Bread Making Secrets Revealed…
You may be thinking most bread is essentially made up using flour, water, yeast and salt… so how hard can it be… really?
Indeed, most of our bread, like our ciabatta, French baguettes and batards, Italian focaccia, is made using these simple ingredients. Our sour dough, in fact, contains only… blended flour, filtered water, and sea salt.
Compare this to a typical sandwich loaf from the supermarket: Wheat Flour, Water, Baker’s Yeast, Vinegar, Iodised Salt, Canola Oil, Wheat Gluten, Soy Flour, Emulsifiers (481, 472e, 471), Vitamins (Thiamin, Folate).
Which do you think tastes better, and is better for you? (see health benefits below)
Artisan breads typically have an open and irregular crumb, and a silky quality whereby the holes are actually joined by thinner membranes which have stretched between the air pockets. The silky appearance can be noted when light reflects off the shiny, waxy crumb.
These qualities are evident in our, sour dough, French and Italian breads, and achieved by the use of traditional techniques, so you can enjoy flavorsome, rustic, artisan bread.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you look at sandwich bread, the texture is very closed and floppy, lacking in flavor, with the emphasis being on mass production in the shortest possible time.
For bread you generally need high protein flour with a gluten content of around 12%. This is also referred to as strong flour, because it helps the crumb structure hold up and gives volume to the bread. Strong flour also absorbs more water, and you need a good % of water to get an opened texture… which is generally a sign of good artisan bread.
The quality (strength) of flour can vary throughout the year. At the beginning of the year the new season flour will absorb less water than towards the end of the year, so this is another interesting aspect of bread making – the recipe has to change to suit the flour.
This is where experience and qualifications help dramatically – because good bread is made almost by “feel”… not with a recipe and a watch.
(at Henry’s, our 7 bakers and pastry chefs are all trade qualified, with between 5 and 35 years experience)
We use 6 flour types, 2 white (1 high protein + 1 lower protein) whole meal, pastry flour, rye meal and rye flour, plus a seven grain mix of pure grains. We blend these to achieve different flavors… we even blend the white flours for our French and white sour doughs… the reasons for this are complicated, but it’s all about making authentic products which are true to their origins… it’s not the easiest way, that’s for sure.
To make your bread at home, you can get by with a mixer with a dough hook, and an oven, or you can mix by hand.
Your home mixer may be able to mix at best, 1 kg of flour so you end up with say 2 loaves after adding your water and other ingredients.
Here at our bakery, although our process is quite hands on, we have a significant investment in equipment to help with efficiency and productivity. The best equipment invariably comes from Europe – ours cost around $200,000 in total at new prices.
Ever wondered how the bread gets a really nice shine to the crust?It comes from the steam which is produced in the oven in the 1st few minutes of baking. It’s hard to get this effect out of a domestic oven, and also generate the intense heat which artisan breads need.
You can try and create the steam by spraying a mist of water onto the walls and base of the oven, or lightly spaying the actual dough.
For people making bread at home, one of the most amazing things you can do is “autolyse”**.This refers to the technique of mixing the flour and water roughly, and leaving for 20 minutes or more, then adding remaining ingredients to complete the mixing. It reduces the mixing time (very relevant if mixing by hand!) and improves the flavor, the texture of the bread **, and the color of the crumb. It also improves the result if using lower protein flour, and the keeping quality.
This is an excellent example of a technique which can change markedly the end result when using the same ingredients in different ways – yet not widely used in commercial bread making because of the time it takes.
Knowing when the dough is mixed is also another skill to acquire… you can’t necessarily just set the timer and wait. As the seasons and the characteristics of the flour change throughout the year, so too does the mixing time.
For sandwich style bread, the dough is “cleared” (the gluten is relaxed) when you can stretch it apart without it tearing.
For basic bread, the next step will be to allow the dough to develop some flavor, or ferment. Generally it needs to double in size. Then you have to mould a shape. The artisan doughs start quite sticky, but with time, become easier to handle, however the timing is tricky, as the yeast will die if left too long. Once the shape is moulded, it needs to rest again, to let the yeast do some more work, and flavor to develop.
How do you know if it’s ready to go in the oven? A simple test is to press a finger into the dough. If it springs back, it needs longer. Once you find the time the indent is less inclined to bounce back – it’s ready!
If you are thinking of making some nice bread at home, how do you feel about starting today, and having your bread freshly baked some time tomorrow? Well, that’s the way to get the best out of the simple 4 ingredients we mentioned at the start. With longer the fermentation, the flavors develop. So our French, sour dough, ciabatta are 24-36 hour processes.
Again, you can make basic bread in about 2 hours, but how do you think it will compare to the bread that takes 24 hours?
The process may all sound quite complex and time consuming to bake say 2 loaves of bread. That it is! Still, if you love what you’re doing, it becomes a fascination and a joy.
However, with the busy nature of life these days, it is nice to know there is an economically compelling alternative to baking traditional breads at home.
Considering the most you will pay for the breads in this discussion is around 75 cents per 100 grams, good bread represents remarkable value!
(Compare this with a packet of dry biscuits such as vita wheats or salada’s for $1.50 per 100g, and rice crackers for over $2.20 per 100g)
We invite you to try ours: Choose the breads you would like to try, take advantage of our $10 coupon offer, and taste the difference yourself. (to save disappointment, please ring or email in advance the specific products you would like to try, to ensure you don’t miss out)
Please support your favorite bakery, and enjoy the benefits it has to offer.
Health Benefits of Sour Dough?
Sourdough or wild yeast bread is leavened by natural fermentation. This requires the presence of natural yeasts from the air or the grain, combined with enzyme enhancing bacteria. These cultures grow slowly given the right temperature, digesting the starches and changing the pH, allowing the wild yeasts to feed and the dough to rise.
Sourdough baking is a long process, due to the absence of added yeast. From start to finish, the baking process takes up to 36 hours, compared to the 90 minutes of commercial yeasted bread. During this time, wild yeasts and lactobacilli bacteria (the same found in yoghurt) get to work, fermenting the dough slowly but surely, pre-digesting the flour so that the bread becomes far more digestible. And in the process, the nutritional properties of the bread change dramatically.
For a start, the glycaemic index of sourdough bread is 68 compared to 100 for non-sourdough bread. This means that sourdough will help you hold your blood glucose in check, according to research at Lund University in Sweden. The lacto-fermentation process actually uses carbohydrates in the food, converts it to lactic acid, and lowers the carbohydrate content.
Dr. Andrew Weil in Eating Well for Optimum Health, points out that in cultures in which the traditional diet is still eaten and in which many of civilization’s most common diseases are practically non-existent, most of the staple foods are low glycaemic index carbohydrates.
Our breads made from unprocessed flour (whole meal), contain complex carbohydrates which are readily converted into energy and not stored as fat. Whole meal grains in particular are a good source of essential minerals and trace elements like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, manganese and zinc. These materials fulfil a wide array of functions in the body. Iron, for example, is the building block of haemoglobin and numerous enzymes. It is also critical in the processing of oxygen. Sourdough fermentation increases the availability of minerals due to phytate degradation by microbial and enzymatic activity.
There may also be a cancer deterrent quality to our grain and rye sourdough, according to research by Liljeberg, Lonner & Bjorck (Journal of Nutrition,1995). Lignans, found in rye, which we use in rye and grain sour dough, are a type of botanical oestrogen, which are converted into biologically active substances that counter the growth of hormone-dependent tumours. In particular, lignans are known to protect against breast, prostate and colon cancer. They also help to prevent heart and blood vessel diseases.
There is increasing interest by health professionals in the benefits of beneficial bacteria in many foods. A balance of the appropriate flora is critical to ensuring not only a healthy intestinal tract, but also for long-term health through protection against pathogenic organisms and supporting gastro-intestinal health. The most important friendly bacteria are lactobacillus, which are cultivated in sourdough fermentation. They produce lactic, formic and acetic acids, which inhibit other organisms due to the acid environment, a good example being E. coli.
The yeast and bacteria themselves provide B vitamins and biotin (important for vegetarians). Bran in whole grain flour is also pre-digested in this process so that its minerals and vitamins are more easily absorbed by the body. The enzymatic properties of sourdough also aids digestibility. Natural antioxidants in the whole grain flours also reduce exposure to toxins.
The yeasts in these breads are gentle in their action and compatible with the way the body processes natural foods such as fruit.
** Autolyse is less relevant when using weak flour, non white breads, or bread containing shortening.