26 January 2008

Bake perfect bread

Bake perfect bread

The smell of fresh warm bread is one few people can resist, and it’s easy to make your own. Follow these essential tips for successful bread baking.

Step 1: Leavening - In order to rise, bread requires a leavening agent, such as yeast. This is mixed with water and sugar and set aside in a warm place to activate. It's ready when the mixture is frothing. The yeast mixture is then combined with flour and salt to form a dough.

Step 2: Kneading - This ensures the dough will rise by lengthening the gluten strands and evenly distributing the yeast. Use both hands simultaneously in a pressing, folding and turning actionuntil the dough is smooth and elastic. Kneading takes between five and 20 minutes, depending on the recipe.

Step 3: Rising - Set the dough aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise for at least 30 minutes. Bread that hasn't had enough time to rise (or that has risen too quickly due to an excess amount of yeast) can have a coarse texture. The dough is ready when it's at least one-and-a-half times its original size.

Step 4: Punching - The dough now needs to be punched to remove any air pockets that may have developed. Simply make a fist and punch down the centre of the dough.

Step 5: Proving - After forming the dough into rolls, scrolls, focaccias or loaves, you need to set it aside for a second rising (known as "proving"). When it has reached the size specified in the recipe, it's ready to bake.


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