Suddenly, people are baking bread. From sourdough starters to swapping tips, making bread from scratch has been gaining popularity. Let us note though that baking, long before COVID-19, has always held a kind of calm, reassuring, even “therapeutic” energy for those who do it. So it may not be at all surprising that many have turned to this activity while trying to deal with everything the community quarantine has both brought and barred us from.
Right now, it’s also a great way to feel like you are doing the same thing with friends, except apart and at home. If you’ve decided to join in the bread baking frenzy, but don’t know where to start, The Maya Kitchen is breaking it all down to help inject a sense of joy, connection, and accomplishment (small victories!) during this socially distant time.
Here’s The Maya Kitchen’s guide with info every first-time bread baker should know and keep in mind.
There are only 4 ingredients you absolutely need to make bread. Three of these you probably already have in your kitchen – water, flour, salt. The last item is yeast, which you can pick up on your next grocery run. Yeast is essential as it produces gas while it feeds off the carbohydrates in the flour, making the dough rise.
Speaking of flour, different kinds will have different levels of gluten and protein that affect how your bread turns out. Maya’s All-Purpose Flour is a safe choice for beginners, and can be used for baked goods other than bread.
Follow a recipe so you don’t mess up your measurements. There’s no such thing as “winging it” when it comes to baking bread. The amounts of ingredients you’ll be using will depend on the type of bread you’re making, and anything more or less than indicated is going to throw the whole thing off. Those measurements aren’t recommendations, they’re hard rules to follow. It would be best to choose a recipe that lists simple, familiar ingredients to start, like these easy French Bread and Pandesal.
There are some basic equipment you should have. A large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon (to mix the flour with). Some scrapers are pretty useful to have like a plastic bowl scraper to get the dough out of the bowl easier, or a metal dough scraper to help remove sticky dough from your countertop, but these are not must-haves for making bread.
You may find mention of stand mixers or Dutch ovens in certain bread recipes, but The Maya Kitchen assures us that those aren’t necessary – with almost every great bread being possible to be mixed by hand, and a loaf pan or baking sheet working just as well as any Dutch oven (which is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid).
Why you need to knead your dough. Kneading helps produce bread’s chewy texture by developing the gluten proteins in the dough. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll just need a flat surface, a bit of flour to prevent your dough from sticking, plus your hands. If your recipe calls for it, here’s how to knead: Fold your dough in half and push down and outward using the heels of your hands to press it flat. Turn the dough slightly, and repeat for as long as directed.
You should let the dough rise. Most, if not all, breads—especially yeasted ones—require several hours before it’s ready to bake. It’s not unusual for recipes to ask you to let your dough rest for a few hours at room temperature on
the kitchen counter or inside the fridge. This step lets the dough ferment further, which is essential in developing your bread’s distinct flavor and aroma to make it tastier!
Try more easy baking recipes at www.themayakitchen.com.
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- 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups water
- 7-8 cups MAYA All-Purpose Flour
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- Dissolve yeast in water. In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, water and about 1 cup flour to form a soft dough. stir in dissolved yeast and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
- Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let it rise until double in bulk.
- Punch down dough to expel excess air. Divide dough into two equal portions. shape each portion into long tapered loaves. Get a French bread try. Grease it and dust with cornmeal.
- Arrange loaves on prepared tray. Cover and let rise until doubled.
- Before baking, make slashes diagonally on the surface. Brush with egg white and dust with cornmeal. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
· 2 teaspoons yeast
· 1 ½ cups warm water
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 2 tablespoons shortening
· 4 ½ – 5 cups sifted MAYA All-Purpose Flour
· breadcrumbs, as needed
Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup of water. In a bowl, combine the remaining water, sugar, salt and shortening. Add 4 cups of the flour and the yeast mixture. Mix well then transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Use the remaining flour for dusting the table and your hands if the dough gets sticky. Place dough on a greased bowl, cover and let it rise until double in bulk.
Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C. Place risen dough on a floured surface. Flatten with your hands to form a rectangle about 16 x 3 inches. Starting at one end, roll up the dough with the right hand while sealing with the left hand to form a cylindrical strip of dough. Roll in breadcrumbs. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut dough into pieces about 1 ½-inch thick. Place in baking sheet cut side up. Let the dough pieces rise until light, for approximately 1 hour. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.