When the autumnal equinox approaches, strange things will happen to the
breads made in our bread machines. This may sound like witchcraft but its
not! People call or write saying, "I have been using the same recipe for a
long time. All of a sudden, my loaves are coming out short and dense!
What's wrong with my machine? Is my yeast bad? Is my flour bad?"
When we make bread by hand, we don't measure the ingredients accurately. We
make a dough with more water than the bread needs. During kneading, we add
flour to keep the dough from sticking and to make it more elastic. We keep
adding flour until the dough is the consistency experience has taught us
it ought to be.
When we make bread in an ABM (even Zojis) the procedure is different. We
carefully measure all the ingredients into the bread pan, start the machine
and come back for our ready to eat, baked loaf. At the season's change, the
loaves come out to be shorter than usual! Why is this and how can we avoid it?
Flour normally contains 10-15% moisture, 12% average. A cup of flour, which
is about 100 grams, will have about 12 grams of water content. For
comparison, a tablespoon of water weighs about 12.8 grams. A three cup loaf
will start with three tablespoons of water in the flour!
During the summer months, the humidity may be twice as high as it is in the
winter months. As a result, more moisture gets into the flour. This
moisture is in the air filling the spaces between the tiny particles of flour.
FYI, there are about 100 billion particles of flour per cup! The total
surface area of these flour particles is unbelievably large, about 4.5 acres!
It should not be surprising that a couple of tablespoons of additional
water can get into three cups of flour in the summertime. So, we reduce the
amount of water in our recipes in the summer and increase it in the winter.
What is the right amount to add or subtract? We have been teaching a
procedure at Delta Rehab, that makes the correction easy. Around the third
week in September, make a standard recipe and withhold 1/4 cup of water or
other liquid. The dough will be dry and stiff, as the kneading proceeds.
Add the liquid to the bread pan, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the surface of
the dough ball gets smooth and acquires a satiny look. Count the number of
teaspoons you add and adjust your recipe accordingly. A quarter cup = two
ounces = four tablespoons = twelve teaspoons. If your loaf comes out
satisfactorily, adjust your recipe accordingly and the short loaf syndrome
will not occur.
Irwin/Delta Rehab/Using Zojis
to help people feel good