This article is part of “Everything You Need to Know to Start Baking Awesome Bread Using a Bread Maker.”
Everybody knows that I love to bake homemade bread from scratch. Using a bread machine couldn’t be easier, and it makes some fantastic bread! A bread machine combines convenience with flexibility. If you enjoy a fresh loaf of bread, but don’t have the time or space to bake from scratch, a bread machine is for you.
If you have never baked homemade bread before and find the instructions a wee bit intimidating, I encourage you to try it. It may seem intimidating at first, and the various steps take a bit of time to learn, but overall, it is truly easy.
The simplest way to learn how to bake bread is to follow a basic recipe. Try Fast2eat Bread Recipes (much more to be published – keep checking); they are kind of foolproof 😉 really easy, and the bread are delicious.
Like the instruments in an orchestra, the ingredients in basic bread are very simple: flour, sugar, salt, a liquid (such as water or milk), possibly a fat (such as butter or oil) and yeast. Like each musical instrument, each ingredient performs a specific job, and each lends a special flavour to the final masterpiece. That’s why it’s important to use the right ingredients in exactly the right proportions to ensure you get the most delicious results!
For the bread to rise, the flour has to have high protein content. Unless the recipe says otherwise, you should always use “bread flour” (for white bread recipes) in your bread maker to get the best results. It contains more gluten forming proteins than all-purpose flour and will provide well-formed loaves with good structure. This means that bread made with bread flour will rise higher than bread made with all-purpose flour.
If you don’t have bread flour, you can make your own bread flour by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons gluten to each cup of all-purpose flour you use in your bread recipe.
You should NOT use cake flour or self-rising flour in your bread maker.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour can be used in your bread maker using the “Whole Wheat” bread setting. The “Whole Wheat” setting on your bread maker is programmed to better develop wheat bread structure for optimum results.
Whole wheat flour contains the entire wheat kernel, including the bran and wheat germ, which inhibits rising. Therefore, bread made with 100% or a high percentage of whole wheat flour will be lower in height and heavier in texture than bread made with bread flour.
A lighter, larger loaf can be achieved by combining whole wheat flour with white bread flour for wheat bread recipes.
Vital wheat gluten can also be added to improve the shape and volume of bread made with low gluten flours. For a 100% or a high percentage (more than 50%) of whole wheat flour, add 1/2 tablespoon of Vital Wheat Gluten to each cup of Whole Wheat Flour to make it lighter and to prevent the bread collapses during the baking period due to less gluten-forming protein in whole-wheat flour. This will produce a taller loaf. If you find the loaves are still short, increase by adding an extra teaspoon until you get the results you desire (be sure to note the amounts on the recipe). It’s optional, but I recommend for a guaranteed fluffy loaf; it will make a chewier and less dense crust.
Vital wheat gluten/Gluten flour/Wheat gluten
Vital wheat gluten and gluten flour, also sometimes called wheat gluten, refer to the same thing. Vital wheat gluten is the protein found in wheat. It’s what gives bread its shape and pizza dough its elasticity.
Vital wheat gluten is just the protein in a powdered form. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starches dissolve, leaving just the gluten behind. It is important to add in the 100% whole wheat bread to avoid heavy and hard bread, like a brick.
And don’t worry; there is no research to support gluten-free diets for anyone other than those affected by celiac disease. Some experts still claim following a gluten-free diet in the absence of celiac disease may actually be detrimental to health, as it can lack the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
According to research published at The BMJ, “Long-term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.” Source: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1892)
Rye Flour can be used in combination with bread flour in the preparation of rye or pumpernickel bread. However, it cannot be used alone as it does not contain enough protein to develop adequate gluten for structure.
Special note on flour
How to make minor adjustments for the dough: All flours are affected by growing conditions, milling, storage, humidity, etc. While not visibly different, you may need to make some minor adjustments when using different brands of flour and compensate for the humidity in your area.
Always store bread flour in an airtight container. Store whole grain flours, whole wheat, and rye in a refrigerator to prevent them from becoming rancid.
Measure the amount of flour as directed in each recipe, but remember to check the dough ball’s consistency during the second kneading cycle, usually after about 10 minutes (or 35 minutes for Whole Wheat Bread as it rests for about 25 minutes) to make any adjustments.
Sugar and others sweeteners
Sugar and other Sweeteners provide food for the yeast, add height and flavour to the bread and give the crust a golden colour and lend tenderness to the texture.
Types of sweeteners that can be used include sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, and fruits, dried or fresh.
Do not use artificial sweeteners as a substitute for sugars and other natural sweeteners; artificial sweeteners turn bitter when subjected to baking temperatures. The yeast will not react properly, and poor results will be attained.
When measuring sticky sweeteners, such as honey, coat the measuring spoon with vegetable oil before measuring the sweetener. This will allow the sweetener to slide off the spoon without sticking.
When liquids are mixed with the proteins in flour, gluten is formed. Gluten is necessary for rising. Many recipes use dry milk but other liquids, such as fruit juice, beer and water work.
It’s a delicate balance: A recipe with too much liquid may cause the bread to fall during baking while a recipe with too little liquid will not rise.
Milk enhances flavour and increases the nutritional value of bread. Any type of milk, dry, whole, 2%, 1%, skim, buttermilk, or canned evaporated milk can be used in making bread. Refrigerated milk may be warmed to 27-32°C/80-90°F, however, do not overheat (above 38°C/100°F) as this could affect the yeast activity.
Do not use regular milk when using the “Time Delay” function as regular milk can spoil when left at room temperature for several hours. Use dry milk and water as a substitute.
Buttermilk results in a light, high-rising and tender bread; it will also help extend the bread’s freshness. To offset the acidity of buttermilk, add 1/4 cup of baking soda per cup of buttermilk.
Water is the most common liquid used in bread making. It produces a heavier, crisper crust and a more open texture.
Use lukewarm water, about 27-32°C/80-90°F. Do not use water above 38°C/100°F, as this could affect the yeast.
Fats – Butter, margarine, shortening, and oils
Fat enriches bread’s flavour and keeps it tender and moist.
The same amount of vegetable shortening or oil can be substituted if you choose.
Butter and margarine are interchangeable in recipes. Salted or unsalted butter may be used.
Do not use whipped or diet margarine or diet spreads as they will affect the quality. Soft spreads will NOT work.
Butter and margarine can be used right from the refrigerator. Cut cold butter or margarine into smaller pieces for faster blending during the knead cycle.
Low-fat or fat-free bread can be made by substituting equal amounts of unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt for the amount of fat recommended in the recipe.
Remember: Using less fat will affect the height, tenderness, and texture of the bread, which is normal.
Eggs add colour, richness, and leavening to bread. Use only large eggs. No premixing is needed.
Egg substitutes can be used in place of fresh eggs. One egg equals ¼ cup of egg substitute.
To reduce cholesterol, you can substitute two (2) egg whites for a large egg in the recipes without affecting the result. Watch the dough during the knead cycle as some minor adjustments may be needed to get the dough to the right consistency.
Remember: due to health and safety precautions, do not use with the delay cycle.
Salt has several functions in making bread. It controls yeast growth while strengthening the gluten structure to make the dough more elastic and add flavour.
However, it also inhibits rising, so use ordinary table salt and be very careful in measuring. Using too little or eliminating the salt will cause the dough to over-rise. Using too much can prevent the dough from rising as high as it should.
“Light” salt can be used as a substitute for ordinary table salt, providing it contains both potassium chloride and sodium. Use the same amount as recommended for table salt.
It can be omitted for dietary reasons, and, in some cases, you can use a vegetable seasoning substitute for flavour.
When adding salt to the bread pan, add to one corner to keep it away from the yeast, especially when using time delay as the salt can affect the yeast activity.
Yeast is a living organism when moistened by a liquid, fed by sugar and carefully warmed; yeast produces gases which cause the dough to rise. Yeast is actually a microscopic plant; without it, your bread will not rise.
Use Yeast (“Active dry,” “quick-acting,” “rapid rise,” or “bread machine”) in any bread machine on any cycle but use only the amount stated in the recipes. Using a little more can cause the dough to over-rise and bake into the bread maker’s top.
If you prefer to use “fast-rising” yeast, such as “quick rise” or “rapid rise,” merely decrease the amount used.
As a general guide, we recommend using:
- For Active Dry Yeast – use 3/4 teaspoon of yeast for each cup of flour. Active dry yeast is not recommended for express bread, one-hour or less bread machine cycles.
- Or Instant (“fast-rising,” “quick-acting,” “rapid rise,” or “bread machine”) Yeast – use 1/2 teaspoon of yeast for each cup of flour. Example: 3 cups bread flour would require 1-1/2 tsp. of “fast-rising” yeast. “Fast-rising” yeast and “bread machine” yeast are virtually the same and interchangeable.
Note: For one-hour bread machine cycles, yeast amounts must be doubled or tripled; suggested liquid temperatures vary with machines – follow your manufacturer’s instructions.
A 7g (¼-ounce) envelope of yeast contains 2¼ teaspoons. Yeast can also be purchased in bulk so you can measure the exact amount needed.
Once opened, keep refrigerated. Always make sure yeast is fresh and has not passed the “Use By” date.
Check the yeast activity.
If you are unsure of the freshness of your yeast, you can test the freshness of your yeast before using:
- Fill a cup with warm water, then add and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar.
- Sprinkle a few teaspoons of yeast on the surface of the water and wait.
- After 15 minutes, the yeast should foam, and there should be a distinct odour. If neither reaction happens, the yeast is old and should be thrown away.
If the temperature is too cold, the yeast will not be activated; if it’s too warm, it will die. Your Bread Maker takes care of this worry for you by maintaining just the right temperature in the baking chamber at all times.
Baking powder and baking soda may assist yeast or on their own as leavening in quick bread, which requires no kneading or rising. Recipes with baking powder and baking soda are different than yeast recipes. Leavening agents cannot be substituted for one another.
Do not use compressed yeast as poor results may be obtained.
Cinnamon and garlic
Adding too much cinnamon or garlic can affect the texture and size of the loaf obtained. Use only the amount of cinnamon and garlic recommended in the recipe.
Cinnamon directly affects the yeast activity, and in large quantities, it will stop fermentation completely. It can break down the structure of the dough, affecting height and texture. Keep high percentages of cinnamon out of the dough and add it in the fillings where it can have only a limited effect on the yeast activity.
Too much garlic can inhibit yeast activity.
Orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel or zest, as well as alcohol
Orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel or zest, as well as alcohol, will have a retarding effect. Too much will stop the yeast activity completely.
Tap water x Bottled water
Water softeners and chlorinated public water can sometimes kill the yeast needed to make your bread dough rise if it happens, use bottled water instead of tap water to make your bread.
* (“Long-term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.” Source: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1892)
- Everything You Need to Know to Start Baking Awesome Bread Using a Bread Maker
- Fast2eat Bread Recipes
Read bread-making further information in my book:
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