Bread is one of the earliest foods recorded in history, and it's been sustaining humanity for thousands of years. From the elongated, crusty baguette to the flat, chewy naan, bread comes in many varieties, shapes, and sizes. More recently, bread's been vilified and blamed for many a pound and inch gained, but as with all things, it can be eaten in moderation. Nothing compares to the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread emerging from the hot oven, so get on the artisanal bread-making bandwagon and try your hand at one of these recipes.
For technique tips on bread-making, click here to watch our videos.
To Knead or Not to Knead
If you're pressed for time but still want to make bread, make a quick bread. Muffins, popovers, doughnuts, and biscuits are some examples. These typically don't require yeast and go straight from mixing to baking, thanks to the use of other leavening agents such as baking powder and baking soda.
Yeast: Stayin' Alive
Yeast is available in two forms: fresh and dry. Yeast is a living organism, so it must be kept under certain conditions, especially once the package has been opened and the yeast exposed to air.
• Dry: There are two types, instant dry (also known as "instant active" and sometimes marketed as "rapid rise" or "quick rise") and active dry. Dry yeast is typically sold in premeasured packets, although it can also be found in jars. This yeast is good for fast-rising breads and for use with a bread machine. Unopened packages can be stored almost indefinitely or until the expiration date if left in a dark, dry place like the pantry. Once exposed to air, store the yeast in the refrigerator, where it can keep for three months. Dry yeast can also be put in the freezer.
• Fresh, also known as active: Used by professional bakers, this is sold in compressed bar form. Unopened packages of fresh yeast have a shelf life of two months and must be stored in the refrigerator. Do not store it in the freezer.
• Not sure if the yeast is still good? Proof it: Mix some yeast with warm water and add one teaspoon of sugar. If foam develops after a few minutes, the yeast is still alive and good to use.
Sweet and Savory
Esther Sung first joined Epicurious.com in 2006. Prior to this, she spent several years in book publishing, including at Harper Entertainment, where the proverbial three-martini lunch was sadly nowhere to be found. When not in the office, she moonlights at the Bottle Shoppe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and through this she has developed a fondness for Syrah and Malbec. A quasi-vegetarian, she admits to having relished eating yuk hwe, a Korean raw beef dish.
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