Do all of these, and you’ll make excellent bread. (Take the first letter of each of these steps and turn them into a memorable, if somewhat ridiculous, sentence, and you’ll never forget the steps of bread making. All very useful way back when I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu!) Whatever …
These days, with fail-safe or dried bakers’ yeast, ‘sponging’ is mostly eliminated, but when I learnt to bake, fresh yeast was a temperamental living organism and you’d always check it was alive (active) before wasting time and ingredients on it. You wet it with something warm, most likely water or milk, and fed it, most likely with sugar, added a portion of the flour, and, either, Hey Presto, it started frothing and joining in the fun, or, like the worst party-pooper, just sat there all sad and miserable and refused to join in. But all the other steps are gospel. You mix dry ingredients, you add softened or frothy yeast, you knead, you leave the dough to rise, you knock it back and shape it, you put it somewhere warm to puff it up to its final shape, and finally, you bake it. Then you produce the most magnificent thing: bread. In any shape or form, properly made – no fast raising agents or bread improvers accepted here – it is always a joy: smelling glorious, tempting, teasing and worth every minute it takes to prepare.
Now for that bothersome question … if a recipe calls for fresh yeast, and you’ve only got dried, or vice versa, how do you convert? Scroll towards the bottom of Weights & Measures and read all about it. There are plenty of other helpful conversions here, too. And check out Dianne’s 5 Grain Bread while you’re at it.
5 Grain Bread photography Ilaria Biuso
Chelsea Buns photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com