Author Topic: Yeast breads (wheat)  (Read 265 times)

Offline Delmonico

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Yeast breads (wheat)
« on: October 08, 2019, 06:47:19 am »
I will do rye breads as a separate post, they are a whole different animal.

Wheat breads

If you really want to impress people and make them happy, make some homemade yeast bread.   I have seen people fill up on nothing but fresh bread, even turning down the offer of butter for it, often saying they haven?t had any fresh out of the oven bread since who knows when.  Yet it is one of the simplest and cheapest homemade foods to make.    It does take time, most often about 3 hours, (there are shortcuts I?ll get into later)  but the time actually working on it is very short, so it is easy to make while doing other things like watching TV or writing a book.   

With our modern freeze dried yeast, bread is pretty easy for most cooks, modern packaged yeasts date to the 1870?s although in a different form that we use today.  Before that the yeasts used were less reliable than what we have today, those are a whole other subject, for this we will assume we are using modern dry yeast or perhaps the older hard to get cake yeast. 

The simplest bread is going to be a simple mixture of water, yeast and flour allowed to rise and then baked.   This is important to remember, everything else added is for flavor or texture.   So before we decide what recipe we want to use, let?s see what everything does to change the bread we make.   

The fats we put in the bread are called shortening because it actually shortens the gluten strands in the dough, this makes the bread softer, but not much is really needed, in most breads a tablespoon or less per loaf is plenty.  In making our true period breads, the most common shortening is going to be lard.  A good example of a bread that doesn?t use shortening is what we commonly call French or Italian bread, these are a bit tougher and more chewy than bread with shortening in it. 

Sugars in any form are most often added for flavor but a small amount of sugar will add extra food for the yeast, but larger amounts will slow down the action.  Also sugar in the dough will add some to the browning of the crust by caramelization. 

Milk is sometimes used as a liquid in bread, most times it is for flavor but the fats in it also add a mobit of a shortening effect like other fats.  Also milk contributes to the browning of the crust by what is known as the Maillard Effect, a process similar to the caramelization of sugars.  Milk also contains a protein called glutathione that weakens the gluten bond, but by heating the milk to above 180 (called scalding) it stops this process from happening.  Also keep in mind that milk is only about 85% water so when using it instead of water the amount of milk used versus water will have to be increased or the amount of flour decreased.

Eggs add color as well as flavor to breads, but eggs egg white also toughens bread, these are useful when making high sugar breads or those with high fats.  What is interesting is that the yolks contain enough fat to soften the dough, but the whole egg contains enough protein to overcome this.  Of course the whites separated from the yolks have a more toughening effect.

Other grains can be used to bake bread besides wheat, but none of them will have the amount of gluten that is contained in wheat, these will make heavier, less fluffy breads, and in fact different varieties of wheat have different gluten contents.   When other grains such as rye are used in bread, often half or more of the flour is still white flour; this gives them some of the flavor of the other grains but still allows them to rise decently.   In fact there are different types of wheat and gluten content among these varies, that is covered in my doc on flours and meals. For most of us, common all-purpose flour will do fine.

There are a couple other things that have interesting effects on the bread and the crust.  For a soft tender crust, when the loaves are made and rising, just brush them with melted butter or lard, then cover with a damp towel.  Leave the melted fat and the damp town off and it will make a heavier, crisper crust.   If you beat an egg, with a bit of water and brush that on before baking you will get a nice glossy crust.

The other is the temperature you bake the bread at, if you bake it at a lower temperature; such as around 350F, it will take longer to bake and will have a softer crust, if you bake it at a higher temperature as around 450F, the bread will bake faster and have a harder crust.

Even the amount of yeast you use is not critical, one of the packages that you buy in packs of three at the store has 2 ? teaspoons of yeast, this is the amount you use of bulk yeast to equal 1 package, this also is the same yeast power as 1 cake of the older cake yeast.   This amount will raise up to around 8 cups of flour made into dough, although it will take longer than if you use the normal 2 packages of yeast this amount of flour calls for in most recipes, some recipes will even call for 3 packages for this amount of flour, especially if there is a large amount of sugar in the recipe. 

The biggest difference one will see by adding more yeast is that the time to raise will be slower with the one package, the recipe with 2 packages will raise faster, than but not as fast as the one with 3 packages.   One must also know a large amount of sugar in a recipe will slow down the yeast so often, but not all the recipes that call for larger amounts of yeast have more sugar in them. 

Temperature has an effect also; modern bread yeasts work best in the range of 75-80 degrees, in most recipes , most call to start with water around 105-110F and dissolve the yeast in it, adding the flour and other ingredients at room temperature  and natural cooling drops the dough temperature to that pretty quickly.  This of course assumes a modern climate controlled kitchen, in an outdoor one you are pretty much at the mercy of the weather.   

In really warm weather I start with water more in the 75F range because it will warm up.  Cool weather can be interesting, a warm tent or building is handy to raise the dough in, if that is not available a large dutch oven and just a few coals on the bottom and lid can be used to maintain the temperature by being very careful and keeping an eye on it because if you get it to hot you will kill the yeast.  Sometimes in such weather it is better to make some form of quick bread with a chemical leavening. 

What I make sure I do with yeast bread in camp is to give myself plenty of time to get it ready if possible, if things happen to quickly and one is not ready to bake it yet it is just a simple task to punch the dough back down and let it rise again till one is ready to form it.   

Now this information may seem a bit overwhelming to some,  but by understanding it, we have the ability to tailor our bread to what we want without having to carry around a lot of recipes, because we now know how to make bread do what we want as for texture and crust as well as flavor.   Also it goes to show we don?t have to be real critical with the amounts as long as in the end we get the dough texture required.  (This is often called soft dough with a ratio of around 3-3 ? parts flour to liquid.)  The actual amount of flour required will vary with the moisture content of the flour and the humidity in the atmosphere, one learns this with experience making bread, but it is at the level you can work the bread dough without it sticking to your hands.

Getting back to making bread specifically in a dutch oven, I?ve found out that it is easier most times to make the bread up as dinner rolls or if you want, they can be called yeast biscuits.   The shallow dutch ovens work best for this, it is also easy to decide how much bread to make up, a 10 inch shallow will be right for most recipes for 1 loaf, a 12 inch will work for about a loaf and a half and a 14 inch is right for 2 loaves.  Also a 12 inch deep is good to make one very large loaf, although of course this will have to be sliced, the rolls can be just pulled out as needed. 

This basic bread recipe here is what I use in camp; it?s always in my head,  by going with the basic 2 ? cups of water/milk  and a bit of knowledge on how things work you can make just about any kind of yeast bread with this.  What is also simple is most every reenactor has one of those 24 ounce tin plate or enamelware cups, to measure the water with.  Just put in enough water to be right at 1 inch from the top, this is close enough and if you can?t tell what an inch is, most peoples end thumb joint is close enough.

The yeast is easy also, most camps will have a simple teaspoon to eat soup with, just fill it heaping without leveling and that will be close enough to the ?right amount? for 2 teaspoons.  The rest you just guess on, or use the same methods, by doing this rather than ?exact? measurements, it will make you cooking look more period to the time and the results will be close enough to never know you didn?t measure exact and a bonus is there will be far less dishes to do.

In camp I use enamelware dish pans to make my bread in, not only do I mix the bread in them, they are large enough to also allow me to knead the bread in the same pan, giving me a nice clean sold kneading board that I can set on a table or even do it on the ground as in the picture.   

The basic recipe that follows will make bread for 2 loaf pans, one large loaf in a 12 inch deep oven, rolls in a 14 inch shallow or rolls in a 15 inch skillet in the home kitchen.   Just divide it by ? for a 10 inch oven or one loaf pan or use 3/4th for 1 loaf pan, a 12 inch oven or skillet.  Even if one adds other items to make the other bread recipes or one of your own, the volume will not be affected enough that one needs to change the size of what it is baked in.   



This basic recipe can be modified to make any type white bread, whole wheat, ryes, multi-grain or even sweet rolls such as cinnamon rolls, as long as the basic liquid, flour ratio is kept, the amount of yeast will depend on how fat one wants things to happen and the temperature you are working in (see yeast).

Basic Yeast Bread
2 ? cups warm water/ scalded milk (use milk for sweet roll dough)
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
 0-3 tablespoons sugar, honey or molasses (or up to ? cup for sweet roll dough)
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
0-3 tablespoons lard
7-9 cups flour (the flour can be white flour or whole wheat/rye or a mix of types)
1-2 beaten eggs (optional use for sweet roll dough)

Mix the yeast into the liquid along with the sugar and salt as well as ? cup of flour.  Cover and allow to get bubbly.  Mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough and knead well, developing the gluten until the dough is smooth.  The amount of flour needed will vary with the humidity. 

When the well kneaded dough has doubled in size is needs punched down and formed into loaves or rolls.  Following this recipe will make 2 loaf pans, 1 large loaf in a 12 inch deep dutch oven or dinner rolls in a 14 inch shallow dutch oven or 15 inch skillet. 

Let rise till doubled and bake 25 -45 minutes in a moderate to hot oven (350-425F).  The bread will pull away from the edge of the pan and have a hollow sound when thumped.   A meat thermometer inserted in the center will read 195F.

To make it easy for people in the beginning I have added these recipes based on the basic recipe and they fit in the 14 inch shallow or 12 inch deep as explained above.

White Breads

This is the basic bread most baked at home, recipes vary a little bit but the bread will be similar.

Basic white bread

2 ? cups warm water
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
2 tablespoons sugar or honey (brown sugar is fine)
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
2 tablespoons lard
7-9 cups all purpose flour

French
This produces crustier bread with a tougher crumb.
2 ? cups warm water
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
7-9 cups all purpose flour

Milk type
This has tougher crust with a softer crumb.

2 ? cups warm scalded milk or a 12 ounce can of unsweetened canned milk and one cup water.
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
2 tablespoons sugar/ honey (brown sugar is fine)
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
2 tablespoons lard
7-9 cups all purpose flour

Whole wheat bread

2 ? cups warm water
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
2 tablespoons sugar/ honey (brown sugar is fine)
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
2 tablespoons lard
7-9 cups whole wheat flour or up to half all purpose flour
Using all whole wheat flour will make heavy dense bread, how heavy and dense depends on the gluten content of the flour and whether it?s stone ground or roller ground.  Experiment and find what you like, I make it both ways. 

Potato Bread
Substitute half riced potatoes,mashed potatoes, instant potatoes or potato flour for regular in the basic white bread recipe.

Sweet bread
This basic recipe will make dessert breads such as cinnamon raisin or cinnamon rolls, but of course is not limited to those two.

2 ? cups warm scalded milk or one 12 ounce can evaporated unsweetened milk and 1 cup of warm water.  (Sweetened condensed milk can also be used by leaving out the sugar.)
2-6 teaspoons yeast or 1-3 packages yeast (1 package of yeast is 2 ? teaspoon)
? cup of sugar
1 teaspoons salt (optional)
2 tablespoons of lard or 3 of butter
2 beaten eggs
7-9 cups all purpose flour

After raising the dough can be formed into what ever is desired and allowed to double and then bake. 

Cinnamon rolls

When the finished dough has raised divide in half and roll out to a sheet ?-38 inch thick.  Cover the sheet with melted butter, 2-4 tablespoons for the whole recipe, using the larger amount will make a sticker roll, sprinkle the desired amount of cinnamon on top, 2-6 teaspoons for the whole batch, then cover with white or brown sugar, about a cup per recipe.
 Cut into desired lengths and place touching each other in the skillet or dutch oven.   Allow to double and bake 25-35 minutes in a moderate oven.  (Around 375F)

These can be iced if desired, for icing take 2 cups of confectioner?s sugar and stir in enough milk to make the mix spreadable cocoa powder or vanilla extract can be added before the milk if desired, water can also be used if needed.  Spread over the warm rolls. 

Lemon rolls

This is a basic variation of the cinnamon rolls I have made for years, it?s not one I?ve seen in any old cookbooks but the ingredients were available and they go over well. 

Roll out the dough as for cinnamon rolls and cover with melted butter, instead of cinnamon sprinkle the butter with grated lemon peel and cover with white sugar.  The white sugar blends better with the lemon, finish as for the cinnamon rolls.  For icing use the same 2 cups of confectioner?s sugar, but add 1 teaspoon of lemon extract and thin with either water or lemon juice if available.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread (Raisins optional) 

Take the basic sweet bread recipe adding 1-2 cup raisins if desired when mixing and divide as before.  Roll it out a little thicker than the cinnamon rolls; ? to ? inch is about right.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, roll and seal the edge, and tuck in the ends and seal.   Place this in loaf pans or in a 12 inch deep dutch oven.  Bake in a moderate oven 30-40 minutes.  The dutch ovens will work best in camp, the bread pans are better with a stove and oven. 

This basic bread can be made using other dried fruits and/or nuts if desired. The cinnamon swirl can be used or not.  If not doing the swirl rolling the dough out is not needed but can be formed like any other bread loaf or even made into rolls.



Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.

Offline Delmonico

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Re: Yeast breads (wheat)
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2019, 06:49:17 am »
Sinner-mon rolls in a dutch oven.
Mongrel Historian


Always get the water for the coffee upstream from the herd.

Ab Ovo Usque ad Mala

The time has passed so quick, the years all run together now.