Yes, I've been experimenting a little with bread. I chose white unbleached flour as this was for a church party and the woman would shy away from a hearty whole grain loaf.
I'm not complaining because it gave me an opportunity to experiment with grain texture. White flour being the least fussy to work with.
First of all, I made my artisan bread that had only 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 1 5/8 cup of water. You stir this all together and let it sit over night or until it doubles. You stir again and let rise and I (not according to the instructions) stir again and let rise once more, stir again and place in a well floured cotton kitchen towel and let rise.
I particularly like the low amount of yeast and sugar used in this bread. No oils either so it's low calorie, easy on the stomach.
A great deal of stirring and rising but in this method the yeast feeds off a different section of the dough which develops flavor. Time instead of sugar are what is needed for the yeast to multiply and raise the bread. To hurry this process along, American breads add far more sugar for the yeast to feed upon instead of the flour itself. This of course means that the flavor of the flour is not fully developed.
If you want your bread to reach its full height you not only allow it enough time to rise in the pan but you also raise the temperature in the oven for a while. As with the artisan bread I just made which is cooked in a preheated dutch oven that I grease when its hot and have heated to 400. Then I put the lid on a bake. This gives you a holey, chewy European type bread with very little effort. Yummy!!Some say bake at 450. Bread is one of those things you have to do until you figure out what works best for your elevation and oven.
Though American style breads often say to bake at 350, I've found a higher temperature is helpful. I raise mine to 400 to allow the bread to spring to its full height and then drop it down to 375 after the dough just starts to turn in color. This prevents the over browning of American style breads but allows them to reach an added height. One sight I watched preheats their oven to 400 and then drops it down when they put the loaves in but I figure the oven temperature naturally drops because you opened the door so I prefer to wait.
With my bread sticks I made for the Italian meal, I tried mixing American style and European. Using my new found, and may I add infant, knowledge about the science of bread I decided to play. I added my yeast, but dropped the amount by a teaspoon which was about a Tablespoon total, and poured over the yeast 2 cups of water letting it set to proof (means raise to make sure the yeast is good). Then I added a fourth cup of sugar to add flavor and increase tenderness. Plus, half to three-quarters of the flour allowing the bread mixer to run for five minutes or so. This develops the gluten in the flour.
The dough will be very sticky and just barely want to follow the dough hook around. Be sure and use high protein bread flours as they have a higher protein and gluten content and will give you a higher raise. I then let the mixture rise until doubled.
This is when I added the salt because salt enhances flavor, tightens the gluten structure, and controls the yeast growth. I of course use REAL salt which is natural and minus the eleven chemicals used in store salt.
Be sure and add salt for you don't want your bread to taste like beer from an out of control yeast growth, well maybe some of you do. Also keep in mind that too much yeast will retard gluten development. It is this yeastier taste in American breads that I dislike most.The raw dough gives me a belly ache unlike European breads.
I put in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of REAL salt which is minus all the chemicals and has a stronger flavor. Don't add too much salt though as it retards yeast growth too.
This is where I added a drizzle of olive oil as fats coat proteins and cause a softer crumb and gives you a longer shelf life of your bread. But, added too soon will also inhibit gluten development. This is why in professional breads high in fats, such as butter, it is added later after the gluten has already developed.
I then added the rest of the flour, which means until the dough chased the hook around and let the mixer run again for five minutes or so to further develop the gluten. The bread raised again and then I rolled it out into bread sticks, placing them on a greased cookie sheet to raise a final time.
This is not your fast American, one hour bread but a more flavorful lighter crumbed version. Note the slightly larger crumb texture from the typical American bread and the slightly larger holes. These bread sticks were touted as phenomenal by the ladies at the church Italian dinner. Next time I might add an egg which lends a golden color to the bread, adds nutrients, and helps aid gluten development.
I can't wait to start playing with whole grains.