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(File photo/The Elkhart Truth)
Get creative with yeast breads

Posted on Jan. 19, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Food & Nutrition

Winter weather is a really great time to make yeast bread. I am not sure why but I really like to make bread. Maybe it is because I learned it from a grandmother. I like the process of kneading and shaping the dough, it is a skill I have developed.

There are so many options and opportunities in bread making: friends enjoy receiving bread, the aroma from the baking is wonderful and, yes most of all, the eating.

The last two weeks I have written on bread making hoping to encourage you to give it a try. There is a wonderful easy recipe on our office website; visit and scroll down through our hot topics.

Last week I wrote on yeast and this week the topic is all of the other ingredients for bread. So let’s begin with flour.

Flour forms the main structure of most breads. The type, quality and proportions are important, so try to use recipe directions as guidelines. Wheat flours include all-purpose flour (unbleached or bleached), bread flour and whole-wheat flour. Most bread recipes work fine with all purpose.

All yeast breads require some flour made from wheat. This is because wheat is rich in gluten, a protein that gives dough its elasticity and strength. When yeast and flour are mixed with liquid and kneaded or beaten, the gluten forms and stretches to create a network that traps carbon dioxide bubbles produced by the yeast.

I like having half the flour be whole wheat, I like flavor and the texture. I also like working bread flour, I have learned that sometimes I need a little less of it and it takes up more of the liquid.

Water is the most important liquid component of dough. Water dissolves and activates the yeast and blends with the flour to make the dough sticky and elastic. Milk, buttermilk, cream, yogurt, fruit or vegetable juices may be added for distinctive flavors and textures. Even when a recipe lists milk, juice or another liquid, you’ll find that most also call for at least ¼ cup water. From my experience I recommend that your recipe always has some water, so substitute ¼ cup of water for each package of yeast. For instance, for 1 cup milk, use ¼ cup water and ¾ cup milk.

Liquids need to be warm. The temperature range can be 105 degrees to 115 degrees F when yeast is dissolved in water. When undissolved yeast is added directly to flour the liquid temperature can be 120 to 130 degrees F. A thermometer is best at determining the temperature. After a while you will know the temperature by touch.

So now we are to the sweeteners, salt, fat, eggs and other ingredients. The sugar gives a bread’s crust a rich brown color and adds flavor, but it is not an essential ingredient. There is not a lot of sugar in bread; brown sugar, honey, molasses, jams, and dried and fresh fruits provide flavor and sweetness.

With salt, just a little controls the action of the yeast. It slows the rising time and allows the flavor of the dough to develop. Never omit the salt from a recipe like you can in other baking and cooking. Instead, use recipes specially developed for salt-free baking. Fats add flavor and make bread more tender and moist. Also, bread lasts longer because fat slows moisture loss. Eggs add color, richness, leavening and nutrition to bread. They also make the crumb fine and the crust tender.

For the best baked products, select high-quality ingredients. I encourage you to be creative when you are making bread, add flavors to bread like garlic and herbs for Italian breads, pizza crust and pretzels. Also add flavors to doughs when making sweet breads: For example, when making sweet rolls with raspberry filling add raspberry flavoring to the dough, or pineapple with pineapple.

So have fun in the kitchen, be creative make some yeast bread, enjoy it, and share with family and friends.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email