There are some best practices for home made bread.
It is all too tempting to pull a loaf of bread out of the oven, the smell permeating through your house, and want to immediately slice into it, lap some butter on it and call it a day in paradise. While it is not written in stone, there are some best practices for homemade bread. Let's take a look at some of the rules of bread handling engagement.
Bread is easy to make in the sense that virtually always comes out right, but it is time consuming. Your perfect loaf of homemade bread will be ready to enjoy only after spending tons of time combining ingredients, waiting for dough to rise and then the ever-so-long time in the oven. Nevertheless, many cooks are turning their hands to the timeless comfort of homemade bread.
Hand versus machine
Ever since bread makers were invented, there has been a serious rivalry between man and machine. With either viable option, store bought is completely out of the question, but which method of homemade bread brings the most to the table? Let's knead out the difference and see which style rises higher.
Ease of use
Bread machines, especially those that mix the dough in the machine and allow it to rise are as simple as combine and forget. Add a timer so it goes on and off when you want it to and it almost feels like you are cheating when it comes to making the perfect loaf, after all, your mother slaved for hours over her bread.
With handmade bread, there is plenty of time mixing, combining, stirring and let's not forget the kneading. Who can forget what seems like hours upon hours of kneading? The fact that your success as a bread maker depends upon your kneading skills is somewhat disturbing. If you under-knead, you will get a giant mess of goop that will not combine all the way or rise like it should. If you over-do the kneading, your bread will be a rock solid hunk of loaf.
The ingredients in homemade bread are pretty straightforward; you should have most, if not all in your pantry. Just combine, mix and knead until your arms fall off and presto - bread. Bread makers are a bit more difficult to prepare to bake on a whim. You will need to have items like dry milk, which are not typically pantry-stocked items for most homes.
In this regard, making bread by hand is the way to go because it doesn't always have to be well planned when you want to make bread. With bread machines, you will need to continuously keep needed ingredients on hand or live close to a store. If not, there will need to be some foresight into your bread making plans.
Taste and texture
As said before, nothing beats the taste of homemade bread and while nothing can ever compare to your grandmother's favorite bread recipe, the bread maker does come in an extremely close second, if not nudging granny out of the top position. The bread machine doesn't require anything but pouring the ingredients into a single container and the taste will always be consistent as long as you use the same recipe.
As far as the texture goes, we mentioned above the dangers of over kneading and under kneading. Bread makers have their own built in mixer that perfectly combines the ingredients until they have reached the point needed. This being done, you will have a consistent texture on all of your bread, all of the time.
After considering the three categories above, the bread mixer looks like the obvious winner here. The only thing to remember is to make sure you have all of the right ingredients on hand in case you want to make some bread on a whim. While it might feel like cheating, bread makers are a great way to make consistently yummy bread without too much effort.
How to cut homemade bread
Unfortunately, cutting bread fresh from the oven is probably the worst thing to do. There are some serious dos and don'ts for cutting bread, including when to cut, what type of knife to use and even how to properly slice the bread.
When to cut
Cutting fresh homemade bread is always exciting, until you figure out it is either too hot to hold, or not firm enough to catch any of the teeth of the knife. Either way, trying to cut bread fresh out of the oven is a lose-lose situation and never comes out as planned.
Letting the bread cool for at least fifteen minutes will make a huge difference in how the bread can be handled and how well it stands up to the knife. You must also take into consideration how many crumbs you want when you slice your bread. The warmer the bread, the harder the crust is, therefore more crumbs. When the bread cools down, the crust becomes softer and produces fewer crumbs.
What knife to use
Some people like to hand carve their bread while others are partial to the electric knife method. People have their own favorite bread knife, but no matter which ones you compare, you will find a few major similarities between them.
Every bread knife has to meet two main criteria. The knife has to be thin and sharp. Anything other than that is just added benefit. Some knives advertise their special abilities to cut bread effortlessly and without crushing the bread, but if you keep the knife thin and sharp, you will avoid all of those problems anyway.
A thin knife will help reduce friction between the slices and keeping it sharp will allow the knife to slice through without putting too much pressure on the loaf. Both of these attributes will help to keep your homemade loaf looking more like the machine-cut loaves in the store.
How to slice
Even some of the best chefs in the world cannot cut bread consistently into same-sized pieces. There are a few tools to help out when slicing your bread and many of them make the process faster as well. One of the tools is a multi-blade device, called a bread-slicing saw, with at least four blades spaced a half inch apart. This allows the bread to be cut into equal slices, four pieces at a time.
Another tool is a bread-slicing guide. This is a box-like device with numerous slits. The slits are sometimes movable, thus allowing the thickness of slices to be adjusted to your desire. The bread guides allow for uniformity, just like the bread saw does, but can help keep the bread in a standard shape while holding it steady.
While people will still continue to use thick, dull knives to tear into their fresh-baked breads, there are some who will follow these simple guidelines and tips to keep their bread from becoming the torn, smashed, excuse of a loaf that is prevalent in our households today. Keep your knife thin, sharp and use a handy guide to help keep your world-class bread in perfect shape.