feels dry or stiff, add liquid 1 tablespoon at a time until it softens. It usually only takes 1 or 2 tablespoons to correct it, so give the liquid a chance to be fully absorbed before adding more. On the other hand, if the dough is too wet or limp, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Again, in most cases, it only takes a little to correct the problem.
We've also gotten in the habit of grabbing a rubber spatula when we check on the dough. Invariably, there are clumps of unmixed flour clinging to the sides or corners of the bread pan. We gently push them down into the mixture, avoiding any contact with the mixing blade.
Climate and Temperature of Ingredients
The climate can have a great impact on your breads. When it's dry, your flour is "thirsty" and may require a tablespoon or more extra liquid. When it's rainy or humid, you may have to add a little more flour to counteract the extra moisture in the air and in your flour.
Hot, sunny days can cause breads to rise too high or too quickly and then collapse. Choose the cooler morning or evening to bake, if possible, or use chilled ingredients.
Cold winter months arrive and suddenly people think something's wrong with their bread machines. Doughs turn sluggish, breads bake up 1 or 2 inches shorter. There's nothing wrong. Just try to place your bread machine in a warm location; avoid putting it next to a cold exterior wall or window. Warm all cold ingredients.
For the optimum loaf, most manufacturers recommend having dry ingredients at room temperature and liquids warmed to approximately 80°F. We find microwaving cold milk or buttermilk for 30 to 60 seconds will do the trick (depending on the wattage of your microwave and the amount of liquid). Eggs can be immersed in warm water for a minute or two to take off the chill.
The breads baked in the machine call for bread flour rather than all-purpose flour. Bread flour contains the highest amount of gluten, which gives the bread its structure and height. Look for a bread flour that contains 4 grams of protein per ¼ cup of flour. Check the nutritional analysis on the bag for this information.
All-purpose (bleached or unbleached) flour is fine to use in the dough-cycle recipes.
Whole wheat flour contains less gluten than bread flour. Breads that contain a large percentage of whole wheat flour tend to be smaller and denser in texture. Since whole wheat flour is ground from the complete wheat berry, it contains natural oils, so store it in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent it from becoming rancid.
Vital wheat gluten is an additive that gives bread extra strength and increased height. It's especially useful when baking heavy whole grain breads that need a boost. We list it as an optional ingredient in several of our recipes.
Avoid using tap water, especially if it is hard water. The best water to use is bottled spring water. It contains all the minerals the yeast needs for peak performance.
Fat (butter, margarine, shortening, and oil) adds tenderness and flavor to bread as well as acts as a preservative to keep the bread from turning stale rapidly. If you eliminate fat you'll lose some of these qualities in your bread. Applesauce will replace some of the moisture and help preserve the freshness.
Salt enhances the flavor of your bread and has an important role in regulating the yeast's activity. You can reduce the amount in the recipes, but you shouldn't eliminate it entirely.
Sugar provides food for the yeast, makes the bread more moist and tender, and delays the staling process, which dries out bread. It also helps the crust to brown. If you reduce the amount of sugar too much, your breads will be rather anemic and dry. If you add too much sugar, the yeast has too much to eat and turns sluggish. Picture those little yeasties sacked out on the couch after a Thanksgiving Day feast ... that's about how lethargic they become.
Use only large eggs in these recipes. One large egg is equivalent to a scant ¼ cup liquid.
We recommend Red Star active dry yeast. All our recipes were tested with it. It's okay to use other brands of yeast, but you may need to adjust the amounts. In most breads you can substitute ½ teaspoon instant or quick-acting yeast per cup of flour, except for breads with extra risings, such as our French Bread Extraordinaire.
Here's a little fact you may not be aware of, which will explain why some of your cinnamon breads are low risers. Sweet brown spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice contain a compound that is toxic to yeast. Limit their amount to a scant ½ teaspoon per cup of flour. If you prefer a stronger cinnamon or spice flavor, use it in a filling or a topping.
We list a great many ingredient substitutions in The Bread Machine Magic Book of Helpful Hints, but here are the most common ones:
You can substitute water, rice milk, soy milk, or juices for regular milk.
Milks can be used interchangeably: whole, low-fat, 1%, or skim.
If you're out of milk, substitute water and add ¾ to 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk or powdered soy milk for every ¼ cup of water used.
Substitute Saco powdered buttermilk for fresh. Add 1 tablespoon powdered buttermilk to the dry ingredients for every ¼ cup buttermilk you are replacing.
Replace the fat in a bread recipe with an equal amount of puréed fruit such as unsweetened applesauce or commercial products such as Wonderslim. Reduce the recipe's liquid by an equal amount. (Helpful hint: To keep a supply of unsweetened applesauce always on hand, freeze it by the tablespoon in an ice cube tray. Pop the applesauce cubes out of the tray when frozen and store in a zipper-type storage bag in the freezer for future use.)
You can substitute a scant ¼ cup water, ¼ cup liquid egg substitute, or 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg. There is also a very good product called Egg Replacer that works well in breads (see Sources).
To date, there are no salt substitutes that have the right properties for use in baking breads, but you can substitute a "lite" salt which contains both potassium chloride and sodium, such as Morton's Lite Salt.
Some machines pulverize dried fruits and nuts if they're added at the beginning with the rest of the ingredients, so it's important to use the Raisin/Nut cycle to keep that from happening. We've found that pulverized raisins add too much extra sweetness to the loaf and prevent it from rising well.
When the machine beeps that it's time to add the dried fruits or nuts, observe the dough first. If it seems a little dry or stiff, adding 1 tablespoon water at that point will help incorporate the extra ingredients.
No Raisin/Nut cycle? Not to worry. If your machine doesn't pulverize dried fruits and nuts, you can add them in the beginning with the rest of the ingredients or during the rest period between the first and second kneading cycle. If your machine does mash them into nonexistence, consult the cycle timing chart in your manual, set a timer, and add them 5 minutes before the end of the second kneading cycle.
You can also flour your raisins in advance and store them in the refrigerator to use when needed.
Dough on the Timer Setting
Most machines don't allow you to use the timer for the dough cycle (which we think is a shame). There is a way to do it, however, as long as you're certain you'll be home in time. Rather than selecting the dough cycle, choose the Standard Bake cycle and set your timer for the bread to be completed 1½ hours after the time you need the dough (see Note). For example, if you want to make pizza some evening and would like the dough ready by 5:00 P.M., select the Standard Bake cycle, set the timer for the bread to be done at 6:30, and when the dough nears the end of its final rise, remove it from the bread pan before it begins to bake (turn off your bread machine, of course). (Note: Consult your manual. Some machines do not have a cool-down cycle and you'd want to set the timer for approximately 1 hour past the time you actually need the dough.)
Is this setting the Delayed Bake timer for such and such a time too confusing when all you want is pizza dough ready by 5:00 Friday night? Here's another option: Just make your pizza dough 1, 2, even 3 days ahead of time, place it in an oiled bag in the refrigerator, and take it out when you arrive home Friday evening. Simple!
Dinner Rolls and Sweet Rolls
If you have a favorite bread recipe and would like to convert it into dinner rolls or sweet rolls, simply reduce the liquid by 1/8 cup and use one of our dinner or sweet roll recipes as a guideline.
Tips for High Altitude Bakers
Reduce the amount of yeast by about one-third.
Increase the salt by 25 percent.
Add ½ to 1 tablespoon gluten per cup of flour.
If the above solutions don't work on a particular loaf, try baking it on the Rapid Bake cycle.
Here's a good one from our online friends Bev Janson and Linda Caldwell: Line up 5 or 6 zipper-type storage bags on the counter. Mark each with the name of your favorite bread and the amount of water and yeast required for that recipe. Fill each bag with the rest of the ingredients, seal, and place in the refrigerator or freezer. When you need a bread, allow the bag of ingredients to come to room temperature, toss the contents into your bread machine, add the water and yeast called for in the recipe, and you have bread in a jiffy! Yes, it's okay to add wet ingredients such as oil and honey to the bag ... just bury them in the middle of the flour.
Bread Machine Mixes
Of course, we're partial to breads made from scratch, but at the same time, we feel there's a place for the mixes as well. For one thing, they're almost foolproof, so they're a great way for the first-time bread machine baker to gain a little confidence. If you start out with a few successes, you're much more likely to get hooked on the fun and tolerate the occasional failures. When people come to us with concerns that their machines might be broken, the first thing we suggest is that they try a mix. That usually proves that all is well with their beloved bread machines. The bread machine mixes are also ideal for the Delayed Bake cycle. There's nothing that will spoil if it sits at room temperature for several hours. Best of all, there are now gluten-free bread machine mixes on the market for people who were forced to pay exorbitant prices for their special breads in the market (see Sources). So don't overlook those mixes on your grocery store shelves. Many are quite good.
A Tip for French Bread Bakers
In our opinion, the very best French bread — the kind with the thin crust that crackles when you remove it from the oven — can only be obtained by using a clay or stoneware pot such as La Cloche. If you're serious about baking great French bread, this is a must! They're sold in gourmet cooking stores or see our Sources section. We also recommend our recipe for French Bread Extraordinaire (here).
Tips for Whole Grain Bread Lovers
For the best possible whole grain breads, you need to use freshly ground whole grain flours. Some health food stores carry it. Make sure it's only a day or two old for it can turn rancid quickly. If you're unable to find it there, check with a local bakery. If you're lucky, they will sell you some. Be sure and store whole grain flours in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent rancidity.
Once you discover the superiority of freshly ground flour, you should consider purchasing a grain mill if you do a great deal of bread baking. Look for one that's easy to clean and not too noisy. (See Sources.) The KitchenAid mixers have a grinding attachment that we've heard works well, too.
Slicing and Serving the Bread
If you plan to bake bread quite often, it's worth it to invest in a good bread knife. We prefer the serrated type. For slicing large quantities of bread, we use an electric knife. There are also fancy knives with guides to ensure even slices every time and slicing guides that hold the bread and do the same. We've listed a few in our Sources section.
Excerpted from More Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg, Lois Conway, Durell Godfrey. Copyright © 1997 Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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