[Sca-cooks] partly on-topic, partly off: bread

Holly Stockley hollyvandenberg at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 25 08:35:39 PST 2010

> Okay.  In an advanced state of hubris (is hubris a state?), I'm going to ask
> questions on a topic that is a lifetime's study, expecting simple, short
> answers to what is, no doubt, a highly complex issue.
Yeah - sort of complex.  ;-)  I'll try to cover the high points.  

> First, my sister said that when she'd used a bread machine, the outer inch
> or inch and a half was unusable, as it was stale.  I read the florilegium,
> and one section recommended "misting" the bread, and another buttering the
> surface of the bread.  Do either of these help, and during what stage do you
> do them? Is there some other way to avoid this?
Not with a bread machine.  Misting is to aid in oven spring, which isn't really at issue with a bread maker.  You could TRY buttering the surface (which is done after baking), but the porous nature of the crust on bread baked in a breadmaker is unlikely to respond in the same way - the crust that forms is much too deep.
(Disclaimer - I have a breadmaker, but I don't really like it.  The texture and crust are unlike that of "real" bread.  It's OK when nothing better is available, but I prefer oven-baked.  Take everything with a grain of salt, therefore ;-)
> I've been told that if you open the oven during baking, it can make your
> bread collapse.  Is this true?
Yep.  A cold draft before the proteins have set CAN cause the bread to fall.  Don't open a bread maker during baking.
> I've heard (from you lot, I think) that some flours are not high enough in
> something (gluten?) to rise.  I presume I can add these flours to "regular"
> flour (say, what, 1/4?) and make something out of it.
Oh, sure.  And even whole wheat flour will sort of "cut" the gluten strands and make for a denser loaf.  It's more a matter of taste.  You won't get a "cake-like" loaf, but it sounds like you don't want one.
Many other grains have SOME gluten.  But not as much as wheat.  Rye has an appreciable amount BUT also has a more active form of the enzyme amylase.  If you try to bake "regular" bread with rye flour, your rise will be poor.  It performs better with a sourdough starter, which will inactivate the amylase before it has the chance to digest the gluten.

> The ones I'm interested in are:  oat flour (for cholesterol management),
> teff, spelt, and any others someone else recommends.  Store-bought bread
> always disagrees with me, slightly.  I'm not sure why.  Of course it has a
> number of things I've found my body doesn't like, including sodium
> silico-aluminate (which is also used in some salt as an anti-clumping
> agent), corn syrup, and possibly wheat gluten, though I'm not sure if that's
> one of my problems, or not.
If you have had good luck with gluten-rich craft breads, wheat gluten is likely not the issue.  What you need is to get rid of the additives.
> Any recommendations of grains to try?  I'm hoping for bread that's heavy,
> nutritious, but not inedibly brick-like.  Ideally, if you get hit with it,
> it should cause a concussion, but not fracture your skull.
Replace no more than 1/3 of the flour with specialty grains when experimenting.  You can make bread with anything - it really doesn't matter.  Bread flour has slightly more gluten than AP flour, but you can make perfectly acceptable bread with AP flour as well.  A little barley flour is actually not bad - and barley has twice the cholesterol-lowering effect of oats, according to recent literature.
> Here's hoping.  BTW, I've never cooked with yeast bread, before.  Just
> self-rising (baking soda).  I am checking the Florilegium, but it's a fairly
> big section.
Best advice - go pick up a book or two.  I recommend _Crust and Crumb_ and _Artisan Breads Everyday_ both by Peter Reinhart.  The latter is just fabulous for beginners - lots of pictures and simple instructions.  As well as wonderful recipes that won't eat your whole day.  
Then, shelve the breadmaker, come to the dark side, and we can discuss lining your oven with bricks and unglazed tile, putting a steam tray in the bottom, and all the fun of baking artisan breads.  Maybe even segue into stalking the wild yeast, baking with ale barm (hey, more barley!) and other fun.
Femke, who is even now writing class notes on baking with various types of yeasts. 		 	   		  

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