Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You don't "knead" that much flour

French bread
Really, you don't. Like me (until recently), you're probably using too much flour in your bread.

I've been playing with breadmaking the last few years, beginning with the no-knead Artisan bread and including the abysmal crockpot bread. Until this autumn, I'd made bread maybe once a week or so, to accompany dinner  -- this was mainly for my toddlers who were certainly just as strangely and inconsistently picky as every other toddler I've ever met (but they'd always eat bread/butter and vegetables or fruit).

So how did I work my way up to the mouthwatering French-style loaves I positioned proudly at the top of this post? Well, this past autumn, a friend gave me a bread machine, and it is so easy to use that my spouse and I started making all of our sandwich bread from scratch. He has a wonderful light wheat with chia seed recipe, and I have been experimenting with sourdough.

Along the way, I've been seeking out instructional videos and advice from other sources about breadmaking and kneading, and I found out something really, really useful for anyone who is making anything that requires both flour and kneading: most of us use way too much flour when we first start baking.


flour for kneading
When your recipe calls for 8 cups of flour, that generally means all of the flour, including what is kneaded into the bread. So mix 7 cups into the bread, and hold out the last cup for kneading. Then flour your board very lightly with flour, not a whole huge mound of it.

I don't have a marble countertop, so I usually knead on a silpat. It works well!


Flour after kneading
Here's how much flour was left after kneading my French loaves. Bread with too much flour will be much heavier and denser -- it really makes an amazing difference!

Now, I have baked plenty of tasty loaves before learning this tidbit. In general, I find baking bread to be surprisingly forgiving for an experiential learner (like myself). But what a revelation! Next time you plan to knead, save our some of the recipe flour; you'll be glad you did.

Monday, March 2, 2015