You don’t need to keep too many bread ingredients on hand, but it’s a good idea to have the following items in your cupboard so you’ll be ready when you get that urge to bake.
Flour is the primary ingredient in bread. The type of flour used will determine the nature of the loaf.
Read more about wheat and flour types
Leavening Agents aid in the bread raising process. There are several types: yeast, natural leavens and chemical leavens such as baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar.
Liquids provide moisture to rehydrate and activate the yeast and bring together the flour and any other dry ingredients to make the dough.
What is the purpose of using sweeteners in breads?
Sweeteners provide food for the yeast and give character to the finished loaf of bread. The amount of sweetening used in a bread will also determine how dark the crust will be. The main types are listed below.
Sugar adds flavor and rich brown color to a bread’s crust and creates a tender texture. Sugar also helps delay the staling process because it attracts moisture. However, if you use too much sugar, this can cause the dough to over-rise and collapse.
Brown sugar, honey, maple sugar and syrup, molasses, barley malt, jams and dried fresh fruits may also be used in breads.
Sweet breads have a moderate sugar level and gain extra sweetness from dried fruits, sweet glazes and icings.
Tips:Any liquid sweetening can be substituted for sugar, but it will need to be counted as part of the total liquid content of the bread.
To substitute honey for granulated sugar, use 3/4 cup honey for each cup of sugar and reduce the total liquid used in the recipe by 1/4 cup. Also, keep in mind that honey is more concentrated in flavor than granulated sugar.
Oil your measuring cup or spoon before measuring honey or barley malt syrup and it will slip right off.
What is the purpose of Salt in bread baking?
Salt is an important ingredient in bread baking because it slows rising time to allow the flavor of the dough to develop. It also adds structure to the dough by strengthening the gluten which keeps the carbon dioxide bubbles from expanding too rapidly.
It is possible to make bread without it; however, the resulting loaves tend to overrise and taste very flat. On the other hand, too much of it leaves a bitter quality and can inhibit yeast activity. Be sure to use the exact amount the recipe calls for unless you have special dietary needs.
Fine table and sea salts can both
be used in bread baking. However, kosher and coarser types must be ground before using in dough otherwise they won’t dissolve.
If you prefer, you can sprinkle kosher or coarse sea salt on top of unbaked breads and rolls to give a crunchy texture and pleasant flavor.
Tip: Lite salt can be used if it contains equal amounts of potassium chloride and sodium. It is best to avoid substitutes because few of these actually contain sodium.
How are eggs used in bread making?
Eggs add food value, color and flavor to breads. They also help make the crust tender and add richness and protein. Some bread recipes call for them to be used as a wash for added color.
Tips for using eggs in bread:If you don’t want to give up the flavor but are watching your fat and cholesterol intake, try Nature’s Choice, EggBeaters®, or other substitutes. Or, to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in breads, use two whites instead of one whole egg.
Purpose of fats and oils in bread making
Fats and Oils are added to breads to improve flavor and provide a moist texture and rich taste. Butter, margarine, shortening, nut, olive and vegetable oils add flavor and make bread tender and moist. They slow moisture loss, helping bread stay fresh longer and also help dough rise and increase volume.
For good flavor and cholesterol-free diets, use cold-pressed vegetable oils such as canola, soy, sesame, sunflower, and corn. Do not substitute oil for margarine/shortening unless the recipe calls for it.
Tip: Oils tend to absorb into the dough and can make bread stick to the pan so grease the pans with spray-on butter-flavored vegetable or olive oil, or brush with butter or margarine.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and Spices can be used as the main ingredient in bread or to enhance other ingredients.
Fresh herbs will provide the most potent flavor, but if they are not available, you can use dried herbs or ground herbs. Use sage, dill, oregano, rosemary and thyme to add flavor to savory breads. Keep in mind that dried herbs and ground herbs will lose their taste if they sit on the shelf too long.
Spices are the dried, intensely aromatic, seeds, pods, stems, bark, buds or roots of plants. It is best to use fresh spices for a better flavor. However, if you want to use ground spices, make sure you don’t leave them on the shelf too long. You can add saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, all-spice and cardamom to sweet or savory breads. Use cumin and coriander in savory breads and ginger in sweet breads.
Tips: Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor than fresh so use about a third of the quantity recommended for fresh.
Cinnamon can break down the structure of the dough which affects the size and texture, and garlic will inhibit the activity of the yeast. So measure carefully when you use these.
Does adding nuts and seeds to bread improve the flavor?
Yes. Nuts and seeds can be added to breads to provide crunchiness as well as flavor. Pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts provide wonderful flavor and texture to breads.
Nuts can be added to tea breads, or used as decoration on top of sweet breads.
Caraway seeds, fennel, flax seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds can all be added to breads to provide crunchiness as well as added flavor and nutritional value.
Tip: Lightly toast pine nuts, hazelnuts and almonds to bring out the flavor before using in a recipe.
Using fruits and vegetables in bread making
Fruits and vegetables can be added to bread to enhance the flavor and create a moister texture.
Fruits can be used fresh or dried or as purees or juices to add complementary flavors to breads. Combinations of fruit can be used to add variety. The natural sugars in the fruit help to feed the yeast and improve the leavening process.
Dried fruits, such as raisins, apricots, prunes, pears, apples, figs, and dates are perfect for bread because they provide wonderful concentrated flavor.
Fresh fruits such as blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and strawberries can be frozen and then added to the batter or you can use commercially frozen fruit.
Vegetables can be added raw, canned, dried or freshly cooked to produce a rich bread. Vegetable breads are richer than basic breads because the vegetables contribute flavor and texture to the loaves.
You can also use potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips and other starchy vegetables to sweeten and bring a soft texture to the bread.
Tips for using fruits & vegetables in breads:
If you want to use juicy fruits, mix them with a little flour so that the dough doesn’t become too gooey.
Fresh vegetables are high in liquid. About half their weight will be water so adjust the liquid in the recipe accordingly.
Frozen vegetables should be thawed completely before using and canned vegetables should be well drained.
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Hensperger, Beth. Bread Made Easy – A Baker’s First Bread Book. Ten Speed Press 2000.
Brody, Lora and Apter, Millie. Bread Machine Baking: Perfect Every Time. William Morrow & Company 1996.
Shapter, Jennie. Bread Machine – How to prepare and bake the perfect loaf. Hermes House 2003.