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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bread Making Tips

By Owen Jones

Bread is a very important ingredient in the diet of millions of individuals on a daily basis. However, there are as many sorts of bread as there are peoples' eating it and most countries have in excess of one type of bread too. In it's most fundamental form, bread is manufactured by cooking a dough of flour and water. However, it rarely rests there except in children's scout camps.

The flour can be made from almost anything that can be dried and ground, so in Europe and America, flour is most normally manufactured from wheat, rye or corn, whereas in India it is often made from gram and in Thailand it can be manufactured from rice and there are numerous other kinds of flour as well, besides all the possible mixtures obtained by combining the different flours.

Often, whole grains or rough-ground material will be added into fine flour to improve texture, taste, roughage or / and aesthetics. Also, in the same vein, sometimes the dough will get rolled in seeds such as sesame, poppy or other kinds of crop like rolled oats. The second ingredient is water, but not always. You can use water, milk or even beer or yoghurt or a mixture of several of them.

Then there are additives. No, not the E-numbers or chemicals such as flavour-enhancers or preservatives, they are completely uncalled for, unless you are using poor quality ingredients or you want the loaf to have a long shelf life. No, I am talking about natural additives. Yeast is the first additive. It makes the bread increase in volume and so makes it light. Bread without yeast is more like cake. Sugar, honey or molasses is added to help the yeast increase in size.

Salt is the first real additive. Salt is added to inhibit the action of the yeast and as a flavour-enhancer, but you could add celery salt (garlic or any other salt) instead or table salt. However, you do not actually have to use it if you do not use yeast. After that, the world is your oyster, you can put what you want.

Some people add an egg to give the bread more body or fruit such as raisins. Or you can add bananas instead or as well. Nuts are good in home made bread too but so are dried plums and apricots. I used to like to add a handful of rolled oats for extra fibre.

A little oil (olive or other) or butter will help the bread's elasticity and it will also keep longer as well, not that that was ever an issue in our household. Herbs and garlic is nice in homemade bread yet so is ginger or onions. In fact, one of the best breads I ever baked was made with the left overs from my Sunday lunch. I could not eat it but it was not enough to put in the fridge so I put it in the bread mix.

I put in French green beans, a little potato, some cabbage, a bit of chicken, kidney beans and the gravy - just a little of |each. It was the best bread I ever baked, but I have spent the last ten years trying to replicate the loaf in vain, because I did not note down exactly what I did.

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