A Bible and a Cookbook
Beth Hensperger wrote two books that were published close together by different publishers:
- The Bread Bible: Beth Hensperger’s 300 Favourite Recipes, (1999) Chronicle Books, San Francisco;
- The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (2000), (“BLBMC“) The Harvard Common Press, Boston.
The Bread Bible earned the 2000 James Beard Foundation award for a cookbook in the Baking & Dessert category. It mainly had recipes for home bakers who baked in ovens, but had a chapter on bread machines). It mainly had recipes using the ingredients available to retail customers. At that time, home bakers mainly used active dry yeast; some had access to yeast cakes (wet raw yeast). Instant yeasts were available but not widely used. It rode the currents of liberation from industrially processed bread, the recovery of whole grain baking, and inception of artisanal baking. Home bakers were using whole wheat flour and some ancient grain. Ms. Hensperger acknowleged in the Bread Bible that manufacturers had not translated the knowledge and experience of human bakers into recipes that could be run by selecting a process in a consumer appliance.
The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook explains the use of a bread machine. The BLBMC preceded other titles in the “Not your mother’s” series by Harvard Common Press, a series built around a marketing pitch, dedicated to making new appliances seem to be exciting and life-affirming.
BLBMC tries to be”Bread machines – the missing manual” – for the end of the 1990s. The BLBMC suggests standard recipes work with different machines. The BLBMC treated all bread machines (it listed 18 manufacturers on the market at the time) as equivalent, with a warning to “Take Stock of Your Machine”. This undersells differences in design of bread machines. Whether a recipe can be followed will depend on the machine, measurement and ingredients.
For the most part, BLBMC recipes worked in my old Black & Decker. They did not work when I started to use more modern machines – a Panasonic SD-YD250, or a Zojirushi BB-PAC20. [update, March 2020]. I solved the issue for Panasonic SD-YD250 by using 50% less yeast by weight.
The book did not anticipate technological and market changes in bread machines, and growing and preserving dry yeast, active and instant.
Machines have diverged. Machines knead for an optimized time; some machines use the heating element to heat the pan to a proofing box temperature during the rise. Engineers optimized recipes for their companies’ machines – a walled garden approach to recipes. Manufacturers usually provide a manual with recipes. These recipes can guide the consumer to use that manufacturer’s bread machine.
The BLBMC is more successful in explaining basic or core bread flour and whole wheat flour recipes, and how these form the basis of milk bread, sandwich bread, sweet bread, seed bread and raisin or fruit bread.
Baking is learned and experienced
A book can explain which buttons to push. A book can explain what ingredients should be put in a machine before the buttons are pushed, and what a loaf may weigh and look like. Teaching about baking in a book is hard.
Organization & Scope
BLBMC recipes have ingredient lists for “medium” 1.5 lb. and “large” 2 lb. loaves. A medium loaf usually uses 3 cups of flour; large, 4 cups. The BLBMC recipes are consistent with conventional oven recipes, and are generally well planned and reliable. [update, March 2020] BLBMC recipes work if the user can adapt – usually the amount of yeast – for the machine.
BLBMC covers the varieties of white bread, and the method of changing texture and flavour. It has recipes for whole wheat, and ancient grains. It did not anticipate the demand for gluten-free bread recipes and methods, with only 8 pages on that topic. The BLBMC has worthwhile sections on bread machine operation. It has sections, sidebars, and detail sections on bread making and bread machine topics. The table of contents and the index don’t locate all of them:
- p. 15 ingredient measurement;
- p. 18 converting volume to weight (flour and sugar);
- p. 12 flour, and
- pp. 46-47, white flour from wheat,
- pp. 106-107, whole wheat flour,
- p. 125, proteins in flour,
- pp. 62-63, using non-wheat flour with wheat flour,
- pp. 133-135, using rye flour with wheat flour.
- p. 140, diy milling of whole grain flour,
- pp. 150-152, non-wheat flour,
- pp. 182-183, baking with whole grains, and preparing whole grain;
- p. 193, organic flour;
- pp. 13-14 yeast;
- p. 15, p. 290. Salt:
- is not just a seasoning or flavour agent;
- should not be exposed to the water and the yeast before the machine mixes the ingredients;
- can be reduced if yeast is reduced by the same proportion. 1BLBMC doesn’t explain that this rule of thumb is a starting point, to be adjusted. Yeast requirements for machines vary.
- p. 13, p. 59 vital wheat gluten;
- p. 168 dough enhancers;
- pp. 69-72 6 “sampler” recipes for one pound loaves;
- p. 76 eggs;
- pp. 170-177, gluten free recipes and notes;
- pp. 197-198 using the machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and using artisanal baking methods:
- starters and pre-ferments,
- shaping loaves
- baking stones, tiles and ceramic containers (and cloches);
- p. 233 olive oil;
- p. 354 the shapes of bread machine pans.
While Ms. Hensperger is clear about the importance of measurement of ingredients for bread machines, she uses home cooking conventions in her recipes including measuring out ingredients by volume. The recipes in the BLBMC measure yeast & salt to the quarter teaspoon, and flour and water to the nearest 1/4 cup; water to the nearest 1/8 cup.
Ms. Hensperger covers conversion from volume to weight for flour but not for yeast, salt and other ingredients. Confusion over volume measurement is endemic to baking, and is not her fault. She addresses a problem of stating the flour for a loaf in cups. Flour is compressd or packed by drag-scooping. Ms. Hensperger says, correctly that a cup of bread or whole wheat flour, using drag-scooped cups rather than scoop and trickle cups is 5 US oz. by weight.
Bread Baking basics
The BLBMC says bread flour should be the white flour in bread recipes. White flour is prepared by finely grinding the endosperm (inner portion) of the kernel after the bran (outer coat) and the germ (seed embryo) have been milled out. Millers and bakers refer to extraction – white flour uses 50-60% of the kernel.
Ms. Hensperger describes bread flour as having 12.7 % protein. White bread flour in the USA has 11.5-13.5 % gluten-producing protein. All purpose white flour in the USA has 9.5-11.5 %. Canadian all purpose flour for retail use is milled from a blend of hard spring wheats – Canadian Millers’ technical standards (Canadian millers produce Bakers patent and bakers clear for commercial bakeries and food manufacturing). Canadian retail all purpose flour has the same protein content as USA bread flour. It is fine for bread.
Whole wheat flour weighs as much as bread flour, per unit of volume, but is milled from entire kernel -100% extraction. It has has more protein overall but less of the insoluble proteins that bond to form gluten when water is mixed into the flour.
Ms. Hensperger described the varieties of dry yeast as: 1. active dry yeast; 2. instant (or fast-acting) dried yeast; 3. quick-rise (rapid-rise) yeast; 4. bread machine yeast. 3 and 4 are essentially instant yeast. Instant yeast, under any of its names, is the choice for bread machines. Ms Hensperger prefers SAF instant yeast to the point that she says it is more potent. She suggests two alternatives for each recipe:
- SAF instant dried yeast (SAF Red),
- 25% – 33% more bread machine yeast than SAF instant yeast. For instance, for Dakota Bread, BLBMC says 2 tsp SAF or 2.5 tsp bread machine*.
The book overstates the amount of yeast needed for a loaf of bread. SAF Red is a good product but almost any other instant yeast works in a BLBMC recipe in the same amount as the BLBMC suggests for SAF instant yeast. The alternative for “bread machine” yeast is usually just too high. (Ms. Hensperger moved away from suggesting the use of higher amounts of yeasts other than SAF instant yeast. In a version of the recipe for Dakota Bread in 2015 on her blog she said 2 tsp “bread machine yeast”. Her blog ceased to be maintained and her domain name was seized by cybersquatters.).
The range of views about the amount of yeast:
- For a 1.5 lb. loaf, Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook calls for 2 tsp instant yeast or more and 1-1.5 tsp. salt for 3 cups of flour. This is in the range of recipes in other books at the time, and of many recipes published on the web. It is .67 tsp instant yeast, or 1.9 g. yeast per cup (about 140 g.) of wheat flour; the B% is 1.4%;
- Manufacturers of instant, rapid/quick rise and bread machine yeasts recommend .5 tsp yeast for each cup of flour for bread machines: Red Star Quick-Rise; Bakipan Fast Action and Bread Machine; SAF Gourmet Perfect Rise and Bread Machine. Fleishmann’s recipes on its web pages imply the same amounts of its instant Quick-Rise (Rapid-Rise) or its Bread Machine product, or more. This is 1.4 g. yeast per about 140 g. of wheat flour; the B% is 1%;
- Panasonic suggests .33 tsp of dry yeast per cup of flour – which works in Panasonic machines;
- Zojirushi suggests .5 tsp. of active dry yeast per cup of flour in its recipes
Salt can be measured by volume with measuring spoons, but should be used carefully with level measurements. It is better to go by weight. The conversion rate is 1 teaspoon of table salt to 5.7 grams – the teaspoon that the recipe writer will have assumed. Table salt is not all the same – some is pretty finely ground and more dense.
Several online converters report: 1 cup, (48 tsp (US)) instant yeast = 136 grams; 1 tsp = 3.1 g. Sources say a teaspoon of instant yeast is a .11 oz. = 3.12 grams, or 3.15 g. My average for 1 tsp of SAF Red was 2.8 g. I scooped a few dozen samples, weighed them on a scale, and took the mean weight of my samples. I may try again when I buy another bag. Too close to worry about .1 of a gram. It won’t matter.
I checked conversions for my ingredients for the post Flour, B%, Water, Milk, Salt – Bread & Bread mackines.
Vital Wheat Gluten
Vital Wheat Gluten, also called gluten flour. is a powder produced by industrial milling, used as a dough enhancer – an additive in commercial baking.
In the bread machine chapter of the Bread Bible, Ms. Hensperger suggested adding 1 teaspoon per cup of white flour and 1 ½ teaspoons per cup of whole grain flour, She suggested added gluten in almost bread machine recipe in BLBMC. She follows the same rules, with some adjustments for even more gluten for some 100% whole grain loaves. Others would not use added gluten with bread flour but add as much as 1 tbsp per cup with whole wheat flour.
Added gluten makes the dough more elastic – it promotes a vigorous rise if the dough is fermenting vigorously. However the elasticity affect the way the dough flows. It depends on how the dough is kneaded. Kneading organizes gluten into a web of protein that traps carbon dioxide.
Adding gluten doesn’t improve yeast leavened breads made with high protein bread flour.
Bread machines have changed since BLBMC was published. More machines knead more throroughly. Many machines warm the dough and enhance fermentation during the rise phase of the baking machine programs. These features change the requirements for yeast and gluten
The effect of using added gluten will be different depending on the machine and recipe.
The sections of the BLBMC on using a bread machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and artisanal baking methods are informative. However manufacturer have abandoned – or never have supported the features that facilitate this.
What can Go Wrong
Beth Hensperger introduced the topic of “What Can Go Wrong, and How to Fix It” at pp. 38-40 with discussions of:
- Shaggy unmanageable dough ball;
- Wet, slick dough;
- Pale loaf;
- Loaf is too dense;
- Sunken top (crater bread);
- Collapsed top and sides;
- Gnarled loaves or machine sound strained during kneading;
- Squat, domed loaves;
- Lopsided loaf; Loaf ballons up over the rim of the pan like a mushroom…
- Bread is not cooked throughout;
- Added ingredients are clumped; and
- After baking, the loaf has a long crease down the side.
That was 2000. Most problems still occur. They may be measurement mistakes, forgotten steps or pressing the the wrong button on the control panel.
Some problems are not readily fit into those categories, and the solutions are can be contradictory.
Not all the problems are serious. Some of these problems occur when a user tries to bake a small loaf in a medium or large pan machine. That situation commonly leads to a lopsided loaf, which looks odd but is palatable and managed easily.
Some of these problems occur when a user uses a flour that does not react well to the machine’s kneading program(s) – such as rye flour.
It is sobering to realize how well bread baking can be automated, and how many problems arise from trusting machines to bake some breads.
Leave a Reply