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How To Make Bread

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Everyone loves fresh bread, and it's actually not that difficult to make at home, says chef Juergen Temme of The Culinary Institute of America. It's a simple combination of water, salt, flour, and yeast. The trick is knowing how to knead it and when to let it rise.

Chef Temme starts with a large bowl with 2 cups of water. In another bowl, he mixes together 4 1/2 cups of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of instant active dry yeast (this type of yeast is meant to be mixed in with dry ingredients, unlike others that need to be proofed in warm water). He adds the flour mixture to the water and stirs. Almost instantly, a protein called gluten develops, and the dough becomes sticky and stretchy. He pours out the dough and begins kneading it, using gravity to work the gluten by dropping the ball of dough repeatedly on the work surface. (Don't add more flour at this point. Although the dough will start out sticky, kneading will smooth it out. Additional flour will make for tough bread.)

After the dough becomes somewhat smooth, he places it in an oiled plastic container and allows it to proof for 1 hour.

Next, on a floured surface, he divides the dough into two pieces. He starts with one piece, working the ball from all ends and tucking them under the ball of dough. He repeats the procedure with the second ball, then lets them rest for 5 minutes. Next, he forms the balls into oblong shapes, then places them in bread pans and wraps the bread pans in a plastic bag to let the loaves proof. How do you know when the bread has proofed enough? It should be puffed, and spring back slightly to the touch. He brushes it with water and scores the top to allow it to expand further during baking, then places it in a 450F oven for 35 minutes. And though it may be difficult, let it cool before slicing.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Jürgen Temme from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to bake bread.

For our basic bread, we have our water, we have our flour, and we use salt as well as yeast. We're starting with the water, which is about two cups. Now we take two teaspoons of salt, adding it to four and a half cups of bread flour, as well as one and a half teaspoons of instant active dry yeast, which is designed to be blended with the dry ingredients. We give it a quick stir before we add all these to the water. Now we're going to stir our ingredients, and what will happen is that as soon as water and flour come together, a protein will develop, which we call gluten. This is vital; we can see already our dough starts to hold together. So this is enough right now. We'll just bring it onto the table and what we'll do is instead of working or massaging the dough on the table, or in a container, we'll just go ahead and let gravity work for us.

What we are doing right now (slapping the dough down on the table, folding it as we pick it up, and repeating) is kneading the dough, and this takes approximately five to eight minutes, until the outside becomes a little bit smoother. You do not want to add additional flour to it, even though it might appear a little bit sticky to your hands; adding more flour to the dough will end up in a tougher and denser product.

Our kneading process is coming to an end. We've already pre-oiled a container, and we just want to store the dough in here. We'll let it rest and proof for one hour before we go to the next step.

Now we want to go ahead and take the dough out, place it onto a floured surface - we can place it right in front of us - and we go ahead and divide the dough into two pieces. What we'll do next is take our dough from all sides and fold it inward; by doing so, we end up with a round shape. Now the rough side is on the table surface, and with both hands and very little flour I pull the dough towards me. I turn it slightly as I pull it, and I end up with a nice round shape. We'll let it rest for five minutes. The time allows the dough to relax, and allows us to give easier form to the bread.

Now we can take a piece of dough, flour the surface slightly, pat the dough out, and fold it towards us. We're giving it an oblong shape, which we call a batard - which is a bread that is not really long but also not round. We just want to give it the final shape, and we should end up with the seam on the bottom as we see here. Right now we still have bubbles throughout; just leave these, these are a good sign of a quality bread.

We want to take our loaf pan, and with the seam down we place it into the pan. Now we will place this into a plastic bag, which will function as something of a proof box where we do not need a lot of temperature. Proofing is understood as developing flavor, and the gain of volume of the bread. How long do we want to let this proof? We will go somewhat by touch. We have actually a pan already prepared, where the dough came to its full potential. Right now we can press slightly onto the dough and we can see already more of the bubbles appear. What we will do next is moisten the surface of the dough; this will allow the dough to expand for a longer period of time in the oven. After that has been accomplished, we go ahead and score our dough. Not only does the scoring look good, but it also gives the dough a chance to open up more. We place it in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Now our bread has finished baking and we take it out of the pan right away. Our bread is still warm; we want to let it cool before we slice it. Now we have a lovely loaf of bread, very simple and easy to make.