Wednesday, September 04, 2013


I like to bake my own bread here in the UAE. There are three recipes I alternate making:

Artisan bread in 5 (thanks, Carolyn!)

The basic bread recipe from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter (difficulty level: "if you can stir, you can make this bread." Love it).

Our Best Bites' Multigrain Bread.

I don't have a stand mixer, so that last recipe especially takes a little more elbow grease than I'd like. But it's delicious, so the end result is worth it.

Here's the thing, though: I don't think yeast works how these recipes think it works, at least not here in the UAE. I follow the directions in the recipes exactly, and my bread always, always fails to rise the way the recipe says it should. I know there are other variables that could influence this, but I am pretty confident that the yeast is the rogue element. The bread I make tastes delicious but its shape is always rectangular instead of square or (can you imagine?) square with that nice, puffy round top. This makes for awkwardly sized sandwiches and toast.

This summer, I bought some yeast in the US to see if it would make a difference. Yesterday, I made bread (the OBB recipe, above) with it for the first time.

The results were promising at first. On the second rise, in the pans, the bread actually puffed up above the rim of the pan, which is a first. I was hopeful that I would at last achieve that beautifully rounded top.

But after a few minutes in the oven, I checked the bread and it had fallen flat. Hmph. Still, it's more progress than I've made before. With the OBB recipe, I once had to let the loaves rise in the pans for three hours before they even approached the top of the pans. Yes, I'm using fresh yeast, and instant/regular according to the directions.

I'll try the other recipes, too, and see how they end up. For now, I've resigned myself to great-tasting but oddly shaped bread.


Crys said...

Hmm, so if I had to guess I'd say the problem in order of most likely possibilities would be yeast first, not kneading long enough/strong enough, and then finally possibly having either too much or too little flour. My personal experience is that bread is a delicious science experiment that can easily go crazy :). For years my whole wheat bread was like rocks :-/. It took me making bread with an amazing bread making friend before I figured out my problem. I have a tendency to add too much flour and didn't have the "strength or patience" to knead long enough. Now that my bosh mixer kneads it for me, I'm a pro :). I'm fairly certain our ancestors must have had incredibly buff forearms after making bread and washing clothes :)

Jen said...

This is so interesting.

If I were you, I'd get Sarah on the phone and have her talk me through it. =)

And kudos to you for making your own bread. Is there a particular reason you do? Is there something about UAE bread that is less-than desirable?

Ariana said...

Do you ever "proof" the yeast? Like put it in a glass with the warm water and a teaspoon or two of sugar, mix, and let sit for 10 minutes? If it's nice and foamy then you know the yeast is not the issue. Here is a (rather humorous to read) pamphlet written in the 70s by the USU Extension Agency. My mom gave me a paper copy forever ago. It might help you out. Keep in mind though that it's for Utah, which involves altitude adjustments. But the rest of the info is helpful.

Ariana said...

What kind of flour do you use?

Ariana said...

Sorry for all the comments. I make a lot of yeast breads and rolls, and I've gotten pretty good at it. (trial and error and reading a lot of cookbooks! lol)

One thing you might try... to get a little more gluten development without the muscle-work: Mix the liquids, yeast, sugar, and half the flour. The dough will look shaggy and weird, but no fear. Just let it sit covered for 30 minutes. After, you will notice some gluten has developed (less shaggy, more long stretchies). THEN add salt, any fats or oils, and the rest of the flour. Then knead and allow to rise till doubled.

I don't use the 'rapid rise' yeast. I just use the regular granular Red Star kind. The process goes slower, but you get a better flavor.

Lucia- insert creative nickname said...

Oh wow, I'm so curious to try out my favorites to see how they fare, and yours of course because those sound yummy!

Liz Johnson said...

Yeah, I'm curious about your flour, too. I'm guessing that's part of the issue. I don't suppose they sell gluten out there, do they? Like wheat gluten? Because that'll help out the protein structure of the bread to be more sturdy (and thus more puffy).

Ariana said...

This is my HANDS DOWN favorite homemade bread recipe. I use Kamut (that I bought through my uncle, who bought a trailer load of 50 lb bags from the distributor in Montana) but you could use white bread flour or whole wheat. Use muscles instead of mixer. And maybe add 1/2 T more yeast, because the amount in the recipe is for here at 4700'. This makes 2 big loaves.

Kamut Bread Recipe
Grind 5 cups of Kamut on fine setting. (I use the finest setting on my grinder)
Place into mixing bowl:
o 2-1/4 cups warm water (105˚-110˚)
o ½ cup honey
o 3 cups Kamut flour
o 1-1/2 Tablespoons instant yeast
Mix into a batter and let the 'sponge' raise for 20 minutes.
Turn mixer to speed 1 and add:
o ¼ cup softened butter or canola oil
o 3ish cups Kamut flour .... start with 2 c. and slowly add until the dough is right. Could be more or less than 3 cups depending on the day.
o 2 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten (mix it into the flour before adding it to the dough)
o 2 teaspoons salt
Switch mixer to dough hook, and knead on speed 2 for 8 minutes. Add flour as needed to make a stiff dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Let raise in greased, covered, bowl for 30 minutes or until dough has doubled. Form into two loaves and put into buttered pans. Let raise 30 minutes. Bake at 325˚ for 35 minutes.

Lyse said...

I had this same problem in Utah, I think it has to do with the dry climate? Do you let your bread rise inside of an low-heated (or maybe unheated) oven with a bowl of hot, just-boiled water? Sometimes that helps it rise better.

That's my mom's trick, at least.

Good luck!

Bridget said...

Those first two recipes don't even require kneading (which is awesome), but yeah, the last one...15 minutes of hand kneading turns into more like, meh, it's been five minutes and my arms are tired, so, DONE. I am really going for yeast being the problem, because I've tried adding more and less flour with no big difference.

Bridget said...

We can get really good flatbread anywhere we go here, obviously. But if you want sliced bread for non-pita sandwiches or toast, the pickings are slim, at least if you also want some kind of grain or texture. There isn't any normal whole wheat bread widely available - it's "brown" bread, which means you don't know what you're getting. Spinney's sells some good whole grain breads but I don't like going there because then I buy so much more than bread (they sell Gushers there for $4.50 a box and let's just say that I have totally given in to that temptation before).

Bridget said...

I proof the yeast before I make pizza dough and it always gets nice and foamy. I will check out that link!

Bridget said...

I use just whatever flour is at the store. There's not usually many options.

That third recipe has directions like you just suggested - create a shaggy mixture, let it rest, then add salt, etc.

Re: rapid rise, one time I used non-rapid rise with the third recipe (which specifies rapid rise) and it did NOT work out. The other recipes I just use normal yeast.

Bridget said...

I know, I keep hearing about gluten but I have never seen it in stores here! I'm sure they sell it SOMEwhere. Maybe next time I make a trek out to the Organic Store for raspberry leaf tea, I'll check to see if they have any. Not that gluten is organic, but the kind of store that sells organic goods might also carry gluten. You know what I mean.

Bridget said...

Maybe the problem is that I need to get a stand mixer! :)

Bridget said...

Except it's so, so humid here! But I can try this. I usually let it rise outside or sitting on top of a warm oven.

Your mom is the one who told me about that first recipe, by the way.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Too much flour, yeah. When you knead by hand it's harder to minimize the amount of flour. Before I had a Bosch my whole wheat bread was stunted and dense as a rock. With the mixer it's simple to give time for the gluten to develop and then voila, you refrain from putting in that extra cup of flour that would make the bread the density of particle board. And either proof the yeast or start w/ a "sponge"--both work well.

So, without a mixer, do your best to keep the dough slightly sticky (not gooey).

Liz Johnson said...

Yeah, I'm with your mom. The answer here is to get a Bosch. :)


Ariana said...

I have a KitchenAid professional beast (from Costco). The thing is awesome. My mom gave it to me as a wedding gift 11 years ago. Not sure what the deal is with Mormons and Bosch machines. (I think it's the whole 'it's what my grandma had' thing....and the reason your grandma had it was because it was the first mixer that could handle bread dough. Kitchenaids came later, and are just as muscley if you get a Pro and more versatile than a Bosch.) Now cue the Boschophile hate! lol

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Mmmm, here's food for thought. My Bosch is at least 30 years old. No wait, I know exactly--it's 33. The finish has worn off the inside of the bowl and the gears sound grindy. But I use it at least 2x/week for heavy dough. Ariana is right, Bosch was what you got back in the day, if you were serious about making bread.

So, if I go looking for a new bread mixer, is KitchenAid the common product for kneading heavy dough? Is it really as tough as Bosch and is the bowl big enough for a wad of dough? Is it as easy to clean as the Bosch? I wish I knew what horsepower mine was, and if that's the best way to assess the muscle of a kitchen machine.

Crys said...

Haha! So I love the way my sisters kitchen aid looks but there are some things it doesn't mix in the baking powder when you are too lazy to mix your dry ingredients first, like me, I'm super lazy about that. Just throw all my cookie ingredients in and we are good :). It holds a ton of dough and it has a blender. And yes my mother ha one :). Sometimes I think about switching to a blentec and a kitchen aid Bosch is still going strong so no point yet, and then I'd have to start being less lazy :)

Crys said...

Suzanne I think the Bosch has a 700-800 watt motor. I think the biggest kitchenaid is maybe 600 although most of the ones that I've seen in the store are in the 375 to 450 range.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Thanks Crys. I have not even begun to seriously investigate a Bosch replacement. I have however, passed them in their Costco display arrayed in their shiny modern colors. And I have seen one used in a friend's home and it just doesn't look heavy duty enough. I know there are different "levels" within the K.A. family, though, and hers must not have been up to the heavy duty level.

Liz Johnson said...

Yeah, I had a standard KitchenAid (4.5 quart bowl, 275 watt motor) and it couldn't even handle a double batch of cookies without trying to waddle off the counter (and without dough spilling out the top). Now I have my Bosch (6.5 quart bowl, 800 watt motor) and there's just no comparison. I know the pro has a 6qt bowl with a 745 watt motor, so that might be a good rival for the Bosch, but I also like the cookie paddles and dough hook for the Bosch better, so that's what made me decide on it over the KitchenAid. Plus it's squattier, so it fits on my counter (under the cupboards) better when I'm cooking.


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