Flours and Grains
Fragrant, delicious bread is both basic and wonderfully complex. Only a handful of ingredients are necessary to make a loaf, yet the result is so substantial it seems beyond the scope of the average baker. In fact, anyone can make bread with great success. We will guide you through the preparation of numerous types of bread from a basic white sandwich loaf to rich, fruit-dotted holiday rounds to savory quick breads and muffins that assemble in minutes.
No matter which bread you make, wheat flour is its foundation. It forms the structure that gives bread it's shape. When combined with liquid and stirred, beaten or kneaded, flour proteins develop into an elastic cellular network called gluten. It traps gases given off by leavening agents and expands in the oven, forming a bread with even texture and good volume. Our recipes specify all-purpose flour, which is a blend of wheat flours with a medium protein content that is suitable for a range of baked goods. Hard wheat flour, also known as bread flour, is very high in protein content. Other flours and grains have less protein or none at all, but add depth of flavor and texture to breads; they are used in combination with all-purpose flour to form a satisfactory loaf. Store flours and grains in airtight cannisters in a cool, dry spot for up to 6 months. Whole-grain flours turn rancid quickly; keep them airtight, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 months.
A leavener contributes gas which causes bread to rise. It can be as simple as the air beaten into popover batter, the fermentation of yeast, or the action of a chemical agent such as baking powder or baking soda. Yeast, made of living organisms, is sold in several forms, all dormant, that are activated by liquid. Active dry yeast is granular and is marketed in packages or jar; it is the leavening agent used in all our yeast bread recipes. Store packages of yeast in a cool, dry place for one year; use before the expiration date stamped on the package.
Scoop up flour from the canister and sprinkle it into the container of a scale until you have weighed out the amount specified in the recipe. Or, stir flour lightly with a fork to lighten, then spoon it into a dry measuring cup, but donít pack it down; level off with a small spatula or knife.
Measuring Grains and Meal
Spoon oats, cornmeal, and similar dry ingredients from the canister into a dry measuring cup. Shake the cup over the canister so that the excess falls back into the storage container.
Powdered leaveners such as baking powder and baking soda are measured in spoonfuls. Scoop up with the specified spoon measure and level with a small metal spatula or icing knife.