The following bread baking tips are for Debbie Bier in Concord, MA and
First for Debbie:
I have had good luck using straight bread flour for all my sweet dough type
recipes. You can cheat and use high gluten flour with all purpose flour.
Check the high gluten flour package directions for the amount to use. Using
a good hard flour will produce nice tender coffee cakes, etc. Remember to
keep the dough soft, almost sticky but you should be able to knead it to a
smooth dough, and you'll always have good sweet dough.
1) You can use all purpose flour if you add high gluten flour to the bread
dough. Substitute a portion of the high gluten flour for the all purpose
flour. Check the high gluten flour package for directions.
2) Gluten flour is sold at health food stores (where I buy mine) or you
could probably order it from King Arthur's Flour catalog.
3) You need sugar in order to feed the yeast. Yeast is a living creature
that needs to be fed. Feed it sugar to help with growth. No sugar, no
growth. As to salt, it helps improve the flavor of the bread product but
bread can be made without it. Check the rising times and they'll usually
have to be cut in half. Be sure when using the bread maker to follow the
manufacturer's directions on using yeast. For my bread machine I always
place the salt separately from the yeast when adding ingredients. This is
very important when allowing the ingredients to sit awhile. The salt will
kill the yeast if placed too close together.
4) Proofing the yeast is checking it to make sure the critters are still
alive. This usually translates to placing the yeast in the appropriate
temperature of water with a little sugar and the yeast. If the yeast, water,
sugar mixture begins to bubble and smelly yeasty the yeast is alive and will
work in your recipe. If not, try another batch of yeast. Today most modern
recipes do not require proofing the yeast, but if in doubt of the viability
of the yeast, test a batch of yeast by doing the above method. Most recipes
today, including breadmaker recipes, just have the bread baker mix dry
ingredients together and then add liquid ingredients.
5) Bread baking is never exact in most phases of baking except when it
comes to salt, sugar, yeast and temperature. Too much salt and temperature
will kill the yeast. Too much yeast will leave the bread tasting yeasty and
will rise too much and collapse after baking. Adding too much sugar won't
hurt too much but it will slow the rising times. Adding flour and liquids
are a little less critical since they are dependent on the flour dryness and
type. In the end, all kneaded yeast doughs should end up being soft, satiny
and smooth after kneading.