This guide will have you baking bread like the pros.
Bread baking can be much simpler than you think.
Photo courtesy kiboka/Fotolia
If you have a chunk of dough left over after the first rising, don't toss it out — freeze it! Thaw it out later for an easy pizza crust. It can also be mixed in to sourdough and other yeast breads.
Ideal rising conditions are a moist and warm environment, about 68°F. I like to use plastic bags over dough to keep the moisture in and leave it, after the second rising, with a damp and shiny — almost tacky — surface.
Accuracy in weights and measures is vital to successful bread. You should always weigh the flour at least once to get the equivalent in cup measures. The water measure or weight is even more important — a tablespoon one way or the other will make a difference. Salt and yeast must also be measured accurately.
For temperatures over 75°F (24°C), you can compensate by taking 1 tablespoon of water at a time away from the basic recipe. Keep in mind that the dough should be tough. If you're baking when temperature tops 90°F (32°C), increase the salt (1 teaspoon for the recipe) and use cold tap water to compensate.
All-purpose flour has 11.5 percent gluten protein instead of the 12.5 percent in usually found in bakers' bread flour. Due to the lengthy rising times required for this recipe, this gluten difference is incidental.
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