Bread

Bread

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The products we call breads today are an agreed group of preparations, rather than a rigidly defined category. The group may differ somewhat from place to place and from time to time. The Germans and Austrians specialise in black bread and rye breads, or bread flavoured with caraway seeds and poppy seeds. The Scandinavians have a large array of dark breads and crispbreads. Ireland has its soda bread. Pita bread from the Middle East, and chapati, puri, paratha and nan from India, are enjoyed around the world.

Bread containing yeast as the raising agent is the basic bread of the Western world. Baking bread offers the home cook one of the most satisfying pleasures of the kitchen. It is not difficult to achieve a good result at the first attempt, and one of the joys of breadmaking is that you get better and better as you repeat a recipe, developing the judgment that comes with a little practice.

See also: Yeast Cookery.

Breadmaking ingredients

Yeast: A living plant which grows when given moisture and food, and in the process produces the gas which causes bread to rise. It grows best in warm conditions but will also do its work of leavening, although more slowly, in cool conditions. Fresh compressed yeast is available from many cake shops and health food stores. It should be fresh-smelling, even-coloured and easily crumbled. It can be kept for several days, well wrapped, in the refrigerator or can be frozen. (Thaw in the refrigerator before using.)

Dried yeast is usually sold by most supermarkets. It takes a little longer to dissolve and needs warm rather than lukewarm water for this; the dough may also take a little longer to rise. Dried yeast will keep for a year or more in an airtight container in a cool place. For use, follow directions on packet.

Flour: The basic ingredient of all bread. Special bread flour, called strong flour or baker’s flour, is best for most breadmaking as it is high in gluten and gives the bread its characteristic chewy texture. For brown bread, use a mixture of wholemeal and white flour or all wholemeal, if you like a more dense and solid loaf. Bread flours are available from health food shops.

Rising times for bread: Recipes usually say that yeast dough should be allowed to rise in a warm place, but if it suits you better, you can allow it to rise more slowly in a cool place or even in the refrigerator. A dough will take 30–60 minutes to double in bulk in a warm place, about 2 hours at normal room temperature, or up to 12 hours in a cool room or refrigerator. Keep the bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap and a cloth, or place the dough in a plastic bag large enough to allow for expansion; loosely tie the mouth. A slow rise is considered by many experts to give bread a better texture and flavour than a quickly risen loaf.

Breadcrumbs

Fresh breadcrumbs: Use bread that is 1 or 2 days old. Rub through a wire sieve, or process in a food processor, using the metal chopping blade, or drop a few pieces at a time through the hole in the lid of a blender while motor is running at high speed.

Dried breadcrumbs: Use whole slices of bread, with crusts removed, and spread on baking trays. Bake in a slow oven until golden. Remove from oven and process to very fine crumbs in a food processor or blender, crush with a rolling pin, or rub through a sieve. Store in an airtight container. About 6 slices of bread will make 100 g fine dry crumbs.

To coat food with egg and breadcrumbs: Food to be coated must be quite dry – pat meat, chicken, fish, cut vegetables, etc., with paper towels. Dip in flour, shake off the surplus, dip in beaten egg and allow excess to drip off. Place in fresh or dried breadcrumbs and turn about to coat well, patting crumbs on with your fingers. Shake off excess crumbs, press coating lightly with a spatula and chill the food in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, to allow the egg to harden, before cooking. To ensure even browning, crumbs should be sieved so that they will be of uniform size. To give the food the finish known as pané à l’Anglaise, mark it trellis-fashion with the back of a knife before chilling.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients

Method

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