The Straight Dough Method
Step 1: Mixing the Dough
Bread dough can be mixed using many methods. You can mix it the by hand, in a bread machine, using a mixer, or using a food processor. Whichever method you choose the result will generally be the same; so, this is really your preference.This article assumes doing everything by hand since that will involve the most work.
The straight dough method consists of only one step: Combine all ingredients and mix. However, there is the possibility that the yeast may not be evenly distributed in the dough. It is therefore safer to mix the yeast separately with a little of the water.
- Soften the yeast in a little of the water. Ideal temperature is 110 F.
- Combine the remaining ingredients, including the rest of the water, in the mixing bowl. Add the dissolved yeast, taking care not to let it come in contact with the salt because it will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise.
Step 2: Kneading the dough by hand
When kneading the dough by hand, add just enough flour to the dough and to your hands to keep the dough from sticking, then:
- Pat dough into a ball.
- Flatten the dough and fold it towards you.
- Using the palms of your hands push the dough away with a rolling motion.
- Rotate dough a quarter turn and repeat the 'fold, push, and turn' steps.
- Keep kneading dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Use a little more flour if dough becomes too sticky, always working the flour into the ball of dough.
- The process is complete when the dough is smooth, satiny and elastic. When you poke it with your finger, the dough should spring back.One of the best methods for learning to know when this process is complete is called 'pulling a window pane.'
Now that the dough has been kneaded, let it rest.
Step 3: First rise of the dough
To create the optimal resting conditions for the dough:
- Cover the top of the mixing bowl loosely with a damp, clean cloth or plastic wrap sprayed with a nonstick cooking spray.
- Set the dough in a warm, draft-free environment.
- With Active Dry Yeast keep dough covered until it doubles in size, anywhere from1-2 hours.
Step 4: Shaping the dough and the final rise
Depending on the type of bread you are making the shaping may vary. For regular bread loaves:
- Lightly flour the work surface; shape the dough into a smooth ball.
- Use a rolling pin to form a rectangle.
- Beginning at the short end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly to make a loaf shape.
- Pinch the seam and ends of the rolled dough with your fingers to seal it closed.
- Place dough, seam side down, in greased baking pan.
- If you are using a recipe that requires a distinctive shape, follow these same basic instructions but shape accordingly.
Step 5: Testing the dough
To determine if your bread dough passes the ‘doubled in size’ stage:
- Press the tips of two fingers lightly and quickly about 1/2 inch into the dough.
- If the impression you made stays, the dough is doubled.
Step 6: Baking
- Follow your recipe’s directions for temperature.
- Use an oven thermometer for accuracy.
- Place your baking pans several inches apart on the center oven rack.
- Oven temperatures may vary, so check your loaves at reasonable intervals to check for doneness.
- If loaves are browning to quickly, remove them from the oven and make an aluminum foil ‘tent’ to shield them, and then return them to the oven.
- Internal temperature should be between 190oF-205oF; baked loaves should be evenly browned.
- After turning bread out of the pan, tap the bottom or side of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.