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THE MISSION OF THE BREAD BAKER is to convert a relatively tasteless flour starch into a sweet, multilayered flavor or to evoke the fullest potential of flavor from the grain, while understanding how to manipulate time and temperature in all of the breadmaking stages. The hands, eyes, ears, smell, senses, creative touches and experience of the baker also play a role in the final success of any recipe.
-Excerpted from Peter Reinhart
Yeast bread is one of our most celebrated foods by every culture in some form or another, found in a myriad of types. All bread making goes through specific stages, from raw ingredients to a baked loaf to storage, and is one of the most satisfying recipes to bake from scratch! Bread can be mixed in numerous ways, here, distinguished by the way the yeast is introduced and fermented in the recipe.
Bread recipes can be made with a minimal of ingredients: typically yeast; wheat and related grains, or non-wheat flour (or gluten-free substitutes); water or other liquids; and, optionally, salt. To this short list, recipes can include a variety of interesting ingredients added to the structure of the dough, such as eggs, milk, butter, flavorings and non-wheat grains. Others can be added after the structure of the dough has been formed, such as seeds, nuts, or dried fruit, to create thousands of unique varieties. These ingredients are expressed as a percent ratio to flour, by the Baker's Percentage Method or simply by weight and/or volume (measuring cups and spoons). Sometimes percent hydration of the dough is included as an important criteria.
QUICK-BREADS are discussed in another section, are considered unyeasted recipes, and are chemically leavened with baking soda and/or baking powder.
SARAH SAYS: However, some recipes, such as pancakes and waffles, for example, are typical quick-breads. But, they can be leavened with yeast, instead, introduced either way to the recipe.
SARAH SAYS: When I was a little girl, my mother didn't believe that store bought bread was adequate; she thought it was long on chemicals and short on nutrition. So we made our own homemade bread recipes every week with fresh cake yeast, purchased from the butcher. Now that it is harder to obtain, I use commercially prepared packaged yeast, such as Active Dry or Instant Active Dry. We also made naturally leavened breads, which I still do to this day, discussed in a separate section.
For me, then, it is not just the final bread product that I relish; it is also the process of making a fragrant bread loaf from a bowlful of basic ingredients - flour, water, yeast and salt.
If you haven't experienced the wonderful aroma of baking bread in the oven, and eating some slathered in melting butter as soon as it's cool enough to handle, you're missing something. Making fragrant homemade bread from a recipe is a triumphant accomplishment for bakers of all ages. I know if frightens many home bakers to think of making their own. I will minimize your fears and show you both the science and art of bread making so you too can turn out beautiful and flavorful loaves, including ample step-by-step bread recipes with photos to help you along the way.
Thanks to the writings of French baking professor, Raymond Calvel in his book, The Taste of Bread, Peter Reinhart, Dan Lepard, and other great bread bakers, whom I greatly admire, for their contributions to this section