Throughout the world, almost every culture has some favorite yeast bread. It is an ancient method of leavening or raising the loaf to be fluffy, soft and easily eaten.
Let’s consider the ancient breads, when the flour was milled on grinding stones and often included grit or sand created during the milling. When eating bread it was often chewy or hard, and eating it was like sandpaper, grinding down the teeth. Leavening with yeast made it possible to reduce the effect of the grit.
Yeast had other benefits. Producing yeast breads led to the development of beer, which made consuming liquids safer than drinking water from rivers and streams. Images on ancient Egyptian tomb walls tell the story. Further, the development of bread paired with advancement in tilemaking and bricks, the same kilns used for those also used for breadbaking.
Yeast breads are at the root of cooking, baking, recipes, and the development of agriculture. Enjoy them and learn about them.
Flour: All-purpose flour is the most widely used flour. It contains a special protein called gluten the structure builder of bread. When mixed with liquid and kneaded or beaten, the gluten stretches and gives elasticity to the dough by trapping bubbles of gas formed by the yeast. Some flours, such as rye and whole wheat, lack sufficient gluten and usually are used in combination with all-purpose flour.
Self rising flour, which already contains leavening and salt, is not often recommended for yeast breads. However, all recipes were tested with self rising flour; adjustments are indicated when necessary.
Yeast: Yeast is a live plant that gives off a gas that makes dough rise: It is very sensitive-too much heat will kill it, but cold will stunt its growth. Yeast is available in several forms: regular active dry yeast, quick-acting active dry yeast and compressed yeast. All of our recipes have been tested with dry yeast. Most of the recipes follow the traditional method of dissolving the yeast in warm water (105 to 115F). However, some recipes yield better results by mixing the yeast with the flour, then beating in very warm water (120 to 130 degrees F).
Liquids: Water or milk are the most commonly used liquids. Water gives bread a crisper crust; milk, a velvety texture and added nutrients.
Sweeteners: Sugar, honey or molasses provide “food” for the yeast, enhance flavor and help brown the crust.
Salt: A flavor agent that is needed to control the growth of the yeast and prevent overrising, which can cause the bread to collapse.
Fat: Added to contribute to tenderness and flavor.
Eggs: For flavor, richness and color, eggs are sometimes added.
There are basically two kinds of yeast doughs: kneaded and batter. Both doughs need to rise before shaping and baking. To let dough rise, cover and keep in a warm, draft-free place. If necessary, place covered bowl of dough on wire rack over a bowl of warm water.
Kneaded dough: Kneading develops the gluten and results in bread with an even texture and a smooth, nicely rounded top.
After first addition of flour has been beaten in, dough will be very soft and will fall in “sheets” off rubber spatula.
The second addition of flour makes the dough stiff enough to knead. Mix in only enough flour so dough leaves side of the bowl.
To knead, fold dough toward you. With heels of hands, push dough away with short rocking motions. Give dough a quarter turn; repeat.
When dough is properly kneaded, it will feel elastic and the top will be smooth with some blisters appearing on the surface.
Dough should rise until double. Test by pressing fingertips 1/2 inch into dough. If impression remains, dough has risen enough.
Punch down center of dough with your fist. Fold dough over and form into a ball. This releases large air bubbles to produce a finer texture.
If dough is not sufficiently kneaded, the bread will be coarse, heavy, crumbly, and dry.
Batter dough: Batter breads are really shortcut no-knead yeast breads. Because less flour is used, the dough is stickier; instead of being kneaded, it is beaten with a mixer with the first addition of flour.
The batter is generally not shaped but spread in the pan. The bread has a coarser texture and pebbled surface.
REFRIGERATING YEAST DOUGH:
Yeast dough made with water (except. plain bread dough) can be refrigerated up to 5 days. However, if milk and at least 1/4 cup sugar are used, refrigerate no longer than 3 days. After mixing dough, grease top well. Cover with moistureproof wrap, then a damp cloth. Keep cloth damp during storage. When ready to bake, shape dough; let rise until double, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Bake as directed.
Use loaf pans of anodized aluminum, darkened metal glass for bread with well-browned crusts.
Shiny cookie sheets or muffin cups produce sweet rolls u tender, golden brown crusts.
Stagger loaf pans on a lower shelf of the oven so they do not touch sides of the oven or each other.
The top of each pan should be level with, or slightly above, the middle of the oven.
If baking round loaves on a cookie sheet, place the sheet on the center rack.
Doneness is determined by tapping the crust. The loaf will have a hollow sound when done.
Remove loaves from pans immediately and place on wire racks away from draft. to cool.
For a shiny, soft crust, brush just-baked loaf with margarine, butter or shortening.
Bread and rolls can be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place for 5 to 7 days. Refrigerate only in hot, humid weather. Breads can be stored, tightly wrapped in moistureproof or vaporproof material, labeled and dated, in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. To thaw, let stand wrapped at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.