The humble homemade bread is a crowd pleaser. The aroma of freshly baked bread wins over any other dish or a complicated desert easily. Nothing could be simpler than mixing three or four inexpensive ingredients and producing such a variety of different shapes and textures.
Over the years we have lost our connection with the food we eat. Children don’t know how bread is made. Or what is it made from. I’m witnessing it often enough when holding incursions at schools and kindergartens. We are losing the knowledge of previous generations. Grownups have stopped making bread at home. We are afraid of yeast and the time it takes to make bread. Mostly time – our precious commodity. The norm became soft, sliced stuff with lifeless crust, packaged in plastic bags, full of chemicals. But we shouldn’t settle for that.
One of MakeBread’s main missions is to prove that making bread is a simple, satisfying and enjoyable affair. I love to debunk bread making myths. I love teaching children that real, homemade bread is the best. At MakeBread Incursions I show them how simple it is to make the bread. Kids love kneading and shaping the dough. But mostly, they love eating freshly baked breads they have made. Their appreciative mmmms and yuuums with their mouths full of real bread make my day!
Top 7 Bread Making Myths
Myth 1: Yeast needs warm water and environment to rise
Not true. Although yeast will activate faster if mixed with warm water, you can make a perfectly good dough with cold water. Even if the dough is stored in the fridge, it will rise. It will take longer though, but, slow is good when we’re talking about bread making.
The process of rising the dough in the fridge is called retarding. Not only does retarding help us fit bread making around our busy schedules, it also produces a loaf with deeper flavour and character.
Myth 2: Yeast needs sugar to activate and rise
Not true. Out of top 7 bread making myths, the sugar myth has a firm second place. Yeast does not need sugar to activate. There’s enough food in flour for the yeast to feed on.
Sugar is added primarily for taste when making sweet breads like hot cross buns, croissants or similar. Honey or other types of sweeteners can be used instead. Fruit loaves don’t even need sweetened dough at all, just lots of dried fruit.
Next time you make a bread, that teaspoon of sugar in the recipe can be skipped without any effect on yeast.
Myth 3: Making bread at home is difficult and time consuming process
Well, in my opinion, not true. Make Bread classes have exactly this goal: to prove that bread making is a simple process that doesn’t take up lots of your time.
There are a handful tips, tricks and time-saving techniques to know. Add a few simple ingredients, a bit of enthusiasm and get an enormous amount of satisfaction. Nothing compares to freshly baked homemade loaf.
Bread making isn’t rocket science, after all. People have made bread all over the world for thousands of years. Although, you can get into the science end deep enough, I like to keep things simple and to demystify the bread making process once and for all.
Myth 4: Sourdough bread making is even more complicated
Again, let me explain why this is not true. Dough made with sourdough starter needs less watching over.
Believing that sourdough bread making is more complicated than yeasted bread has more to do with the sourdough starter itself. Making the starter, maintaining it and succeeding in not killing one is thought to be unachievable by many. I, too, had the same belief in the past, possibly due to information overload and complicated explanations in the books and classes. Then I went back to square one and started anew.
To make sourdough starter you need water and flour. That’s all. If you acquire a bit of sourdough starter, things get even simpler. Contrary to popular belief, sourdough starter isn’t that easy to kill and doesn’t need lots to pampering.
With that experience at MakeBread I now teach sourdough bread making in a simplified, easy to understand way. The classes are made to suit home baker, two types of sourdough starter provided.
Myth 5: Sourdough breads taste sour
Not true. The word sour relates more to the sourdough starter, rather than the taste of the bread. Tangy would be a better word to describe the flavour of sourdough bread. However, most sourdough breads don’t taste tangy.
It’s a matter of personal taste. Some love extra tangy breads, other quite mild. You can control the end result. I often bake sweet breads using sourdough starter rather than yeast and no one would guess it’s a sourdough bread.
Often I hear people say they don’t like the taste of the sourdough bread, possibly because they came across a very tangy one. Don’t be put off it. Try another bakery or even better, make it yourself. And check the ingredients. Big chain shops often put sourdough flavour, extra gluten or even yeast and call it authentic sourdough bread. In fact, real sourdough should contain only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and sourdough starter. Well three ingredients as starter is made with water and flour.
Myth 6: Bread dough should be kneaded for 20 minutes
Not true. Anything from no kneading up to 30 minutes will produce a decent homemade bread. How long does a dough require kneading depends on the type of bread and the type of flour, too. Also, whether the dough is kneaded by hand or a mixer.
No knead method works better with higher hydration bread dough and longer rising time. Spelt dough requires less kneading. Wheat flour dough requires kneading to develop gluten if you apply a standard few-hour rising time.
Many artisan bakeries still do shape breads by hand, but no one kneads a big batch of dough by hand. If you have a bench mixer with the dough hook, make it your workhorse. 15 minutes should be enough for the gluten to develop. Kneading a large piece of dough by hand for a while could be quite laboursome, unless you need some upper arms workout, 5 – 10 minutes is sufficient.
Myth 7: Salt and yeast should not come in contact
Again, not true. Last but not least on my list of bread making myths I’m asked about yeast and salt in the flour. It is believed that salt will inhibit yeast growth if put together.
The practice of putting yeast on one side of the flour and salt on the other doesn’t make sense as they will be mixed all together anyway. This is true especially if using dry yeast which is not active without the addition of liquids.
The only time when you might be concerned about adding yeast and salt together is when using fresh yeast and only for a prolonged time as salt could draw the moisture out of yeast. However, fresh yeast needs refrigeration, so I wouldn’t think of a time where you’d use it and leave it to sit on the flour and salt for a long time, or overnight. This is not to be confused with the delayed salt method used in sourdough.
Salt is essential in bread making, not only for the taste, but also to control the yeast. Our bodies need salt too.
There are many more bread making myths than above. I’ve selected those that I’m most often asked about at MakeBread classes and incursions. The answers are based on my experience and common sense, not going too deeply into the background of science. The reason for that is that many of my clients say they are overwhelmed with the information and too detailed explanation of the chemistry behind bread making. So much so they feel intimidated and afraid to start.
I hope I’ve demystified some of the bread making myths and if you still need some help in starting your bread making journey, please feel free to contact MakeBread.