Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The 3 Keys To Bread Making - #3 Water

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
So we have covered how choosing the right flour and tweaking our kneading technique can greatly increase the tastiness of our whole wheat bread. Our last key is water temperature or more specifically, ingredient temperature.

Leaven products require a moist, warm environment to promote yeast growth. This means that the initial ingredient temperature is vital to making airy and high loaves. Now you may be wondering what do I mean by ingredient temperature? Ingredient temperature is how I refer to the temperature of all your combined ingredients. Many recipes suggest a water temperature between 115 – 120 degrees F. However, your other ingredients, which will be room temperature (or colder if they have been refrigerated) will bring down the temperature of your water. Water at, or above, 140 degrees F does kill yeast, but any temperature below 115 is too cool for proper yeast development. To counteract this effect, consider heating your water to about 5-10 degrees above what your recipe suggests. To break this down, I'll break down exactly what my process is for checking ingredient temperature:

Add all ingredients except water, flour and yeast.

Add hot water one cup at a time, checking the temperature of the ingredients every cup or so to see how I need to adjust the temp (after awhile you'll get an idea of how often you need to test the temperature, but at the beginning the closer you can monitor it the better). My goal is always to have my ingredient temperature between 120-125 degrees.

Once all my water is added, then I add about ½ cup of flour and my yeast on top of it. ('Tis just a personal quirk, but I just like crown my flour island with the yeast instead of letting it float helplessly in the water. *winks*)

Wrapping It All Up...

You now have the 3 keys for making delicious whole wheat bread. After ten plus years of bread making, these are the three pillars I lean on and are always what I investigate first whenever trouble arises. Just remember this: flour and water are the two top ingredients and kneading is the "glue" that binds and works the flour and water and all other ingredients together to make one gorgeous loaf of bread. It's like building a house. Start with good ingredients at their prime and use the "science" of kneading to create an art your family and community will enjoy.

Of course, it's always fun to have a “secret” ingredient or twist that makes the recipe uniquely yours. I've gathered a few favorites over the years, but you may have the delight of sharing first! What is your favorite ingredient or technique you love to use in your homemade bread?
Acknowledgment: this series is based on an article I wrote for the March/April 2014 edition of the Molly Green Magazine. For information on how to subscribe to Molly Green Magazine, please visit http://mollygreen.com/


  1. Have very much enjoyed your writing. Makes me want to make some bread, haven't had much time lately. Subscribed to Molly Green magazine can't wait to get the first one. Are you writing for other magazines?

  2. Thanks, Mrs. Perry! I'm very glad you've enjoyed the series! :) Yes, currently I enjoy writing for Incorruptible Beauty
    ( http://www.incorruptiblebeautynewsletter.com/ ) and a newsletter for writers called Basket of Stories.