Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bread Baking Equipment

There is a danger here of making things sound unnecessarily complicated. You don’t have to go out and buy a whole new kitchen to bake a loaf of bread, but when you are going to be doing a job over and over again for years to come, you might want to work towards collecting the sort of equipment that makes the job less frustrating and more rewarding.

A word about time. Yes, it takes time to make bread, but mixing and kneading and rising can be done in small chunks interspersed with other chores, like laundry or caring for small kids. In fact the bread turns out better when you are not worrying it or rushing it along. You will also find that the yeast has something of its own schedule. On hot days your dough will rise fast, but on cooler days you can choose to be more leisurely.

This is my first favorite piece of equipment: a 2 cup clear Pyrex measuring cup. I sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of yeast on top of the ½ cup warm water and I am waiting for the yeast to dissolve. Today it is winter and our house thermostat is set at 62 degrees, so this mixture looked very much the same for almost two hours.

I let it look the same because my daughter wanted to go pick up a friend to play with and it took longer than expected because of slushy roads. Once I got home I added a pinch of sugar and set it over the warmer part of the gas stove make it foam a bit.

Old time recipes call for “proving” yeast like this every time you bake. Modern recipes skip this step, but I find it useful as I still on rare occasions find that my yeast is not as robust as I would like. Today I was reminded that it is indeed cold in this house and I will adjust my baking techniques accordingly.

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