Home Bread-Bakers v006.n063.2

Re: advice needed from the experts here!

cmathew@iadfw.net (Craig & Joan Mathew)
Sat, 27 Jan 1996 08:54:34 -0600 (CST)
>From: Angela Fox <bford12@indiana.edu>
>Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 13:04:41 -0500 (EST)
>Subject: advice needed from the experts here!

Hello Angela,
  Whew!  You have a long post here, but I'll try to jump in where I've had
experience.  I'm not terribly scientific about my baking...I tend to be a
lot like my mother in that respect, who throws in a "little bit of this" and
a "little bit of that".  But I'm successful, and I suppose that's what
counts in the end...and I enjoy it!

  So...I will offer some suggestions here and perhaps it will generate an
interesting (not flaming, please!) discussion...and maybe I'll learn
something, too!

>I am very new to this list and to bread baking!

  Welcome to the list!

>Finally over the holidays, I was watching the video that came 
>with my new Vita-Mix contemplating making bread dough with the Vita-Mix. 

  I also have a Vita-Mix!  I've had mine for about 6 years, though...it has
the stainless steel container, and I think the new ones have a glass
container...am I right?  Don't know how these new ones knead bread, but I
can tell you that the old one doesn't do as good a job as you might like.
It just doesn't turn the dough around enough to get it really "worked".
And, it is incredibly difficult to clean that gooey dough out of the bottom
of that narrow little container.

  Please don't get me wrong...you should definitely try this in your new
machine...perhaps they've improved the new ones somehow and it works much
better.  Just don't expect miracles from this particular appliance...

  I also have a KitchenAid Proline mixer and a Cuisinart 14-cup food
processor.  I've found that those do a much better job of kneading dough.
The KitchenAid comes in first, hands down!

>1.  I will never put any oil/butter/fat etc. in anything I bake or cook.  
>So I have been using subs like minced prunes 1:1, baby food prunes 1/2:1, 
>Oatrim gel 1:1 (King Arthur), honey (experimenting).  What advice do 
>others have on this subject or results?  I notice Reggie uses Wonderslim 
>1/2:1 - is this really comparable to using baby food prune (Gerber 1st in 
>tiny jars - no tapioca)?.  I have been using Oatrim gel when I don't want 
>a color change in the dough - it seems to work fine and I end up with a 
>really moist loaf.

  You don't say what kind of breads you're making here...but I gather you're
making sweet types of breads raised with yeast...is that correct?  In that
instance, it sounds like what you're using are fine substitutes, and quite
delicious it sounds like!  As long as your dough is moist enough you'll do
fine, and you should be able to judge this fairly well as you're kneading
and working it.

>2.  Yeast - I have been using Fleischman's Gold Instant Yeast from King 
>Arthur.  I get good results using exactly what is called for in all 
>recipes.  Once I used Red Star regular yeast.  I noticed it was very slow 
>to rise in comparison to the other loaves I have made with it.  However, 
>I only tried it once so don't have much scientific evidence to say that 
>it was the yeast.  The people at King Arthur told me not to decrease the 
>yeast in a recipe when using the Instant yeast.  What are other people's 
>experiences with this instant yeast?  Some cookbooks say that instant 
>yeast is double fast - but King Arthur says this one is not??????  I 
>guess I should try a couple loaves with Red Star regular again.

  Frankly, I've never heard the term "instant yeast".  All I know about is
the granular stuff you can buy either in little foil packets (1/4 ounce
each), 4 ounce jars, or in bulk (e.g., 1-lb. packets).  Although I've
recently looked into buying yeast in bulk, I have previously used the foil
packets (rather expensive), and the 4-oz. jars.  I really like the RapidRise
yeast put out by Fleischmann's, but honestly haven't tried the other brands;
therefore, I can't comment on how well they might work.

  I, too, would appreciate some discussion and comments on various brand
names and how they work.  Also, I was told that different brands often yield
different flavors in the finished product, so I'd like to hear more about that.

>4.  What are some expert hints for finding a nice warm spot for rising of 
>dough?  I have been using my oven warmed for exactly one minute on the 
>lowest temp - is this what others do?

  I did this for years when I lived in apartments.  Now, in my new house, I
have a KitchenAid wall oven which also has a proofing/dehydrate function.
You can set it for an even 100F and put the dough in there to rise, creating
a nice warm environment.  I also generally put a measuring cup full of warm
water in there to help create some humidity...it seems to help the dough
rise better and avoids that awful dried-out top that sometimes occurs when
they're not covered quite right.

  If I've been baking quite a bit during the day, my kitchen warms up nicely
anyway, so I've found that just leaving the bowl of dough out on my counter
or near my range's oven vents will do fine...loosely covered of course to
prevent drafts.

  Also, if it's a nice, sunny day, I put my dough in the kitchen windowsill
where it gets some nice warmth from the sun (my kitchen faces east) in the
morning.  Sometimes folks who drive by will see about 6 bowls of dough
sitting there to rise....they must think I'm nuts!  :)

>5.  All purpose flour - I totally understand the gluten thing.  My 
>question is why do so many recipes (esp German's book The Bread Machine 
>Cookbook VI - Hand Shaped Breads From The Dough Cycle) call for all 
>purpose flour?  Is this because they do not need to rise as much and this 
>is an okay sacrifice to have a more tender bread????????

  I can't really say why those cookbooks call for all-purpose flour;
however, in *any* bread recipe I use which calls for some kind of white type
flour like all-purpose, I generally use bread flour...unless it's a pastry
type of bread like kuchen...then I use pastry flour (not the self-rising
type).  I find that the pastry flour for delicate yeast-raised pastries
seems to give a finer texture and grain.

>Oh - also many of those recipes (BM Ckbk VI by German) call for Rapid or 
>quick yeast - why???? 
>and the book does not tell (I don't think - or it was not clear to me) 
>how much to use if you use regular yeast - any 
>advice??  The book "Electric Bread" always gives the alternative which is 
>1/2 as much rapid yeast as regular - but that does not seem to make sense 
>given the amount of rapid yeast called for in German's books.  Any 

  Since I don't have a bread machine I can't really say how yeast is used in
those machines; however, I generally use the same amount of yeast in most of
my recipes, regardless of whether it's RapidRise or regular yeast.  The only
difference I've found (so far) is that it takes a different amount of time
to rise.  My RapidRise will sometimes go through an entire rising in just
30-45 mins., whereas the regular yeast usually takes about 90-120 mins. for
me.  That's just my experience, but I'm sure others can provide some insight

>6.  Does this list offer a bibliography of great bread baking books and a 
>review?  If not, that would be a wonderful thing to make available.  I 
>have always collected and read cookbooks.

  For a book which offers many many many recipes, plus instructions for each
designed for mixer, food processor, or machine, I heartily recommend Bernard
Clayton's _New Complete Book of Bread_.  This is, by far, the most
often-used bread book in my repertoire...it is absolutely great, and the
recipes are easy-to-follow (IMO).

>8.  What are people's favorite methods for shaping bagels - using a bagel 
>cutter, shaping a ball and punching a hole in middle with thumb and 
>shaping, rolling a snake and joining the ends???

  I use the old hand-form method...rolling a snake and joining the ends,
punching a hole with the thumb...it's a lot of fun, especially when my
husband pitches in!

  The only thing I can say regarding tips about bagels is that "real" bagels
(oh oh...I sense possible flames coming on this one) are always boiled prior
to the baking step.  When I do this, I get a couple of Dutch ovens or big
kettles going on the stove...I put about 3 Tbsp. of sugar into each kettle
of water and get it going to a gentle simmer...just enough that the water is
moving but not rolling violently.  Your bagels should already be formed and
ready to go when you get to this step!!  Then just drop the bagels into the
kettles of hot water and cook for about 30-45 seconds on each side.  Take
them out and place on a sheet covered with waxed paper or a dry tea towel
(this helps them to dry off a little so they're not soggy).  When all the
bagels have been boiled, place them carefully on your baking sheet (or
stone) and bake per the instructions in the recipe!

  If anyone can suggest improvements on my method above, I'd certainly enjoy
hearing them...I love making bagels, and I am always eager to hear new

>I ground my own flour in my Vita-Mix (wonderful results btw)

  Mmmm!!  I'll bet you enjoyed that fresh flour!!  That's almost as much of
a pleasure as smelling that bread baking.... :)

>10.  Is there a way to make a Banneton at home rather than pay $50 for 
>one?  Do they yield wonderful looking loaves?  How do you get the risen 
>dough onto the peel and onto the hot baking stone without killing it?

  Aha...Bernard Clayton to the rescue again...don't have the book handy at
the moment, but I think in his _Bread of France_ he has several discussions
and pictures of this whole process.  In any case, the book has excellent
recipes, so you might just want to take a look at it anyway.  I know I've
seen other discussions of this elsewhere, but the sources escape me at the

>11.  What are some hints for shaping a pizza dough and then getting it 
>onto the pizza peel without ruining it and putting on the toppings then 
>into the oven onto the hot pizza stone successfully?

  Well, in my typical unscientific way...I think the best-tasting pizzas are
the ones that LOOK homemade!  What I'm really saying here is...don't sweat
the small stuff...if it is a reasonable facsimile of a circle (or even a
rectangle, which is very nice for pizza squares for a crowd) don't worry
about it not being exactly round...

  As for shaping it, I very quickly lift it up and plop it down on the peel
(which has a little bit of cornmeal sprinkled on it for "ease of movement").
Quickly slather those toppings on, then head for the oven...

  Finally, for getting that pizza into the oven without interacting with the
floor... :)   The best way I can think of to describe this is to think of
accidentally touching your hand to a hot part of the oven.  You tend to jerk
away suddenly.  Well, it's much the same with that pizza peel...I carefully
slide the peel into the oven so that it -- with the pizza on top -- is in
the general vicinity of its final resting place (did that sound right???).
Here's where that "finesse" comes in with the wrist movement...you quickly
jerk your wrist back so that the peel slides out from under the pizza and
the pizza very neatly plops down into its chosen position on the baking
stone.  Remember, the peel should have some cornmeal sprinkled on it so that
those little grains serve as "rollers"...makes it much easier this way.

  I hope I described that so it made sense...?

>  Where should the 
>pizza stone 
>be placed in the oven?  I have mine on the lower rack to keep it out of the 
>way.  It is big - 16" and heavy, so I don't want to have to move it all 
>the time.

  This is exactly where I put my stone, too.  Since I have two ovens,
fortunately I don't have to move mine all the time, either.

>  Will having the stone in the oven cause it to preheat (the 
>oven) more slowly?

  Generally I have found this to be true.  I find that I need to preheat my
oven for as much as 15-20 minutes extra in order to get my baking stone nice
and hot.  This is really important if you want that nice terrific crust on
your bread (e.g., pizza).

>12.  Slashing the tops of loaves - Yikes!  I am scared to death to do 
>this for 
>fear of killing the loaf!  Should I use a straight edge sharp razor?  Any 

  I use a single-edged razor blade, but I see that King Arthur sells those
tools that resemble what the French chefs use when they slash the baguettes
before baking.  A single-edged razor blade works better than a knife in my
opinion, because the blade is much thinner.  A knife blade tends to drag
away at the dough and pulls it and makes it kind of ugly.  A razor blade
makes a nice clean slice through the dough which bakes beautifully.  Before
you use it, pick out exactly where you want that slice, though...

>I have more questions and will develop more questions!  But, I will stop 
>for now as not to overload everyone!

  Whew, my fingers are tired now....

  I hope I've helped to provide some advice for you, but I also hope that
others who might have other suggestions will share them.  That's what this
list is for...for us all to learn and have fun!