Happy Hat's Guide to Baking Bread
Everything I know about bread!
The order of the ingredients doesn't really matter, if only you remember this... You're working with two different elements - your yeast and your gluten - both of which are important for the formation of a proper loaf, bun, whatever...
Yeast is alive, and needs to be active.. If you're using dry yeast, then activate it - add a splash of lukewarm water to the yeast, and then add a tablespoon of sugar - mix it, and look at it untill it starts bubbling happily away (unless you can't be bothered to wait that long - which is about 10 minutes!!!) then just mix it thoroughly and let it liquify.
If you're working with active yeast, then drop a block of yeast into the standmixer and add a tablespoon of sugar to it, and turn the standmixer on, and then go away for a while - when you return the yeast will have liquified, and that means that it is active like hell..
Drop your flour on top of that... Different flours have different gluten contents, the less gluten there is in a flour, the longer you have to knead.
I usually use 60-100% durum (which shouldn't be possible according to some).
Add your water, and add about a little handfull of salt (don't be stingy with the salt).
There you have your basic bread - this recipe is about :
- 50g of active yeast or 1 package of dry yeast
- 30g sugar
- 1kg flour
- 30g salt
Hydrate as you wish..
But what about the gluten formation?
Well - here is the deal with the gluten formation...
Do not add your coarser material to the bread from the start - whole grains, nuts, raisins or whatever, actually get in the way of the formation of gluten - meaning that they act as some sort of inhibitor..
The way that you do it is by first kneading the hell out of the dough (with your standmixer) until it gets a shiny surface - this means that not only has everything been hydrated, but by now it has actually developed the gluten, it will take about 5 minutes on low on your standmixer. The window-paning thing has always confused me, because I think window-paning happens earlier than optimal gluten formation, and misleads a lot of people into thinking that they're done before they actually are....
Then you can add your bran of choice to the bread, and let it knead in for a couple of minutes, or until it has spread evenly through the bread.
Also - Salt - salt makes a difference to not only the taste, but also the texture of the dough - I think it helps in the formation of gluten, but dough with salt is much more pliable and springs easier back when pressed than dough without salt..
Anyways - you're looking for gluten!
Shiny surface = gluten!
Also - the dough will collect on the hook more at the end of kneading, so just because it looks like it is a sloppy mess at the beginning, doesn't mean that it will end out like that!
All the water that you add to your bread should be lukewarm (37*c up to 42*c, but just hold your hand under, and if it doesn't scald you, and doesn't make you freeze your fingers, it is about right - if it only is 25*c it doesn't really make any difference, because it will still do what it has to do, only slower)...
So how do you know how hydrated your dough is??
You look into the bowl!
If, after 2 or 3 minutes, the dough is collecting on the hook, but is still sticking to a larger area of the bottom, but not the sides of the bowl - you're at 80%, which is about as hydrated as you want it to be.
If it lets go of the bottom of the bowl when you lift the hook out, then you're around 50%, which can be ok, if your dough has a lot of butter in it..
Smaller sticking to the bottom of the bowl is around 65-70%.
(And you can also hear it... but that is a different story, and not scientific in any way)
Now...we're talking pure bread! Not with additives, which can be fun, good and general win the heart and minds of lesser persons.
But for pure bread!
Yeast is farting a lot of good stuff out into your dough, the gas for the rise, but also estere - which is a good thing about yeast...
Estere can taste of anything from rotten animal flesh to bananas - in general the estere of tame yeast tastes like.. bread!
So the more bready a flavor you want - the worse conditions you give your yeast!
This means - cut back on the yeast - and then let it rise slowly under harsh conditions... Shout at it in German while you're at it, to make it feel mistreated, because that will cause the yeast to piss itself, and that is what you want!
What I am saying is...
Use 1/50th of the yeast in the recipe above, use cold water and use time... Then the yeast will develop a more bready flavour..
You can do the first rise, and then knock it back and put it in the fridge - I've done that as an experiment, and the bready flavour improves until day 5, then it starts deteriorating, and at day 8 it is nigh unedible..
(I did this by creating the same dough - exact measures, same batch of flour, same batch of yeast (had bought a kilo of active yeast in one package), every day for 8 days, let them rise at the same temperature (in the oven at 40*) for the first rise, for the same time, and then I put them in my fridge to store.
I took them out at the same day, with 25 minute intervals, and let them reactivate on the kitchen counter in the same way (couldn't do the exact same placement)
Baked them in the same oven at the same temperature for 20 minutes (then 5 minutes for the oven to get completely temperature stable again), and sat them on the counter till they were all room temperature (here - I am assuming that resting time doesn't impact too much)..
Day 5 is best!
Moistness is not the same as hydration - the moistness (and how long the bread will keep) can come from a lot of stuff...
Carrots are good for keeping the bread moist for longer periods of time (just add a couple of hundred grams of grated carrot to the dough before kneading)
Oatmeal is good for the same (make a couple of bowls worth of oatmeal, and replace flour with it)
Grated squash is good for keeping moist
Fats (oils, margarine, whatever).
So how about shaping?
Stretch and fold, because all of your strands of gluten are bunched up after using a machine... not really an issue, but some people like the look of something that has been stretched and folded a few times..
Use baskets for rising (if you want) or let them rise under a wet side cloth. Alternatively you can brush them with milk constantly, but if you've done everything else right they will get a somewhat mutated surface look during the rise.
Finally... bake them - use a stone if you swing that way (but do it at high heat then) or use a plate if that is your preference... I ususally swing back and forth, and use a stone, with bursts of steam in the oven (I just pour in about half a cup of boiling hot water, not that fucking ice-cube thing, because I want a lot of steam, and I want it now - not waiting around foppishly while drinking tea and looking at melting ice)..
Steam right at the beginning and again at 3-5 minutes in..
The taste of your steam doesn't matter - I have tried some pretty hefty stuff, and it really doesn't make a difference, unless you go to extremes (how the fuck do I get this fucker to taste of anything that I steam with??? Let's try a teaspoon of ammonia).. Not recommendable, but your oven gets really clean, and so does your sinuses.
All of the above is true for whichever kind of bread that you want to bake - the rest is just in the shaping and the namecalling of them, and sourdough is really only about getting othere estere, and some sourness into the bread too.