Dakota winters are cold — cold — cold!
Those penetrating cold temperatures probably foiled many of my early bread-baking efforts because bread dough rises quickly if it's at an optimum temperature — somewhere around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At room temperature, the rise can take as much as four hours.
If you're in no hurry to bake the dough once it's ready for the second rise, you might consider placing it in the refrigerator overnight. Your pan must be covered to help keep the dough moist, but not restrict the rise, which should be perfected after about 8 hours.
Keeping your bread ingredients at a consistent temperature range between 90 and 100 degrees — from start to baking point — will coax yeast to accelerate within 30 to 45 minutes, producing that beautiful, domed-shaped loaf!
For my most successful bread-baking efforts, I started with the ideal temperature range when I start mixing ingredients. Some bread recipes advise using lukewarm liquids to aid a speedy rise. I've found the term "lukewarm" to be too vague. I've also found that putting lukewarm liquid into a very cold glass measuring cup quickly reduces the liquid's temperature, slowing yeast action.
My process to keep my fragile dough between 90 and 100 degrees farenheit from start to finish includes using hot tap water to warm the bread machine pan and measuring cup that holds my yeast mixture. I give the hot water about 5 minutes to warm the measuring cup, then pour it out.
I use very hot tap water for the water my recipe calls for because its temperature will cool when I add refrigerated milk or maple syrup.
Once I've added all the liquid ingredients to the measuring cup, I use a digital thermometer to verify the temperature. If it's between 90 and 100 degrees, I add the yeast, stirring it to help it dissolve. The mixture then sits for 7-10 minutes until a foamy layer at the top indicates that my yeast is hard at work.
Now it's time to pour the water out of the bread machine pan and add the yeast mixture. I gently pour in the fat the recipe requires (oil, butter, etc.) and then spoon the flour on top of it all. Once I plug the machine in, the bread is in good "hands" for about 40 minutes, until it's time for the second kneading.
And thorough kneading is the reason I love my bread machine and see such satisfactory results coming from my oven. My bread machine kneads the dough for 15 minutes, all the while keeping it at the desired temperature range of 90 to 100 degrees. That stimulates the gluten that works with yeast to create tender, fluffy bread that looks almost too good to eat!
After the final kneading, the dough goes into my pan, which (you guessed it!) has been warmed up with hot tap water. I toss the water, dry the pan and use non-stick aerosol to spray it. I gently stretch the dough to fill the pan lengthways, then cover it with a towel and slip it into my oven, which has been warmed to? 100 degrees!
It will take 30 to 45 minutes for my loaf to rise up over the sides of the bread pan. While I wait for my oven to warm to 350 degrees farenheit, I keep the towel on the bread and sit it on top of the oven so it's still in a fairly warm environment.
After baking, my family and I indulge in this aromatic, healthy, homemade delight
Loretta Sorensen makes her home in eastern South Dakota. Read more about her and her family's draft horses and hobby farm experiences at www.ourdakotahorsetales.com. And if you're loving this homemade bread tutorial, watch for the release of "Bread Maker's Primer" in October 2018.
Photos property of Loretta Sorensen.