Stage I:  Mise en Place -  Ingredients and Equipment

CinnaYums TutorialSARAH SAYS: When baking bread recipes, use the best and freshest ingredients you can afford. Measure and assemble in advance, called Mise en Place. Use the best and sturdiest baking equipment money can buy, however you need not buy a lot of unnecessary gadgets.

Mise en Place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas], literally "putting in place") is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as "everything in place". It means that recipes are reviewed, to check for necessary ingredients and equipment. Ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls up to the point of baking. Equipment such as stand mixers and bowls are prepared for use, while ovens are preheated. Preparing the mise en place ahead of time allows the baker to bake without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable in recipes because it helps prevent mistakes, such as leaving something out of a recipe.
SARAH SAYS: I know when I get interrupted during a recipe, it is helpful for me to look at the bowls of ingredients and see that the salt bowl is empty; that it has already been added to the flour ingredients because somehow I forgot where I was in the process. Mise en place helps me keep track of where I am, as well.

1. Understand the recipe's ingredients and instructions from start to finish;
2. Decide whether you are going to weigh or use volume (measuring cups and spoons) measurements;
3. Arrange to have as few distractions as possible; and,
4. Timing is important in a recipe, so review or complete steps that require advance preparation.

Baking bread recipes at home does not require much equipment. When I was young, we used to make bread with just a large bowl, a wooden spoon, loaf pans, a good oven and a kitchen towel! But, now it has become such a specialty food-sport, there are so many pieces of equipment you can buy. Here is my list of the bare essentials!

General Bread Baking:
Heavy-duty large capacity stand mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
Kitchen scale
Graduated mixing bowls
Mixing bowl with straight sides, for rising bread dough in (or, a Dough rising bucket) - NOTE: 4 cups of flour hits the 2-quart mark when it's doubled
Accurate oven
Instant read thermometer
Bench scraper
Plastic wrap
Parchment paper
Silpat mats
Nonstick cooking spray
Long rulers
Heat-proof rubber spatulas
Heavy-duty pot holders
Loaf Pans: I like to have on hand, the minimum of one or two, 9 x 5 x 3-inch and two, 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans; and two half sheet pans
Baking sheets - heavy duty
Pullman Pan: for pullman loaf recipes
Fine mesh strainers
Cooling racks
Serrated knife or bread knife

Artisan Bread Baking:
Proofing baskets (banneton, brotform, or brotformen) - The basket coils and flour dusting provide a beautiful shape and decor for a traditional hearth loaf.
Proofing cloth (Couche) - for baguettes, batards and rolls, for example
Baking stone or UNGLAZED quarry tiles - great for pizza, too
Spray bottle or Plant Mister
Razor blade (lame)
Baker's or Pizza peel

Essentially all you need to make bread is wheat flour, liquid (water), yeast and salt, plus temperature control and timing.

The magic of baking bread recipes are that basic ingredients can be combined in different proportions (or Baker's Percentage), and will interact in complex ways that affect the final outcome. You can chose whether to include other ingredients, also known as bread enrichments - during the mixing of the dough or after - to make all sorts of unique, fragrant and wonderfully textured recipes. The way the yeast is introduced into the dough or mixing methods, baking and cooling methods also influence the final product.

Orange-Scented Jelly Doughnuts (Sufganiyot) Recipe1. WHEAT FLOUR
Flour is the predominant ingredient in bread recipes, by weight (100% in the baker's math system) - it is the core of bread. Bread, whole-wheat, all-purpose and white whole wheat are ideal types. Flour can be bleached, but I prefer to use the unbleached varieties. Unbleached contains beta-carotene, which contributes to better flavor, aroma and a visually appealing, creamy tint to its crumb, especially important in simple lean breads, such as pains ordinaire (pain ordinaire).

Wheat flour is the ideal choice, because it contains more gluten forming proteins, especially glutenin and gliadun, than other grains. The gluten amount is determined by the type of wheat used in the flour, and where and when it was grown, but can vary by brand of flour depending on the miller. Gluten-forming proteins when moistened and agitated (mixed, kneaded, risen, etc) form gluten, an elastic network that can withstand the strong leavening gases of yeast. Gluten allows it to be stretched (be extensible) because of its gliadin, yet hold it shape and, because of its glutanin, be elastic (spring back when stretched) without breaking. The general rule for wheat flour is the higher the protein percent (gluten forming potential) it has, the more water it can absorb, requiring longer mixing times.

For a sourdough starter, a variety of wheat flours are available, each type adding its own characteristics and flavor. Often times the very collection of micro-organisms we desire to gather resides on the grain we intend to use for flour. Rye flour is almost notorious for creating a very sour culture.When creating Sourdough Starters, organic flour produces more of an interesting flavor than white, such as all-purpose or bread flours. Rye and whole wheat flours are more fermentable than white. Rye flour contains a larger percentage of natural sugars, diastase and protease enzymes and is slightly higher in natural acidity than wheat flour, all of which have an acceleration effect on gas production and gas retention.
SARAH SAYS: I always start my starters with organic unbleached white flour. It seems to attract more interesting spores to the mix. Once a starter has become strong and healthy I feed it unbleached all-purpose flour (bleaching does not affect their nutrition, though). At this point, the yeast do not need the extra protein of a higher-protein bread flour (it is the starch they digest, not the protein), plus all-purpose is less expensive.

SARAH SAYS: My best advice to give you is to follow the recipe until you become an experienced bread baker - then, it is fun to play around with different flour types and grains to see what the results are.

In general, I use national brands, found in most supermarkets. The reason - consistency! The quality and methods of milling can vary greatly among regional brands, especially gluten protein percent, ash content (mineral content on the package), and the particular blend of wheat strains, so necessary for the flavor and texture of the bread. My favorite kinds for bread baking are Gold Medal's (Unbleached) Bread Flour (most bread flour is unbleached) and King Arthur's unbleached (better flavor and better aroma) all-purpose flour. I like to mix King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour 50/50 with unbleached all-purpose flour But, it is also fun to experiment with local mills. I sometimes replace part of the national brands with a small percent of locally milled flour for extra interest.

QUESTION: Why are store-bought breads usually so tender and fluffy? Green Tea Swirl Bread Recipe
SARAH SAYS: Some store-bought bread brands contain preservatives which help hold moisture, prevent staling and enhance their keeping qualities. These commercial additives are only available to commercial bakers. For the home baker, if a recipe includes some solid fat or oil and sugar, they help to create a tenderer crumb. Mashed potato contained bread is also tender and light because of the starch it contains. Fat holds moisture in the loaf, while the sugar attracts it from the environment. Milk and eggs are also ingredients that help prevent staling. To reverse it, sprinkle lightly with water and toast the bread. Use immediately!

Water, a liquid, is an essential ingredient in bread recipes and plays a basic role. Water hydrates the flour, essentially humidfying its starch granules and proteins. Other liquids can be used in addition, such as milk, buttermilk, potato water or beer. The water content in butter and eggs, and cheese, especially soft cheeses, also counts. When mixed, the hydrated wheat flour proteins create gluten, essential to the structure, shape, texture, extensibility (stretch), elasticity (spring back when stretched) and other attributes of the bread. Yeast activation and the initiation of fermentation are also triggered by hydration. Furthermore, water creates the humid environment appropriate to the development of enzymatic activity (converting complex starches into simple sugars). Juice in bread baking slows fermentation because it contains a lot of sugar.

The type of water used can affect the bread's texture and taste of the bread. Heavily chlorinated water will affect the dough, so leave tap water uncovered for a few hours so the chlorine dissipates. However, if the water is drinkable, tap water is fine to use. Bottled water is preferred if it is very hard or very soft; very hard water toughens the dough and slows fermentation and soft water softens the dough and makes it sticky. Do not use distilled water or one high in minerals. Potato water help keep the bread moist and improves its texture.

When making yeast dough, milk should be scalded and cooled before adding to other ingredients. This is done to improve the quality of the dough and the volume of the bread.
SARAH SAYS: Do not substitute it with water. But, I typically substitute a portion of it with water to proof my yeast in.

Yeast is the heart of bread making. It is the most commonly used leavener and the secret to great bread making lies in its fermentation, or the metabolic action of yeast. There are basically two types: COMMERCIAL YEAST or that derived from PRE-FERMENTS AND SOURDOUGH STARTERS. 

All yeast, no matter what its source, is responsible for leavening the dough, creating the texture of the crumb (inside), maturing the gluten from the flour and providing the characteristic yeast leavened flavor and aroma to its bread recipe. Different mixing methods and ways of adding the yeast to the recipe are used.

Salt is a critical bread recipe ingredient, so make sure you do not leave it out or reduce it; as in all cooking, it brings out flavor, both directly and indirectly. It also moderates (slows) the action of the yeast and during fermentation, allows it to produce carbon dioxide (C02) at a reasonable rate, resulting in a better texture. Salt also helps stabilize and toughen the gluten, strengthening it for shaping, keeping it elastic in an acidic environment (bread dough's are acidic), as well as contributing to moisture retention (saltless bread is drier). Just the right amount of salt also aids in making the crust crisp and preserves the natural off-white color of the flour by protecting against over-oxidation during the mixing process. Without salt, the crust will remain pale.

However, you have to be careful when you add it - if salt comes into direct contact with the dissolved yeast, it will kill it, so be careful to mix the salt in with the second or third cup of dry ingredients. But, with Instant yeast it's not as much of a problem because this type of yeast is coated. However, the amount of salt can be used to control the fermentation process - more salt slows yeast activity. It's best to add in the amount specified in the recipe, rather than adjust it.

Table salt is perfect to use for bread making because it dissolves readily, and sea salt (not the coarse variety) can also be readily exchanged for it. It imparts a better flavor because it is uniodized. Kosher Salt, where the crystals are hollow and very light, needs 1 1/2 to double in volume to table salt, and works well, too. Regular sea salt is somewhere in between. 

To change the character of your bread, you can add other ingredients to the recipe's dough; one type is integrated into the structure and the other, after the dough structure has been formed. As a general rule, the less enrichments a dough has, such as added sugar, dairy and fat, typically, the longer the fermentation necessary because most of the flavor comes from the wheat starches, which need time to release their natural sugars. Where enrichments are present, the flavor is derived from the enrichments rather than the flour, so a shorter fermentation time is preferable.

Some enrichments are "strengtheners or weakeners" or those that strengthen structure of the bread, such as whole eggs, milk and water or weaken or tenderize the dough, such as sugar, fat, egg yolks or acids (lemon juice). The other kind of enrichments, non-wheat flour and grains, and are added for interest and health to the recipe.

Sweeteners plays a role in the recipe's fermentation, as well as adding flavor and rich brown color to the bread's crust. However, too much can limit the yeast's activity and the amount of gluten that can be developed in the wheat flour; sugar competes with the flour for water, limiting gluten formation. Table sugar is commonly used, but brown sugar, honey, molasses or partially refined sugar may also be used. I prefer to use honey, my favorite being wildflower, because it tends to be mild in flavor.  It ferments more slowly than other sugars, which is beneficial to flavor development, and caramelizes more readily than table sugar, resulting in a browner crust. It also imparts a lovely flavor to the bread, depending on the kind you use, but take care - some are so strongly antibacterial, which will kill the yeast.  Honey is especially hygroscopic, and aids in keeping the bread moist, and when used propely, antibacterial, keeping it fresh and free from mold.

Fats, such as oil and unsalted butter, lubricate the gluten strands which increase the volume of the yeast bread recipe, enabling it to expand more of added within proper perimeters. It also tenderizes and softens the bread's crumb, and help extend shelf life, preventing it from drying out too quickly. Fats like extra virgin olive oil and butter result in a more tender and moist texture. Excess fat coats the flour particles, thereby slowing or preventing fermentation. Fat has to be added in a certain sequence in higher-fat recipes to as not to disrupt the process. However, don't use light or tub margarines; if their first ingredient is water, they will not work. 

Eggs, whole and yolks are added to the structure of the dough in the bread recipe and make it richer and add color; however, egg whites make drier dough. Egg yolks also contain fat called "lecithin", available in granular or liquid form. Lecithin is found in cooking oil spray, which is effect in keeping the dough from sticking to the plastic wrap covering it while it rises.

Milk contains fat, whole milk containing the highest amount. I prefer to use it and the lowest I go is 2% milk fat content in yeast bread recipes. Milk adds flavor and, makes softer and cakier dough with a more tender crumb. It also enhances the crust's color and adds to its keeping quality. It is used as powdered. Be aware when a recipe calls for instant milk or just powdered milk; there is a distinction between the two.

Nuts and seeds, fruit, herbs and spices, cheese and whole grains are just a few of the many ingredients you can use to create unique and flavorful homemade yeast bread recipes. Whole grains include bran, rye, millet, oatmeal, cornmeal, wheat germ and cracked wheat to name just a few. It is best to add them right after the dough is deflated from its first rise and before shaping the dough. Knead them in a few times before evenly distributed. These are simply supported by the network of gluten formed in the bread. Some contain little gluten, while others do not; those that don't can be used in Gluten Free Baking
SARAH SAYS: For best results, substitute a portion (try up to 25 - 33.3%) of the weight of the wheat flour with a variety. The higher the proportion of non-wheat flour and grains you add, the heavier and smaller or the coarser and crumbly the loaf.
Remember their addition slows down fermentation and breads laden with extras tend not double in size during rising, so follow the recipe for how much to add. If using dried fruit, it is best to soak them in hot water and then drain it. Otherwise, it absorbs a lot of water from the bread's ingredients, resulting in a dry loaf.

Dough enhancers can improve the keeping qualities, taste, texture and crust of the bake from scratch bread recipe, but they aren't necessary. There are several:
Vital Wheat Gluten:
is gluten added to a recipe to give extra rise, better strength, volume and consistency; it contains a high amount of gluten forming proteins (40 to 80 percent per cup). When added, it will also result in a chewier crumb. I use it in heavier breads that rise slowly, such as oat, whole grain, and ones loaded with sugar, dried fruit and nuts. I like to add 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per cup of flour, plus additional water may be needed for the recipe. With the heavy use of alternative grains, I sometimes go as high as 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.

Ascorbic Acid: creates an acidic environment and also acts as a preservative to deter mold and bacterial growth. Gold Medal, Pillsbury Bread flour and King Arthur European-style flour contains a very small amount which aids to strengthen the dough during long fermentation times when held at a cool temperature. You can use Fruit Fresh (found in the supermarket) or a crushed or Vitamin C tablet, but measure accordingly because it burns off during baking.

Dough Relaxer: is a combination of all-natural gluten relaxing ingredients.

Lecithin: helps keep bread fresher longer and makes lighter bread. It also helps make the bread moister and acts as a mild preservative. Egg yolks also contain fat called lecithin, available in granular or liquid form. Lecithin is also found in cooking oil spray, which is effect in keeping the dough from sticking to the plastic wrap covering it while it rises.

Diastatic versus Nondiastatic Barley Malt: You may need it to correct a problem with your flour. Large national mills add it to their flour; you will see malted barley listed as an ingredient, but with smaller mills, especially organic ones, it is not added. If you have sluggish fermentation with small loaves with pale crusts when using this type of flour, you may need to add it. Malt is very sticky; lightly oil your measuring spoon before measuring and it will slide right off.

Diastatiic malt contains enzymes that convert the starch in flour to sugar, which is used to feed the yeast during fermentation of the dough. Bakers sometimes use a small amount of diastatic malt to improve crust color, but too much will result in a sticky dough, gummy bread and overly brown crust. It works great in highly acidic dough, such as those made with rye flour. For most flour that is already malted (will indicate on the bag); add about 1/8 teaspoon per cup. For organic flour that is not already malted; add about 1/4 teaspoon per cup. It's best to divide the malt between the dough starter (pre-ferment) and the rest of the dough, taking an hour for the diastatic malt to become functional and at least 8 hours to work effectively.

Nondiastatic is a mild sweetener that adds malt sugars. It does not contain the active enzyme and can be added as a flavor enhancer.

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