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Monday, April 11, 2011

Vital Wheat Gluten - a baker's secret weapon

     The secret to a good wheat bread is to add vital wheat gluten to your recipe. It's a bakers secret weapon. Two nationally available brands I've shown on the right. Hodgson Mill is what I found in my local grocery store's baking aisle. NOTE: The Amazon prices shown are very high. I paid less than $5 for the Hodgson Mill box at my grocer.
     Bob's Red Mill describes vital wheat gluten as: "Gluten, Vital Wheat is the natural protein found in wheat. It contains 75% protein. A small amount added to yeast bread recipes improves the texture and elasticity of the dough. This is often used by commercial bakeries to produce light textured breads, and can easily put the home bread baker on a par with the professionals." From the back of the package, the directions read: "Bob's Vital Wheat Gluten is 75% to 80% protein. Add about one tablespoon per cup of flour in your bread recipe to improve texture and elasticity and help your bread to rise."
     I store mine in a labeled sealed plastic container in my refrigerator door since I don't use it often. Sometimes I just add a teaspoon or even half a teaspoon to what I'm baking. Then again, I tend to bake with half wheat flour and half white flour. If you tend to bake with all 100% wheat flour, you'll need more as the package recommends. The difference between all-purpose flour and bread flour is that extra gluten is added to the bread flour. By using this product, you can add that extra gluten to any of your baking items that need a little extra oomph to get that nice light consistency and a higher loaf. It doesn't matter if your using a bread machine or making bread by hand, the vital wheat gluten is what's needed to help a 100% wheat loaf rise.

Quick Sourdough Bread in your bread machine

    Bread machine doesn't have to look or taste like it came from a machine. There are tips and tricks to making it look and taste better. I don't like the shape of the upright square loaf that most bread machines make, and the crust comes out rather harder than my family prefers to eat. Does your bread machine have a dough cycle? That is the cycle I actually use the most on my machine. Let the machine mix and rise the dough for you, then take it out and make a deep dish pizza, shape the dough into hamburger buns, or shape the dough into any shape you like (round, oblong, bread sticks, etc.) and bake in the oven. Do you own a stoneware pizza stone? Sprinkle it with a little cornmeal (to help slip the bread off later), preheat your pizza stone and bake your bread on it in the oven. When baking in the oven, remember to make a few quick slits across the dough. This lets the dough rise as it bakes giving it room to expand easily. If you so desire, brush the top of the dough with milk or a beaten egg white (it will brown and crisp up nicely) and if you like, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds before baking, or brush with butter after it comes out of the oven.
     Authentic sourdough bread requires a sourdough starter. (If you want to make your own sourdough starter, try the recipe from All There is, however a shortcut. And if you own a bread machine, then you're already used to taking shortcuts to homemade fresh bread. To get the tang of sourdough, the recipe below uses plain yogurt.
    The following recipe came from the recipe book that came with my first bread machine: Oster Deluxe Bread & Dough Maker.

Quick Sourdough Bread - Large Loaf (1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup water
1 TBsp lemon juice
1 TBsp margarine or butter, softened
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 TBsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp regular active dry yeast or 2 3/4 tsp bread machine yeast (or quick-acting active dry yeast)

Place all ingredients in bread machine in the order listed by your bread machine. (In mine, that's liquids first, dry ingredients, adding yeast last). NOTE: Do not put this recipe on delay bake due to the yogurt included in the recipe. Can be baked on white bread settings or if your machine has it, french bread settings. If you choose to bake in the oven, bake at 375ºF for roughly 40 minutes.

Quick Sourdough Herb Bread
To the above recipe add:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1/4 tsp basil leaves

Quick Sourdough Bread - Small Loaf (1 pound)

1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp margarine or butter, softened
2 cups bread flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

1 3/4 tsp regular active dry yeast or 1 3/4 tsp bread machine yeast (or quick-acting active dry yeast)

Follow same instructions as above.