14 May 2012

Extend your wheat supply by knowing these bread-making basics

In a disaster situation, making bread is a pretty simple tasks (assuming you've got wheat and the tools to process it). However, if you're facing a long-term emergency, you'll need to manage your supplies until the emergency passes or you can achieve sustainability through growing your own crops and/or trading for them.

The two main approaches to extending how long your wheat last are avoiding waste and cutting the amount of wheat used with other ingredients. Understanding the basics of bread baking will help you accomplish both of these goals. Below, we've adapted and expanded upon the advice from a 95-year-old book, which is back when baking your own bread was still done by most American households.

Homemade bread that is poorly made represents a large waste of flour, yeast, cooking fuel, and your energy. In an emergency, there must be no waste from poor baking, from poor care after the bread is made, or by wasting crusts, crumbs, or stale bread. Remember, wasted bread could mean starvation later.

With that in mind, let's cover the basics of yeast-based wheat bread. As a general rule, a good proportion of ingredients to use, is:
  • 3½ cups Flour (including added cereals or other flours; see below)
  • 1 cup Water or Milk
  • 1½ tsp. Salt
  • 1 cake fresh Yeast (or 3 tsp. active dry yeast or 2¼ tsp. instant yeast)
  • ½ Tbs. Shortening (optional)
  • 1 tsp. Sugar (optional)

These ingredients make a loaf of about one pound, which should be baked 40–50 minutes at 450°F. Allow a bit longer baking time for bread containing oatmeal or other grains. Such breads require a little longer baking and a little lower temperature than wheat breads.

In order to keep down waste by eliminating the poor batch of bread, it is necessary to understand how yeast functions in bread-making. Fermentation is the basic principle of yeast-based bread, and the process is controlled by temperature. Yeast grows at a temperature from 70–90°F, and if care is taken to maintain this temperature during the process of fermentation, waste caused by sour dough or over-fermentation will be eliminated. When we control the temperature, we can also reduce the time necessary for making a loaf of bread, or several loaves of bread as may be needed, into as short a period as 3 hours. It not only saves time and labor, but, controlling the temperature, ensures accurate results.

Normally, "room temperature" is adequate for maintaining the proper temperature for your yeast. However, in drafty or cool environments, an easy way to control the temperature is to put the bowl containing the dough into another of slightly larger size containing water at about 90°F (of course, the water should never be hotter, since that would kill the yeast, and cooler water checks its growth). Cover the bowl and set it in an oven. An insulated cooler also works, assuming the interior is around 70–90°F. As the water in the large bowl cools off, remove a cupful and add a cupful of hot water.

At the end of 1½ hours, the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the pan and knead until the large gas bubbles are broken (about 10 minutes). Then place in greased bread pans and allow to rise for another half hour. At the end of this time, it will not only fill the pan, but will project out of it. Do not allow the dough to rise too high, for then the bread will have large holes in it.

If you're following a recipe that calls for a longer period for raising than suggested above, the yeast proportion should be decreased. For overnight bread, use ¼ yeast cake per loaf ; for a 6-hour bread, use ½ yeast cake per loaf; for 3-hour bread, use one yeast cake per loaf as noted above. In baking, the time allowed should depend on the size of the loaf. When baked at a temperature of 450°F, large loaves take from 45–60 minutes, small loaves from 30–40 minutes, rolls from 10–20 minutes.

The bread's time in the oven can be split into four parts. During the first quarter, the rising continues; second quarter, browning begins; the third quarter, browning is finished; the fourth quarter, bread shrinks from the side of the pan. Watch for these points in the baking process, so you'll learn to recognize whether your bread is done, and thus avoid over- or under-cooking.

When the bread is done, it should be turned out of the pans and allow to cool on a wire rack. When cool, put the bread in a stone crock or bread box. To prevent staleness, keep the old bread away from the fresh bread. Also scald the bread crock or give your bread box a sun bath at frequent intervals to keep it clean and healthy.

Aside from eliminating waste, you can extend the life of your wheat by making use of cereals and other flours in your bread-making.

The wide use of wheat flour for bread-making has been due to custom. In Europe, rye and oats traditionally formed the staple breads, and in some sections of the southern United States, corn-bread has been a staff of life.Quick breads can be made from cornmeal, rye, corn and rye, hominy, and buckwheat. Griddle cakes and waffles can also be made from lentils, soy beans, potatoes, rice and peas. Other cereals can well be used to stretch out our wheat supply, but they require slightly different handling.

In making yeast breads as described above, an essential ingredient is gluten, which is extended by carbon dioxide gas formed by yeast growth. With the exception of rye, grains other than wheat do not contain sufficient gluten for yeast bread, so it is necessary to use a wheat in varying proportions in order to supply the deficient gluten.
  • Rye: A bakery's rye loaf is usually made of one-half rye and one-half wheat. This is the safest proportion for home use in order to secure a good texture.
  • Oatmeal: When oatmeal is used, it is necessary to scald the oatmeal to prevent a raw taste. Oatmeal also makes a softer dough than wheat, and it is best to make the loaf smaller and bake it longer: about one hour instead of the forty-five minutes typically allowed for most wheat breads.
  • Barley flour: The addition of one-third barley flour to wheat flour makes a light colored, good flavored bread. If a larger proportion than this is used, the loaf has a decided barley flavor. If you like this flavor and increase the proportion of barley, be sure to allow the dough a little longer time to rise, as by increasing the barley you weaken the gluten content of your loaf.
  • Rice and cornmeal: These can be added to wheat breads in a 10-percent proportion. Any greater proportion than this typically produces a heavy, small loaf.
  • Potato flour or mashed potato: Either can be used to extend the wheat, even up to using almost 50 percent of potato to replace wheat. However, this makes a darker and moister loaf than when wheat alone is used. In order to reduce this moisture, it is helpful to reserve part of the wheat for the second kneading.

No comments:

Post a Comment