Includes Notes on Other “Essentials”
Ovens drive me nuts! The temperature is all over the board. In my experience, they’re not very precise even when new. But the mechanics of the heat and cool
cycle means that they are too cool at one point and too hot at another. They heat until they’re above target and then cool until they’re below target.
The solution is an oven thermometer. Hang it off the rack with the provided hook and you know what the temperature is every time you open the oven. Pretty soon you get to know your oven and your recipe and you’re a better baker.
You’ll be surprised how long it takes your oven to recover between batches of cookies.
It’s worth a few bucks to know how hot your oven really is when you stick your bread in.
There you have it, what we consider the three essentials in our bread baking.
What about other “essentials”?
I love proofing bags. Sticking my bread dough in a giant, oversized bag beats the dickens out of stretching plastic across the top of a bread bowl. It creates a greenhouse without restricting the dough. I love it but it’s not essential.
I use a high protein bread flour, at least 11% protein. I don’t need to add more protein with wheat gluten. If I’m using mostly whole wheat flour, I add wheat gluten. Whole wheat flour is lower protein to start with and the bran tends to cut the gluten strands making it less effective in trapping gas.
Don’t use it to bake loaves. It relaxes the gluten and makes the dough more pliable and eliminates springback. It’s wonderful for pizza dough and flour tortillas but not loaves.