Monday, March 18, 2013

Yeast-bread tips and tricks

I spent years on largely unsuccessful attempts at making yeast breads until I committed to keeping a sourdough starter for a few months in 2007. It wasn't until I did so that I finally began to understand how finicky yeast doughs are, and it took me a few more years until I finally developed a knack for making them. 2010 was my breakthrough year for making successful yeast breads. This included what has become my go-to pizza dough recipe.

My variations on Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Dough Recipe have included using agave nectar or sugar in place of the honey, and working with different blends of white flour and whole wheat flour, from all-purpose to bread flour. I've found that nothing affects the outcome of the final product as much as keeping the yeast "sponge" and dough warm enough during proofing. To achieve this, I've been setting my oven to the lowest setting (170° C) until it preheats, then turning it off. Although this seems like too warm a space to leave things to proof, it ends up being surprisingly ideal. Yeast — as it turns out — can tolerate much higher heat than I'd thought it would.

The recipe I consult calls for all-purpose flour, but bread flour has consistently produced the best results in this household. The choice of sweetener doesn't much seem to matter, as long as it provides "food" for the yeast culture.

Overall, this recipe has yielded fantastic results around here. I don't foresee any need to switch.

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