Date: Wed, 30 Mar 94 09:08:52 PST
I am using a several sources of information:
"Berner Kochbuch", 1961. This is the cookbook every little
girl and boy who took the cooking classes received in
"Kleine Backschule Brot" by Betty Bossi. Betty Bossi is the
Swiss housewife's steady companion with many cookbooks.
This is just one of them.
Instructions on making bread from my best friend Ruth whose
father is a well-know baker in the region where I grew up.
My own humble experiences, including all the times when my bread
turned out wrong.
Since these are Swiss recipes, measurements are metric. Here are
approximate conversion tables. (If I have time, I'll include American
measurements. Myself, I got me a metric scale.)
1 l = 1 quart
1 dl = 1/10 of a quart or a little less than 1/2 cup
2.5 dl = 1 cup
20g is 4/5 of an ounce. 1 ounce is about 27 grams.
1 Swiss pound is 500 grams or 1.1 American pounds.
Celsius to Farenheit as a rule of thumb for cooking:
Celsius * 2 + 30 = Farenheit.
This is accurate enough for baking and does not require
Note, that especially with bread, most measurements are relative.
Play with the amounts until they work for you. When I want to make
quick bread, I measure about 2 pounds of flour, dump in some water,
salt, and the yeast, all by eye, and the result is usually just fine.
"Middle Heat" is about 400F;
"Low Heat" is about 250F; but you have to experiment. The terms
are intentionally fuzzy since different ovens bake differently,
and the good baker is supposed to find out by experience what works
for their kitchen.
Yeast and Baking Powder
20 grams of fresh yeast is equivalent to 7 grams of dry yeast.
That is the average amount of yeast needed per 500g (5.1 pounds)
of flour. Amounts can vary, depending on whether you like your
bread yeasty, and how much time you have to let it raise. But
more on that later. I usually guess at about a teaspoon of dry
yeast per pound of flour. (In Europe you can buy yeast in little
7g packages, pre-measured. It is so common that most recipes ask
for n packages of dry yeast. I haven't seen that here.)
Sometimes, when I am really lazy, or when I want a bread that
tastes differently, I use baking powder instead of yeast.
If your bread comes out tasting too yeasty, use less yeast and
let raise longer. But more on yeast later.
Be generous. Most non-professionally made breads are bland, because
there is not enough salt in them. I have seen Ruth's father add
salt, and it is by the handfull, and the bread never turns out too
salty. Unless you are on a salt-restricted diet for medical reasons,
this is not the place to skimp on salt!
Salvaging and Trouble Shooting
Ruth just told me a few weeks ago that the most common cause for
bread to turn out too heavy is that the dough is TOO DRY! Make
sure the dough is is still somewhat sticky when you make the loafs.
If your bread turns out totally heavy, toast it dark to eat it.
Or use it in soup. Or put lots of jam on and eat it with your eyes
closed. Or bake it again. It won't raise, but it will dry out.
Or feed to your pets, they'll love it. Use it for stuffing.
Kneading, the Secret Ingredient
Kneading has two purposes: to thoroughly mix all the ingredients,
and to push air into the bread. When you are kneading, harass,
torture, and work that dough. Fold it over to trap air. For one
kilogram of flour (2.2 pounds), you should vigorously knead your
bread for 20 (twenty!) minutes. If you don't break out into a
sweat, you are not working hard enough. My friend Ruth says, it
is all in the kneading; that you should torture the poor bread
dough until you feel sorry for it and yourself.
Get your hands in there, and don't be afraid to get all full
of dough. It's therapeutical. :-)
I knead bread first in the large bowl, then take it out onto a
dry, clean surface. Sprinkle the surface and your hands with
flour whenever things get too sticky, but not too much, lest the
dough become too dry.
To find out how much air you have in your dough, cut it with a
knife and examine the the split. The more and the larger the
air bubbles you see, the better.
When is My Bread Baked ?
I know of three ways of checking, whether your bread is ready:
1) Baking time based on experience.
2) Stick an needle in. If any dough sticks to the needle when
you pull it out, the bread is still wet inside. That is a
knittin needle. I believe some people use a straw here.
3) Knock on the bottom of the bread. If it sounds really
hollow, then the bread is done. This is the best method,
but it takes some practice to find out what "hollow"
... and Finally
Making bread depends on a lot of factors. Experiment with the
information you get until you find out what works for you.
Making bread is not a science. Bakers apprentice for 4 years
to get their certificate!
These instructions are not infallible. Use at your own risk.
And expect to eat a lot of almost good bread before finding
the perfect combination.
Basic Recipe from Berner Kochbuch
To give you something to play with until the next installent,
try this. This is the most basic bread recipe. Most of the time
I use this and change it as I please.
1 kg white flour (2.2 pounds)
25 g fresh yeast (1 ounce, or 1/3 ounce dry yeast)
20 g salt (2/3 ounce)
6 dl water (2 2/5 cups)
Put flour into large bowl.
Stir yeast with warm water in small bowl. (If the water is cold, the
yeast will not grow. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die.).
Mix with flour and KNEAD!
Let raise until size doubles.
Make two loafs and place on cookie sheet. Let raise again briefly.
Bake at middle heat in preheated oven. Baking time is 40 to 70