Bread-Making Tips and Recipes

Follow these bread-making tips to develop your baking skills and make delicious yeast breads such as crumpets or brioche muffins.

| April 2012

  • Remember, there is absolutely no work involved in letting your dough sit on the countertop to reap a lower temperature, a slower fermentation process and, therefore, more flavorful bread.
    Photo by Ditte Isager
  • Shaping brioche in the traditional way requires a special technique and pan.
    Photo by Ditte Isager
  • Every time I treat myself to a fresh slice of brioche, with a cup of strong coffee, I get as much pleasure as I did when I first discovered this bread.
    Photo by Ditte Isager
  • Tea and crumpets is a classic breakfast.
    Photo by Ditte Isager
  • Too much kneading can overheat your dough, leading to over-fermentation. Even when a bubbly crumb is desired, as with ciabatta, it can be achieved by kneading minimally and then giving the dough a turn.
    Photo by Ditte Isager
  • If bread is the staff of life, then “Simply Great Breads” by renowned artisanal baker Daniel Leader is every home baker’s must-have cookbook. Featuring an amazing array of incredible delicacies made with yeast, it’s the perfect combination of easy and sophisticated recipes, with the keys to unlocking basics of working with yeasted doughs.
    Photo courtesy The Taunton Press (c) 2011

Bite into a warm brioche muffin and savor the fact that you made this delicious yeast bread yourself. A little goes a long way when you follow simple bread-making tips such as using organic ingredients or preheating your baking stone. In Simply Great Breads (The Taunton Press, 2011), author and artisanal baker Daniel Leader provides us with a collection of recipes for 50 mouthwatering yeasted treats ranging from breakfast classics such as English muffins and crumpets to timeless favorites such as ciabatta and challah. Follow these bread-making tips and try the recipe for crumpets or brioche muffins in this excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “Classic Breakfast Breads.” 

Classic Breakfast Bread Recipes

Brioche Muffins 

Details, Details

In baking, little things can make a big difference in the quality of your bread. Individual recipes will give relevant tips for getting the best results, but here are a few general suggestions for making the simple breads and yeasted pastries in this book as good as they can be.

Go Organic

When I first started baking, I had to search far and wide for organic ingredients. Now, organic flour, cornmeal, seeds, nuts, eggs, milk, and butter are available at natural foods stores and most supermarkets. Not only do organic ingredients make better-tasting breads and pastries, but they also have a gentler impact on our environment. Yes, they cost more. But compared to the price of a loaf of bread you’d buy from your local bakery, a homemade organic loaf is still a bargain.

Weigh Your Ingredients

In my bakery, I follow the same procedures every time I bake. I weigh my ingredients on a scale, make sure they’re all at the same temperature, and use a timer so that every batch of dough is kneaded, fermented, proofed, and baked to the same degree. It is more difficult to be so consistent at home, and you’ll inevitably have to make adjustments from time to time: The temperature of your kitchen will be cooler in the winter than in the summer, so you’ll have to alter your schedule accordingly. Flour’s ability to absorb water varies from season to season and brand to brand, so you might have to add more or less water to your dough. But without question there is one thing you can do to get the same great bread consistently: Invest in a digital scale and always measure your ingredients by weight instead of by volume. Measuring by volume is simply not as reliable. Depending upon how much your flour has settled in the bag, 1 cup may weigh between 135 and 145 grams. That difference will result in two distinctly different breads.

Just Add Water

Rustic Italian breads such as pizza and ciabatta traditionally contain a high proportion of water, which gives them a moist, bubbly crumb. But many other doughs benefit from high hydration, a fact that I took into consideration when developing a range of recipes, not just the ones for Italian flatbreads. So if your bialy dough seems wet as you knead it, just go with it for a while, resisting the impulse to add extra flour. This is easier to accomplish with an electric mixer and a dough hook than it is by hand, so when a dough is particularly wet, I recommend pulling out a KitchenAid® mixer.



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