Basic Breadmaking Part1: Step by Step
It's true I have neglected the blog. Certain friends (Taiwanese software engineer that you are) have commented on it, and so I have decided to re-launch with a two-part tutorial. This part will be an over-all review of bread making as I understand it.
Anyone that has tried to learn baking, either from a text or from a teacher has heard of the “steps”, the twelve steps of baking. I think of these steps in four movements; mixing, fermentation, shaping, and baking.
mise en place
Simply, be organized. That means to be pre-emptive and ready with your ingredients, tools, and equipment. Measure your ingredients in advance, preheat your ovens, and have your tools close at hand.
Then, mix your dough! And there are lots of ways to do that, just follow your recipes.
Bulk fermentation, primary proof, first rise; this step has many names. You allow your yeast to ferment your dough for the purpose of flavor development. Like anything else, theres plenty of ways to do this, but what it comes down to is understanding that you're trying to develop flavor and little else, so you should do whatever it will take to maximize that.
Additionally though, it is this step where folds are made on the fermenting dough. More on that later.
All bread has shape, in some sense or another. And there are steps to get there.
Divide your dough into an appropriate size (I weigh each piece).
Pre-shape it roughly into whatever shape you want it to become. Oblong shapes are shaped into round balls of dough. Longer shapes are formed into cylinders.
Bench rest the pre-shape once it is made. Dough is elastic (as well as extensible) so you need it to let it rest so it doesn't resist the final shape.
Final shapes are easier to make once the dough is shaped into a pre-shape that more closely resembles the final shape.
Shaping can have a lot of subtleties and there are lots of books and websites that have that information, but it just takes practice.
Before actually loading the oven, its important to let the yeast recover from the rough handling of shaping.
Final proof is the step that allows the yeast to ferment and swell up your final shapes (all the way through!) before they go into the oven.
The mechanics of actually baking the bread will differ from bread to bread and oven to oven, refer to your recipes and experience to fine tune it.
Also, once your bread is baked, it should be properly cooled before serving.
(That's more of a artisanal/love of bread thing, hot bread tastes good, but cooled bread has layers of flavor for those that look for it.)
I've always felt that understanding how something works is the key to excelling at it. So hopefully this enables someone.
Next time I'll write about some less understood concepts.