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Basic Techniques - Baking

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Baking

Baking is the culmination of the breadmaking process when all your hard work and patience are rewarded. For a successful finished loaf, follow these simple guidelines: use a good thermometer to regulate the temperature of the oven; preheat to the correct temperature before placing the bread in the oven to bake; be sure of the exact baking time before beginning; and always use a kitchen timer to keep track of the time. An important key to proficient baking lies in knowing your oven and being able to control its temperature closely – each one is slightly different and has its own peculiarities.


Baking stages

When the bread is placed in the hot oven, the heat turns the moisture in the dough to steam, causing the loaf to rise rapidly in the first 20 minutes of baking. The heat then penetrates the bread, killing the active yeast cells and allowing the exterior crust to form.

As the exterior crust forms, the natural sugars in the dough caramelize, creating a golden color. The baking time is specified in each recipe. High humidity, however, can sometimes extend the required baking time and must be taken into consideration on the day of baking.


Getting to know your oven

Since each oven is different, it is difficult to establish hard-and-fast rules for breadmaking, such as oven shelf position. The only solution is increased familiarity with your oven. Using an oven thermometer before and during baking allows you to observe any variations in temperature and to make adjustments. If you find you have “hot spots” (uneven heat) in your oven, it is important to turn the bread halfway through baking.


Testing for doneness

Undercooking bread is a common mistake of the novice baker. Bread is indigestible when it has been undercooked, so it is important to test for doneness. A well-baked bread should be golden brown, not too pale or too dark in color. The texture and feel of the bread should be firm to the touch without seeming hard. The best test, however, is to listen to the sound of the baked loaf when it is tapped on the underside. It should sound slightly hollow when it has been properly cooked.

Undercooking bread is a common mistake of the novice baker. Bread is indigestible when it has been undercooked, so it is important to test for doneness. A well-baked bread should be golden brown, not too pale or too dark in color. The texture and feel of the bread should be firm to the touch without seeming hard. The best test, however, is to listen to the sound of the baked loaf when it is tapped on the underside. It should sound slightly hollow when it has been properly cooked.


Cooling

It is important to allow a freshly baked loaf to cool on a wire rack. As the loaf cools, steam from the middle works its way toward the crust, causing it to soften. Cooling baked bread on a wire rack prevents the bottom crust from becoming damp and soggy.

It is important to allow a freshly baked loaf to cool on a wire rack. As the loaf cools, steam from the middle works its way toward the crust, causing it to soften. Cooling baked bread on a wire rack prevents the bottom crust from becoming damp and soggy.


Slicing

When slicing bread, use a sharp, serrated bread knife and a clean bread board. Bread should be left to cool slightly before slicing. Use a steady, sawing motion across the top of the bread to prevent the weight of the knife from crushing the loaf or tearing the crust.

When slicing bread, use a sharp, serrated bread knife and a clean bread board. Bread should be left to cool slightly before slicing. Use a steady, sawing motion across the top of the bread to prevent the weight of the knife from crushing the loaf or tearing the crust.

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