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Frequently Asked Questions about Bread

Every day, we receive lots of emails from people asking for answers to general questions. For a glimpse of this dynamic exchange of ideas and tips, and for answers to questions about food that you may have had yourself, please have a look at this FAQ! You can also browse other answers at other FAQs pages or look for answers in articles in the services page.

If you still have questions, post it in the recipe forum where other visitors may respond to your request.

 
  
 
 
Q. What is self-rising flour? What can I substitute for it?

A.  Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with baking powder and salt added to it. If you do not have self-rising flour on hand, you can create you own version. For every cup of self-rising flour called for in the recipe, substitute 1cup all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Definitions of other cooking terms can be located in the Oriental Foods And Recipes glossary.

Q.  I buy active dry yeast in bulk, so how much do I measure when a recipe calls for a "package" of yeast?

A.  Active dry yeast is commonly available in 1/4-ounce (7 gram) package sizes, which is equal to 2 1/4 teaspoons by volume.

Q.  Can I substitute active dry yeast for compressed yeast?

A.  You may certainly substitute active dry yeast for compressed yeast in a recipe. The only difference is that you should dissolve the active dry yeast in the liquid ingredients before combining it with the flour. One (0.25 ounce) package of active dry yeast is equal to one (0.6 ounce) cake of compressed fresh yeast.

Q. I live above 5000 feet in elevation, so what adjustments do I need to make in order to bake bread successfully?

A.  Baking at high altitude is problematic for two reasons. The first is that because the air pressure is lower, baked goods rise faster. If they rise too fast without the proper structure to support them, they collapse. To correct this problem, reduce the amount of leavening in your breads. We suggest that you reduce the amount of yeast in your recipe by 1/3 to 1/2.

The second problem is that there is also less moisture in the air at high altitude, and drier air means that your flour is drier. This is corrected by increasing the liquid in your recipes by 10 to 15 percent. You may also want to reduce the amount of sweetener in your dough as sugar will weaken the gluten and increase the risk of it collapsing in the oven.

Also, keep a close eye on your dough. Once it has doubled, punch it down (deflate it) and then let it rise a second time.

Q. What is baking mix? What can I substitute for it?

A.  Baking mix or biscuit baking mix is a mixture of all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt and other ingredients. It is sold under a variety of brand names, such as Bisquick® and Krusteaz®.

Q. What is lecithin?

A.  Lecithin (LEHS-uh-thihn) is a fatty substance obtained from egg yolks and legumes. It is used to preserve, emulsify and moisturize food. It is usually sold in granular or powdered form and is often used in gluten-free bread baking. Lecithin-vegetable oil sprays (available in every supermarket) can be used instead of high-calorie oils for greasing pans and sautéing foods. Definitions of other cooking terms can be located in the Oriental Foods And Recipes glossary.

Q.  Can I freeze bread loaves and rolls? How should I reheat them?

A.  Many people find it convenient to freeze bread loaves or rolls after they have been baked. Wait until they have cooled completely and make sure to double wrap them in plastic bags. When you want to reheat them, wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and reheat them in a moderate (350 degrees F/175 degrees C) oven.

Q.  Can I freeze dough and then bake it later?

A.  Yes. We recommend increasing the yeast by 1/3 in any dough that you will be freezing.

For loaves, we suggest that you let your dough rise once, form it into loaves, lightly flour the inside of a freezer bag and place the bagged dough into a loaf pan. Once the loaf has frozen, remove the loaf pan, and then place another sealed bag around the loaf and freeze for up to 1 month.

The night before you want to bake, remove the loaf from the freezer, remove the bags and place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan. Place the pan inside a plastic bag and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If the loaf hasn't begun to rise by then, move it out of the refrigerator and let it rise (covered) until nearly doubled in volume.

For rolls, the best way is to first form them as you normally would and then refrigerate or freeze them. If you are making them the next morning, we suggest simply covering them with plastic wrap and letting them rise in the refrigerator overnight. If you are planning to bake them two or more days later, we suggest freezing them.

To freeze dinner rolls, place them in a greased pan (the disposable aluminum pans are fine), wrap them inside two plastic bags and then place them in the freezer. Let them thaw in the refrigerator for 12 hours before moving them to a warm place to rise. The second rise should take about 2 hours. If you are planning to freeze the dough, we recommend increasing the yeast by 1/3.

Q.  What can I do to make my bread stay fresh longer?

A.  Many people find it convenient to freeze bread loaves or rolls after they have been baked. Wait until they have cooled completely and make sure to double wrap them in plastic bags. When you want to reheat them, wrap the rolls in aluminum foil and reheat them in a moderate (350 degrees F/175 degrees C) oven.

There are several natural additives that can help in the preservation of bread. In general, anything acidic will discourage fungal and microbial growth. For example, you could substitute buttermilk for regular milk (or water) in your recipe. Powdered ascorbic acid is the most common natural preservative used in bread making. It is also used as a dough conditioner.

Another commonly used natural preservative is lecithin. It is made from egg yolks and soy flour. Egg yolks also have a preservative effect. Other natural preservatives include: dried whey, powdered ginger, grapefruit seed oil and rosemary oil.

Q.  I want my bread loaves to have a thicker crust. What can I do?

A.  Steam is the key to a crusty loaf. One way to create steam in your oven is to place a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven. Heat the oven to the desired temperature. When you are ready to bake the bread, pour about 1 cup of water (or 2 cups of ice cubes) into the cast iron pan. Quickly put the bread loves into the oven and close the oven door to trap the steam. Another method is to simply mist the bread with water several times during the first 15 minutes of baking.

Q.  What is 'vital wheat gluten'?

A.  Gluten is the protein that is strung together (by fermentation and kneading) to give bread its structure. 'Vital wheat gluten' is the gluten mixed with flour. You may also want to use bread flour instead of all-purpose, for its higher gluten content. Recipes that contain a high percentage of low/no gluten flours (such as rye, oat, soy or whole wheat) often call for gluten to be added to help them rise higher. The standard ratio is 1 tablespoon of vital gluten for every cup of low/no gluten flour in the recipe.

For more about gluten and flour, please read article on All About Flour .

Q.  How should I store my starter?

A.  How you store your starter depends on how long it will be before you use it again. If you will not use your starter for a month or two, you may freeze it in 1- or 2-cup portions and thaw it as necessary for your recipes. If you think that you will be using your starter on a regular basis in the near future, you should refrigerate the starter.

To refrigerate your starter, feed it 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water and place it in a loosely covered non-metallic container. For example, you might cover a plastic container with plastic wrap, secure it with a rubber band and then make several small holes in the plastic wrap so that the starter can breathe. Stir and 'feed' it every week or so, discarding starter periodically if you accumulate too much.

If you plan on using it to make a batch of bread, we suggest that you take the starter out of the refrigerator, feed it 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water and let sit for 6 hours or so before using it.

Q. I often find myself adjusting recipes in order to make enough for my family, but it doesn't quite work for some recipes. Do you have any advice for me?

A.  Changing recipes in order to make more or less servings is called "recipe scaling." Whenever you alter the amounts of ingredients for a given recipe, you may also need to adjust the cooking temperature, cooking time, pan size and seasonings. But for food chemistry reasons, recipe scaling simply does not work well for some dishes: delicate foods such as soufflés, baked items requiring yeast such as breads, and recipes for a single large item that is meant to be later divided into smaller portions such as cakes, pies, breads and whole turkey.

Our Recipe Scaling Page will give you a reliable framework for successful recipe scaling: It offers detailed guidelines for recipe scaling.


 

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