Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tips and Tricks: Bread Machines

My bread machine is one of my most used kitchen appliances. I like that I can plug it in and push start, then walk away from it until it is finished. However, I have heard many people say that although they would love to use a bread machine, they have not had a lot of luck with one.

Here are some tips that I have learned for bread machine success.

1) The most important aspect of making bread is exact measurements. When measuring wet ingredients, use only measuring cups marked with the cups/ounces on the side. After filling the cup, place it on a level surface and view it at eye level to make sure the amount is exact. Before adding it to the bread pan, double check.

When measuring dry ingredients, always use a scraper or the back of a butter knife to level off the measurement. Also, never use the cup to scoop the ingredients (for example, flour or sugar). By doing so, you can add up to one extra tablespoon of ingredient. Fill the measuring cup with a spoon or a second cup before leveling off.

2) When placing ingredients into the bread pan, add liquid ingredients first, then dry ingredients. Add yeast last, and only when you are ready to start the machine.

3) Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature, unless the recipe specifies otherwise. Temperature can vastly affect the way the bread rises and bakes.

4) Use fresh ingredients, especially yeast. If you're unsure how old your ingredients are, or if you're not sure if they have been properly stored, discard them and buy new.

5) If your bread machine has an expressbake option, always use a fast rising yeast. Do not use active dry yeast for expressbake cycles, because the dough will not rise properly. Always use hot water in the range of 115-125 degrees F. Use a cooking thermometer to measure. Water that is too hot can kill the yeast and cool water will not activate it. Use less salt for expressbake settings. Using less salt provides you with a higher loaf. For best results, use flour expressly meant for bread machines for expressbake settings.

6) Check your doughball. Although the bread machine kneads the dough for you, you can still check the consistency. During the second kneading cycle, lift the lid of the bread machine and look at the doughball. If it appears sticky or wet, add flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the doughball appears smooth and circles nicely in the pan. If it appears flaky, add water, one teaspoon at a time, until the doughball appears smooth.

7) If you live at a higher altitude, your dough will probably rise faster and your flour drier. To compensate, increase the amount of water in the recipe, sometimes as much as 2-4 tablespoons per cup. Reduce the amount of yeast by 1/8 to 1/4 per teaspoon of yeast. Reduce the sugar by 1-2 teaspoon per teaspoon of sugar.

8) When making dough for rolls, pretzels or pizza crust, or if you want to bake your bread in the oven, coat your hands with olive oil before removing the dough from the machine. This will keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the air out, then shape as desired. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour, before baking. To shorten the rising time by half, preheat the oven at 200 degrees for five minutes, then turn it off. Place the covered dough into the oven and close the door. Recipes using whole grain or unrefined flours contain less gluten and may not rise as much as those using white flour. This will not affect the flavor of your bread.

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