All dough is basically made up of the same ingredients — primarily flour, liquid, salt and sometimes fat, eggs, sugar and leaveners. It is the manipulation of these ingredients and the addition of others that transforms dough into bread, crust, cookies, rolls, muffins or biscuits.
Rely on Ratios
In the book “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman, the author breaks down the ratios in the simplest terms so that every cook can unlock the codes behind the formulas chefs have used for generations.
The ratios are based on the relationship between flour, fat, liquid and sometimes eggs and sugar in every standard recipe.
By knowing these ratios, specifically in baking, you can understand the ingredient ratios and then create other recipes by adding new ingredients or manipulating the standard ingredients.
For example the ratio for cookies is 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, 3 parts flour. This 1-2-3 formula gives you a basic sugar cookie but when you begin adding other ingredients like nuts, chocolate, extracts or spices like ginger, cinnamon or cloves you have a different cookie.
Take things a step further by manipulating the sugar and fat. Substitute with honey, brown sugar or molasses or change the butter to shortening to change the texture of the cookie.
These ratios are based on ingredients as they weigh and not as they are measured. Once you make something the first time by weight you can translate the amounts to measurements for future ease. For example, the 1-2-3 cookie ratio is 2 ounces sugar (4 1/2 tablespoons), 4 ounces butter (1 stick), 6 ounces flour (1 to 1 1/4 cups).
Flour Comes First
All-Purpose Flour: Made from a blend of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat. It is a fine-textured, low protein flour with a general protein content of nine to eleven percent.
It is milled from the inner part of the wheat kernel and contains neither the germ or the bran. U.S. law requires that all flours not containing wheat germ must have niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and iron added. These flours are labeled enriched. All-purpose flour is formulated to be slightly weaker than bread flour so it can be used for pastries, as well. It comes in two basic forms — bleached and unbleached. Flour can be bleached either naturally, as it ages, or chemically.
Bread Flour: An unbleached, specially formulated, high-gluten blend of 99.8 percent hard wheat flour, a small amount of malted barley flour and vitamin C or potassium bromate that increases the gluten's elasticity and the dough's gas retention.
Bread flour is sometimes called strong flour and also has a high protein content of 12 percent.
Cake Flour: A pure white, fine-textured, soft wheat flour with a high starch content. It is a weak flour with low gluten content and a protein content of between
six and nine percent.
Pastry Flour: Lower in gluten than bread flour but higher than cake flour. It has a protein content of eight to nine percent. It is generally used for cookies, pies, some sweet yeast dough, biscuits and muffins.
Self-Rising Flour: An all-purpose flour that has baking powder and salt added. It contains 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder per one cup.
Whole Wheat Flour: Milled from the whole grain, whole wheat flour is filled with all of the minerals, vitamins and protein the grain contains. It is high in fiber and has a fat content other flours don't have. Because of this it should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity.
A bread made with entirely whole wheat flour will be heavy because the gluten strands are cut by the sharp edges of the bran flakes. Also the fat from the wheat germ contributes slightly to the shortening of the gluten. This is why most whole wheat breads are strengthened with white bread flour.
Pie Crust Dough
The best explanation for butter versus shortening in pie crust comes from Julia Child. In her books, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and “Julia's Kitchen Wisdom” she explains that the perfect crust is tender and buttery, with a slight crunch. The proportions, by weight, should be five parts flour to four parts butter.
She explains that American all-purpose flour produces a brittle crust if only butter is used so a mixture of three parts butter and one part shortening will give a tender crust with a buttery flavor.
According to Mrs. Child's advice, if you choose to use 100 percent pastry flour you can use all butter and leave out the shortening. When making this adjustment the percentage of fat in the recipe should be increased by one-fourth and the liquid slightly reduced.
In her classic pie dough recipe she uses 3 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part cake flour that acts as a tenderizing agent. She also adds 1 part shortening to the butter.
Traditionally the ratio for pie dough is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part liquid. Mrs. Child adjusts her recipe to include more fat than most recipes with 5 parts flour to 4 parts fat but the result is a tender, buttery dough that has an indulgent flavor.
Bread from Julia Child
Some tips she offers on mastering French bread, rolls or any yeast bread include:
Proofing: When proofing yeast make sure your yeast is active by stirring a tablespoon of dry yeast in a cup with three tablespoons of tepid water and a pinch of sugar. Within five minutes it should begin to bubble – if it doesn't start over with new yeast.
Mixing: If you are using a food processor to make your dough, be aware that the machine can heat your dough. Gluten strands can break down and prevent a full rise. Only use the machine for part of the kneading process. Finish kneading by hand.
Resting: Flour contains both starch and gluten. The gluten holds the dough together and allows it to rise. However, gluten develops increasing resistance as the dough is worked and it becomes more and more difficult to manipulate. When rolling your dough if it won't roll easy or springs back, simply stop and let it rest for 10 minutes or so. The gluten will relax and you can continue.
Rising:Ideal temperatures for rising dough are 70 to 75 degrees. Warmer, and the dough will rise too fast and flavor does not have time to develop. Colder is fine, and develops more flavor. It will just take longer for a full rise.
Baking: French bread does not cook properly on metal sheet pans. For best results use a baking or pizza stone. A light dusting of cornmeal on the stone will keep the dough from sticking. To prolong the rise and set the crust, create steam at the beginning of your baking with a 1/2 cup of water placed in a cast iron pan on the lowest level of the oven.
Completion: The bread is done when the loaves feel light and make a pleasant thump when tapped. An instant read thermometer inserted into the loaf for several seconds should read 200 degrees.
Most hard rolls are made from a recipe that is similar to French bread. Dough is shaped for a baguette, sliced into smaller sections and then rolled into rounds.
Other rolls are rolled flat and then rolled up and sliced or formed into long strips and tied into knots or braids.
Variations in the recipe can include shortening or butter to soften the dough and create rolls that are less chewy and have a softer texture.
Other shapes that are often made in muffin tins include cloverleaf, butterflake, Parker house and brioche.
The method of mixing biscuits is the same as pie dough so the result is a flaky, buttery texture. The added volume is from the liquid that turns to steam while baking which gives the biscuits their airy and flaky layers.
Julia Child Pie Dough
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, diced
4 tablespoons chilled shortening
1/2 cup ice water, plus droplets more if needed
Drop the flour, salt, and butter into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse five or six times in 1/2 second bursts to break up the butter. Then add the shortening, turn on the machine, and immediately pour in the ice water, pulsing two to three times. Remove cover and check dough. It should look like a mass of smallish lumps and just barely hold in a mass when a handful is pressed together. If too dry, pulse in droplets of water. Turn dough out onto your work surface and with the heel of your hand rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs out in front of you in 6-inch smears. Gather the dough into a relatively smooth, flat round; wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least two hours (or up to 2 days), or you may freeze for several months. For sweet dough cut the salt down to 1/4 teaspoon and include 2 tablespoons sugar.
Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 jalapeno, cored, seeded and minced
Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add spoonfuls of the shortening all at once and using two forks cut the shortening into the ingredients until it is pea-sized. Make a large well in the middle of the flour/shortening mix. Add the eggs and buttermilk.
Using a spatula gently combine all the ingredients. Add the shredded cheddar and minced jalapeno. When the dough is combined, using a clean hand, gently fold the dough over. Pat the dough down and fold it again. Repeat the patting down and folding twice more.
At this point, remove the dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax. When the dough is relaxed, flour a work surface and roll out the dough to 1/2 thick. Using a biscuit cutter dipped in flour, punch out the biscuits. Place on a greased baking sheet. Combine and egg and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the egg mixture over the biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees until the biscuits are golden brown and spring back when gently pushed in the middle. Yield: 12 to 15 Biscuits
Recipe from Le Cordon Bleu
1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees)
2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (115 degrees)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl and pans
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface
Place water in a small bowl; sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, butter, sugar, salt, and 2 eggs. Whisk in yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir in 6 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft, shaggy dough (if necessary, add up to 1/2 cup more flour). Turn dough out onto a floured work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Butter the inside of a large bowl; place dough in bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/4 hours. Butter two 13-by-9-inch baking pans. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 15-inch rope; cut each rope into 15 1-inch pieces. Press each piece into a disk, then shape into a ball. Arrange dough balls in prepared pans. (To make ahead: Wrap pans well, and freeze, up to 2 months.) Cover pans loosely with plastic; let stand in a warm spot until rolls have doubled in size, about 1 1/4 hours (2 hours more if frozen). Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a small bowl, beat remaining egg until blended; brush onto rolls. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through. Let rolls cool 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe from marthastewart.com