How to make great bread

Panay News - - NATION - By Maria S. Detablan,

HOW to make amaz­ing bread and how to work with sticky dough? Ac­cord­ing to the award-win­ning au­thor of In Search of the Per­fect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey, Sa­muel Fro­martz, most breads share the same sim­ple el­e­ments – flour, wa­ter, yeast – so what dis­tin­guishes a good loaf from a great one is of­ten tech­nique.

First tip is to weigh your in­gre­di­ents. For the most ac­cu­racy in bak­ing, skip the vol­ume mea­sure­ments and use a scale. Ac­cord­ing to Fro­martz, “If I mea­sure a cup of flour and you do the same thing, the amounts we get will be dif­fer­ent.” Some peo­ple scoop with the cup, com­pact­ing the flour, oth­ers spoon and level it. “By weigh­ing your in­gre­di­ents you will be more con­sis­tent and you can con­trol the vari­ables.”

Sec­ond tip is to knead with one hand. Keep one hand on the rim of the bowl, where it can stay clean. Use the other to knead the dough. “Fold over with your fingers. Do not get the palm in,” in­structs Fro­martz. “Press down with your fin­ger­tips so the dough gets com­bined.” With the clean hand you can turn the bowl, add in­gre­di­ents and cover the dough with a towel.

Third tips is to wet your hand. “The main prob­lem when mak­ing a wet dough is that it sticks to your hand,” says Fro­martz. “If you dip your other (clean) hand in wa­ter and use it to scrape off the dough, you can keep things from get­ting to be a to­tal mess.” (Wet­ting your hands also works when shap­ing meat­balls and meat­loaf.)

Fourth tip is to dust lightly. “The key mis­take peo­ple make is us­ing too much flour on their work sur­face,” says Fro­martz. “That is why I flick the flour from the side rather than sprin­kle from above.” The

flour will not stick to the sur­face – or to the bread in clumps. If you do end up with a lot of flour on the out­side of your loaf, “use a pas­try brush to brush the flour off the cooked loaf.”

Fifth tip is to note that a dough scraper is good for more than scrap­ing. “A scraper comes in handy when you want to loosen dough from the bowl. Or cut up a loaf into rolls. It’s good for clean­ing up the counter. I also use it to mix dough, and then to get all the dough out of the bowl so noth­ing goes to waste,” Fro­martz en­thuses. “If you want to clean stuck-on dough from a bowl, wet the bowl and scrape it in the sink with a scraper. Then scrape the dough off your fingers. It’s a great tool.”

An­other tip is to trans­fer your loaves on parch­ment. Set­ting the loaves on parch­ment for their fi­nal rise lets you move them with­out un­due stick­i­ness. “Just make sure you cut a piece that is the same size as your bak­ing stone,” says Fro­martz. When he is ready to put his sti­rato in the oven, he places an up­side-down bak­ing sheet against the counter and pulls the parch­ment pa­per and loaves onto it. At the oven, he uses the same tech­nique to slide the loaves onto his heated bak­ing stone. «I al­ways re­use my parch­ment un­til it falls apart. It will color a lit­tle, but that›s fine.»

Last but not the least, let the bread rest. As tempt­ing as it may be to tear into a hot loaf fresh out of the oven, “it needs to rest and have time for the crumb to set,” says Fro­martz. This can range from 20 min­utes for long loaves to 1 hour for large round ones. You can use a cool­ing rack, he says, “but I like to just put the bread on the stove­top.” Now that you’re armed with these tips, it’s time to try your hand at home­made bread. (

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