The Secret to Great Bread
Making great bread takes time. There are many microscopic activities going on in the dough that need time to work their magic. Enzymes are busy converting starches into sugars to feed the yeast and colour the crust, and the yeast is in turn breaking those sugars down to build flavour and leaven the dough. There are many ways to lengthen the process and achieve superior results:
- Use less yeast. Try reducing the yeast in the recipe and increasing the length of the first rise.
- There are recipes that call for only ⅛ teaspoon of yeast and take 24 hours to rise!
- Look for recipes that use a preferment. A preferment is a mixture of some or all of the yeast and a portion of the flour and water in the recipe which is then left to ferment before being added to the final dough. The extra fermentation time adds flavour to the final product and also affects the consistency of the dough. There are various forms of preferment such as Poolish, Biga and Pate Fermente (old dough).
- Cold proof the shaped dough. After shaping your dough, let it proof for half the usual time and then place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (or longer). The cold temperatures slow down the activity in the bread. Then bake it straight out of the fridge. Alternatively, place the shaped dough immediately in the fridge and allow it to proof at room temperature before baking.
- Start baking sourdough! True sourdough bread is made with only wild yeast resulting in a slower process than commercial yeast. It can take a day, or even multiple days to make sourdough bread. This slow process helps draw out more distinct flavours including a notable sourness.