Things to know about making bread using yeast:
The recipe below takes all this into account; this is just for your information, and this can be applied to any yeast bread recipes.
For purposes of bread making or any use of yeast, most recipes call for “warm water.” Warm water activates dry yeast granulates. Note I said WARM water, not hot water, and not cold water. Hot water will often kill the yeast before you get started. Cold water doesn’t get it activated and it takes forever to get it working. Test the heat of the water the way you test baby formula: put a few drops on your wrist to be sure it doesn’t burn but is warm, or use a thermometer to get water at 105-115 degree warmth.
Actually nothing that comes in contact with the yeast or dough should be hot, even the bows or pans the dough rises in should be warm, but not hot.
Yeast is a living microscopic plant, even in powdered form! Warm water reconstitutes and activates the dry powdered yeast; note I said WARM water, not hot water, not cold water. (see above). Always test and activate your yeast before adding it to your recipe, as some yeast powder may have sat around in the store or your shelf and died and will not function in your recipe as desired (checking the expiration date on the yeast you buy in the store helps, but I still would test it by activating it first before adding to recipe.)
Yeast activation is fed by a pinch of sugar and by a pinch of ginger; do not use artificial sweeteners as they don’t hold up to the heat for baking and their chemistry changes to make the bread bitter.
Salt and fat retard the growth of yeast, so it is best to activate the yeast first in some of the warm water called for in your recipe, along with a pinch of sugar and ginger, then when this is lively and bubbly, add this to some of the flour in the recipe and mix gently, so that the flour coats the yeast cells, all before adding any salt or fat that the recipe calls for.
Yeast powder comes in jars or envelopes. Note that 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast powder from the jar equals one envelope. Store powdered yeast in the refrigerator to keep it alive. It can also be frozen.
Dried instant powdered skim milk
Powdered milk can be usefully substituted for milk in recipes. It helps you avoid the usual step in recipes that tells you “to be sure that milk is safe, bring milk to a boil and then cool it to “warm temperature” (see above) before adding to recipes.” You save time by using powdered milk added right into the flour mixture in your recipe and then simply adding the proper amount of warm water to the other liquids called for in your recipe.
Use ¼ cup of powdered milk to one cup warm water to equal one cup of milk.
Bread made with powdered skim milk browns more evenly, the crust is more tender, and the crumb is less hard and dry. You can experiment with adding a bit of extra powdered milk in your substitutions for milk; this increases the protein content.
Other liquids: Try substituting potato water (the water in which potatoes have been boiled); potato water can be used to make a smooth bread, and can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use, but it must be brought to a boil and the cooled to warm temperature before use. Whey, buttermilk, and yogurt can also be part of your liquid in many recipes.
Eggs: Don’t use egg substitutes for eggs in bread recipes as it toughens the bread.
Glenda’s Wheat Bread Made With Bread Starter
Makes two loaves
Set your sour dough starter out of the refrigerator long enough for it to get room to temp and lively bubbling.
Meanwhile: Test your yeast to be sure it is alive by doing this:
Combine in a 1 cup glass container:
2 ¼ teaspoons of “active dry yeast” (or one envelope of same)
Pinch only of sugar and powdered ginger (this feeds the yeast and gets it going, not essential but helpful.)
½ cup of WARM, NOT HOT water (test this in your wrist like you would for baby formula, must not be hot.
Stir gently and set aside long enough to be sure that bubbles start to form and the yeast starts to expand. (You should do this for any recipe that requires yeast. Nothing is more disappointing than having the recipe fail because you started with dead yeast.)
Combine and set aside:
3 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached flour
In a separate bowl (my mixing bowl size) combine:
1 cup of the flour mix above
3 cups of whole wheat flour
¼ cup powdered dry milk
(You can do this in a mixer that has a dough hook, or by hand)
If you are doing it in the mixer, use the dough hook, put it on the lowest setting, mix very gently or it will fly out of the bowl.
Add to this mixture:
1 ¾ cups WARM NOT HOT water
The bubbly yeast mixture
¾ cup of sour dough starter
Mix gently for several minutes with a big spoon or by hand or with the mixer still using the dough hook until well combined.
Smooth the dough on top. Cover with light cloth (not plastic or foil or lid).
Set in a place that is nice and warm: sun, warm car dash, top of woodburning stove on a trivet, etc.
Let rise till doubled in size. The time this takes depends on the warmth it is receiving and other mysterious factors.
When it is doubled in size, dust your hands with flour and punch down the dough until it is roughly its original size.
Add to the dough in the bowl, not yet stirring:
¼ cup molasses
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoons soft butter
1 teaspoon baking soda.
(Glenda’s note, see above: You did not add these things at the beginning because of certain chemistry: you want the living yeast to be bubbly and combined with flour and liquid BEFORE you subject it to salt or fat as these tend to deter or even sometimes kill the yeast or even the starter. Remember this and alter every other bread recipe you use to take this into account by combining ingredients in the right order .)
Combine all this, either by hand or using the mixer. (If using the mixer, put the bowl back in the mixer stand with the dough hook and the covering shield in place, and mix CAREFULLY AT FIRST not to splash) The dough will be very stiff . Mix until you are sure all ingredients are well combined.
Set it aside momentarily.
Then, into a large wide bowl like my grandmother’s bread bowl, put the rest of the mixture of flours you made earlier.
Shake the flour all around to spread out the flour and cover the inside surface of the large bowl. Into this nest of flour, put the bread dough.
Slowly (and this is the magical, wonderfully personal part of the whole process), slowly fold in more and more of the flour into the dough, kneading it all the while, about maybe 10 minutes, until….it feels right! It is definitely not necessary to use all the flour. The dough should stop being sticky, should feel smooth and elastic. You can add more flour if needed to get this result. Too much flour will make the bread denser and take it longer to rise, but too little flour and it will likely be crumbly and fall apart too easily.
Now, clean the mixing bowl you originally used, dry and grease the bowl lightly with oil. Put the dough into the bowl, mash it down, turn it over in order to get the bit of oil on top, cover again with light cloth, set in warm place and let rise again until doubled in size.
Punch down dough and divide into two halves. Form each half into an oval or loaf shape. Smooth top and sides, and while smoothing the bottom, make a well pinched together seam right down the middle of the bottom Be sure ends of the loaf are smooth and sealed.
Put each loaf in pans well-greased with oil (pans about 4 ½ by 8 ½ inches). Cover again with cloth and let rise in warm place until double. This takes about half the time as before.
When loaves have nearly risen to double in size, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
When loaf is doubled in loaf pan, rising above the level of the pan in the middle, but not falling over the sides, bake about 35 minutes in oven, until bread is nicely browned and makes a hollow sound when tapped.
Remove immediately from pans, rub top of loaf with butter, and cool on racks (or having butter ready, slice and eat immediately!)
Reheat as desired by wrapping slices in foil and heating in oven or toaster oven.
Makes two loaves. After a couple of days, put any left of the loaves (if any) in a plastic bag along with a piece of paper towel, seal plastic bag and put in the refrigerator; the bread will be dryer, but makes perfect toast. If left out of the frig too long, it will mold.