You don’t have to be a scientist to bake bread but it does help to appreciate that it is the magic of basic chemistry which turns flour, yeast and other ingredients into bread.
The balance of ingredients work together in such a way that inaccurate measurements, or using the wrong ingredients, can make a real difference to the quality of the bread.
So, how do the main ingredients work..
YEAST is a living organism which produces carbon dioxide when it ferments. This gas naturally expands the dough helping to give the loaf a good volume. It also matures and develops the dough, providing flavour through the production of complex compounds.
SALT is needed for flavour but it also inhibits the natural expanding action of the yeast - a balance to keep in mind if you want to experiment with sugary fruit recipes, or salty savoury breads.
SUGAR is the essential food for yeast but too much of it will kill the yeast off. Flour has a natural fermentable sugar content of about 1½%, therefore use sugar sparingly if you are adding fruity ingredients otherwise the taste may be too sweet, and the action of the yeast is impaired.
BUTTER/OIL - fat is used to improve the crumb texture and softness of the loaf. It can also enrich the dough. Some people use butter, others like to try flavoured oils.
MEASURING - bread machines do require one thing: precision. Careful measurement can make the difference between a lovely loaf or something really disappointing.
For dry ingredients use an accurate measuring cup/spoon and make certain the top is level. For key ingredients like sugar, salt and yeast use small exact quantities.
WATER TEMPERATURE is important - use tepid water in your machine. Cold water will not activate the yeast, and hot water will speed its action too much, very hot water will kill it.
Always add ingredients in the right order- breadmaker machines are all slightly different - some take liquids first and yeast last - for others it’s yeast first and liquid last. All other ingredients come in the middle. Because moisture activates the yeast, it is important that the yeast is not in contact with any liquid ingredients, especially when using a delayed time bake setting. Always follow the instructions that come with your machine.
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE between Wholemeal, Wholegrain and Brown Flour? The difference between wholemeal and brown flour (which used to be known as wheatmeal) is that wholemeal is 100% of the grain ground up and will contain approximately 75% flour, 23% bran and 2% wheat germ.
Wholegrain flour combines seeds, grains or flakes with white flour.
Brown flour is white flour to which a percentage of bran has been added (usually 10-15% bran), this bran may be either fine or coarse, so it may be called ‘fine brown flour’.
Milled in the UK by Carr's Flour Mills Limited,
Solway Mills, Silloth, Cumbria CA7 4AJ