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A Rising Art: Martinsville baker talks about making bread |

A Rising Art: Martinsville baker talks about making bread

MARTINSVILLE – Don’t hesitate to tackle baking bread, encouraged baker Darla Main-Schneider, because making it is not as hard as people think.

“White bread is so forgiving and so much easier to work with than anything else,” she said.


Main-Schneider has run Rising Sun Breads for eight years. Its main location is off Spruce Street, and another one opened three and a half years ago in Ridgeway. She recently gave a program on bread-baking recently at the Martinsville Library.

“Bread is a very simple product, very basic,” she said. It has only four ingredients: flour, salt, starter and water.

“It doesn’t matter what kind” of flour is used, she said, adding that, however, she prefers Lindley Mills’ organic flour from North Carolina and King Arthur. She uses sea salt instead of iodized salt, which she called “too fine.”

The only tools needed, apart from a mixing bowl and baking pan, are a cutting tool and scale, to cut and weigh equal-sized pieces of dough if you want to make rolls, she said.

The rising action of bread comes from the yeast. Many people use standard yeast from a packet or jar. Another way for bread to rise is by using a starter instead of yeast, she said.

She showed examples of two starters: the thick biga, used in Italian baking, and Lavein, a lighter and thinner starter used in French baking.

Bread-baking has four major steps, she said: Mixing, shaping, baking and storing or eating.

Bread dough can be mixed by hand or by a powerful stand mixer, such as Kitchenaid, using a dough hook, she said.

She had brought to the program some prepared bread dough which already had been through the first rise. The dough felt spongy and a little bouncy, not stiff. She showed two tricks to test to see if the dough is ready for the punchdown and second rise. It’s ready if: You poke a finger in it, and the dough comes back without leaving an indentation; or if you gently pull apart a small piece of dough and it holds together thinly in the center rather than breaking.

To create a loaf, she said, flatten the dough into a disc, roll it up and tuck the ends under. Put the dough into the pan seam-side down and press down on the dough evenly to make sure there are no bubbles and it has a uniform shape.

“It’s the same concept with whole-wheat bread,” she said, which is “a little more difficult because it’s not as forgiving as white.”

Main-Schneider invited each attendee to make a pan of rolls. One by one, each person sliced off pieces of dough and placed each piece on the scale to ensure equal volume. Then each piece was rolled into a ball and put into the pan, seam-side down, with the sides touching.

The dough should be covered in plastic wrap, she said; and it would be ready to bake once it has doubled in size.

Cinnamon rolls are made with the same dough, she said. The dough is flattened out, spread with butter, cinnamon and sugar and rolled back up. She pointed out a box with two types of cinnamon rolls, telling the attendees that they were welcome to have some.

“Now?” asked Patrick Wright.

“Yes,” Main-Schneider replied.

“I thought you meant after class,” he said cheerfully, going up to the table for a sweet roll.

If there isn’t enough time to follow the entire process step by step, dough just put into the pan for rising and baking can be put immediately into the freezer to save for later, she said. The end result would be just as tasty. The only catch is that the bread would have to thaw out in the refrigerator overnight, rather than just have a simple two-hour rise as fresh dough does.

Dough is ready to bake when it doubles in volume.

Main-Schneider said that she has found rye bread is among the trickiest to bake. “Rye is soft, and it quickly activates. You don’t have much time to work with it. When it’s ready to go, it’s ready to go.”

Challah and brioche also are tricky, she said, because they have longer mixing times.

Sourdough bread also is demanding, she said. The dough reaches its proper rise within 8 to 24 hours, and “if you don’t catch it in that time, it’ll go flat. Once a bread loses that yeast rise, it’s pretty well done.”

Her “ultimate favorite” bread is a sourdough baguette, she said: crunchy crust on the outside, soft texture on the inside, and a rich flavor.

She bemoaned the American custom of wrapping bread in plastic, which “makes it mushy.” However, the way to revive bread wrapped in plastic is to put it in the oven or on the grill for a few minutes, she added.

King Arthur’s Classic White Sandwich Bread

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water*

1 heaping tablespoon honey

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons soft butter

4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/3 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules

*Use the lesser amount of water in summer or humid climates; the greater amount in winter or drier climates.

Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead — by hand, or using a stand mixer — to make a smooth dough. It won’t be particularly soft nor stiff; it should be smooth and feel bouncy and elastic under your hands.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, or large (8-cup) measuring cup. Cover it, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it becomes quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in size.

Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a fat 9-inch log. Place it in a lightly greased 9- by 5-inch or 10- by 5-inch loaf pan.

Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it crowns 1 to 1 ½ inches over the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until it is golden brown. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 195 to 200 degrees.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.

Recipe from KingArthurFlour.com

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