#55: The Lazy Genius Bakes Bread
Bread is one of the oldest, best foods around. I have no scientific evidence of this, but it feels right. You can't really Lazy Genius bread, but you can start with great principles and have a better chance at great bread sooner than you think.
Stuff from this episode:
- How to Bake by Paul Hollywood // has a stellar chapter on bread
- The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart // great if you want to geek out
- bench scrapers are necessary for bread and for cleaning up crap under highchairs
- my favorite recipe for a loaf of white bread, along with a video
- download a transcript of the episode
And here are the twelve principles of baking bread in bullet form:
- Know your flour.
- Yeast needs babying.
- Don't mix yeast with salt.
- Salt adds flavor and structure.
- Water determines how soft the bread will be.
- Don't rush it.
- Fat makes bread tender.
- Use your hands.
- Kneading changes the texture of the dough, so don't add more flour.
- Cover dough while it rises.
- Trust the dough more than the timer.
- Let it cool.
The Instagram Live video was too long to save, so here are the main points we talked about if you missed it!
- bread pans: I have a nonstick pan, but if you're curious about materials and what they do for your loaf, check out this post.
- yeast: Instant yeast doesn't need to bloom, i.e. be dissolved in warm water; active yeast does. I prefer instant yeast because it's easier (can just be dumped into the flour), but if you only have active yeast, put it in a little warm water, maybe add a pinch of sugar to "feed it," and let it bloom. It looks more like the end of a wave coming up onto the sand, not like bubbling water. Don't wait for bubbles; they won't happen.
- yeast substitutions: Active yeast has inactive yeast cells in it while instant yeast does not; that means you need more active yeast than you would instant. The rule of thumb is 25% more active than instant. If your recipe calls for 1 tsp of instant and you only have active, use 1 1/4 tsp. If a recipe calls for 1 tsp active and you want to use instant, use 3/4 tsp.
- other flours: Flours that aren't white are not always easily substituted into any bread recipe. They require their own percentages and strategies. That said, if you're wanting to make a loaf that uses some whole wheat flour, use my basic loaf recipe, substitute maybe 1/3 of the white flour for whole wheat, and use more water. Maybe another 2 tbsp? And it'll need to be kneaded longer. That said, if you really want a recipe that uses whole wheat, spelt, rye, or another speciality flour, it's best to Google "best ______ bread recipe" and go from something that's already established.
- rising: The cooler the temperature, the longer the rise. The longer the rise, the better the flavor. If you're letting your bread rise at room temperature, don't let it go for longer than three hours for the first proof. Prove? If you want to develop more flavor and have the time, put the dough in the fridge overnight to slowly rise. If you're in a rush (not an ideal scenario but necessary sometimes), put the bowl of dough by a warm oven or inside a proving drawer, but know that the flavor won't be as good. Again, the longer the rise, the better the flavor.
- kneading in a mixer: How do you know if your bread is ready if kneading in a mixer? Use a dough hook first of all. The paddle attachment is too rough on the dough. Second, you want the dough to smooth and elastic. If you'd like to do the "windowpane test," pull off a little bit of dough and stretch it out. If you can make the dough flat enough that light comes through it without tearing too much, enough gluten has developed and you're good to go. If it just comes apart, it KNEADS (ha!) more time.
- storing cooked bread: Air is the enemy of bread, so once you cut the loaf, make sure the cut side isn't exposed to air. My favorite way is to simply turn the loaf cut side down on a wooden cutting board. You can store it in a bread box or bag as well. I discourage using the fridge; it changes the texture and flavor of the bread. After a couple of days, you'll need heat to bring your bread alive again, so go for toast.
- using cooked bread: Other than toast with loads of butter and your basic sandwiches, you can use the stale bread for great grilled cheese, panzanella, bread pudding, or croutons. It freezes great, too.