Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rapid Rise

Pain au levain - de Poilâne
The holidays have passed and now it is a new year and a new direction for many people. The number one resolution in the United States... weight loss. For most people it's a game of shuffling good carbs against bad carbs, high fiber vs foods that cause the loss of weight just by eating them. So why am I showing you a wonderful picture of a round of pain au levain from the famous Paris shop Poilane? Because you can make and eat bread and still lose weight! I know it's hard to believe. But it is true.
Losing weight is a simple math equation. Calories in < Calories out = Weight loss.
But I am not here to talk about weight loss, I will save that for another time.
So that leaves my main topic, bread. It is a great feeling to be able to make your own bread. Feeling the dough in your hands as you mix, letting it rise, then shaping a loaf, placing it in the oven to bake, then slicing into a crusty round of wholesome wonderment.

But what makes bread, bread? First we need to understand some basics.

Basic bread comprises just four ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt.To understand what makes bread, bread, we first have to understand how these four ingredients are important and how they work together.
Let take flour. Flour is made by finely grinding grain into a powder. This is the structure from which bread gains its stability. Next we have water which helps create the dough that can be worked and shaped. Third is salt. While most people don't realize that there is salt in bread, it is used in most bread recipes to control the rate of fermentation and to give flavor. The presence of salt in a dough inhibits fermentation, which strengthens the developing gluten. This results in a bread with a stable crumb, a long shelf-life and more taste than breads without it.
Last we have yeast. Yeast is the one thing that makes bread literaly come alive! According to RED STAR®, one of the largest yeast producers for both consumer and commercial baking, "yeast are single-celled fungi. As fungi, they are related to the other fungi that people are more familiar with, including: edible mushrooms available at the supermarket, common baker's yeast used to leaven bread, molds that ripen blue cheese, and the molds that produce antibiotics for medical and veterinary use." 

So not to be confused, when baking we use "Bakers Yeast", and that can be described as the type of yeast used in home and commercial bread baking. It is widely available in a number of forms, including Cake Yeast (also known as Wet, Fresh, or Compressed Yeast), Active Dry Yeast and Instant (or fast-rising) Yeast.


Initially all Baker's yeast starts out as "cream yeast", which is a liquid form of yeast. Cake yeast is processed one step further than cream yeast. Cake Yeast is also called "wet yeast" or "fresh yeast". The yeast is characterized by a high moisture content. It is very perishable and needs to be stored under refrigeration at all times. Cake yeast should be used by its expiration date, which is about 8 weeks from packaging.

Next is "Active Dry Yeast".  This yeast is processed one step further than Cake Yeast. Due to the low moisture content, the yeast is in a semi-dormant state and is therefore more stable than cake yeast. Consumer packages of Active Dry Yeast are stamped with a 'Best if used by date', indicated by the month and year. The shelf life of an unopened package is 2 years from the date of packaging. Most baking uses Active Dry Yeast.
Third is "Instant Yeast". Instant Yeast, also known as "fast-rising" or "fast-acting" dry yeast, is also a "dry" yeast, but can shorten the rising time in traditional baking by as much as 50%. Consumer packages of Instant Yeast are stamped with a 'Best if used by date', indicated by the month and year. The shelf life of an unopened package is 2 years from the date of packaging.
 
Yeast gives the bread the lift and shape of bread. It gives the "crumb" (the soft, inner part of bread is known to bakers and other culinary professionals as the crumb, which is not to be confused with small bits of bread that often fall off, called crumbs) density. The more yeast, the more activity and carbon dioxide gases which creates more air pockets which makes bigger holes in the crumb.... well you get the idea! 
 
So there you have it, bread! But how to lose weight eating it? Well if you make your own bread, ( and i do have a recipe for my favorite simple bread ) you control the ingredients. You control the taste, the texture and the shape and flavor. You also control how much you eat. Bread can be a filling staple that helps control your hunger by providing bulk and a sense of satisfaction so you won't be hungry so soon.
 
Here is my Recipe for a great No Knead bread!
Enjoy!
 
No Knead Bread
Makes one 1 1/2-pound loaf
 
Ingredients


3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Olive oil, as needed
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed (optional)

Directions
1.In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Coat a second large bowl with olive oil. Transfer dough to oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, but preferably up to 18, in a room about 70 degrees in temperature. When surface is dotted with bubbles, dough is ready.

2.Lightly flour work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3.Sprinkle just enough flour over work surface and your fingers to keep dough from sticking; quickly and gently shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran; place dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with a second cotton towel and let rise until it has more than doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

4.After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot, such as cast-iron or Pyrex, in oven as it heats. When dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking until browned, 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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