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Did you know Mike sends out a newsletter (almost) every week? It's filled with news about bread or whatever Mike is excited about this time. It's "Mike's (more or less) Weekly Baking Tips"!

How to Knead Dough,
Convert Recipes from Cups to Weight AND
a Pan De Yema Oaxaqueno recipe!

I was asked to do a Mexican bread to be a Communion bread for a church service held the day after Cinco de Mayo. So, after hitting Google, Beth found a recipe for Pan De Yema Oaxaqueno which is a anise flavored bread similar to a Brioche. Rich, eggy, wonderful!

If you know me from reading this web page, you know I try to get as much mileage out of everything I do as possible. I had also been recently asked how to convert recipes from volume to weight measurement, and how to knead bread. So, in addition to trying out a new recipe, which worked out very, very well, I thought I'd make a few videos to help people.

This page and its videos are also a testimonial to the fact you can make many mistakes and still make good bread. It is tempting to reshoot these videos just so I won't look quite so much like a fumbling idiot. Still, I hope you will laugh with me rather than at me and learn from the videos. (And I WILL be redoing the videos. I'm not happy with the lighting. Two videos are missing. Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed. But, the bread was wonderful!)

If all the rest of the issues weren't enough, I managed to spill some stuff into one set of scales I use. As a result, the small scales were reading slowly and off. As if something like molasses was interfering with the scales movement. Which reminds us that no system of measurement is perfect, and that you have to take care of your tools.

I had never made a Mexican style bread before, so Beth (my wife) and I hit Google. She found a number of recipes I had not, and one of them sounded really neat. It's Pan De Yema Oaxaqueno from gourmetsleuth.com. According to the write up, it is traditionally baked in a wood fired oven and is often dunked into hot chocolate as a treat. Even without the wood fired oven, the bread was delightful, and dunking it in hot chocolate was really, really nice.

The recipe starts by making a sponge from 1 1/2 ounces of fresh yeast, 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water. The first hurdle was that I don't use fresh yeast. It's been too hard to find good fresh yeast. Since it doesn't sell well any more, few grocers carry it. And when they do, it's often past its prime. When I was running a bakery, I got hooked on SAF instant yeast. A check at the related Red Star yeast FAQ web page suggested I use 4 teaspoons of their instant yeast.

Before I began the process, I sifted and weighed about 12 cups of flour so I'd have a known weight of flour to make the bread with. When I weighed the flour that was left over at the end of the process, I knew how much flour I had used to make the recipe.

The condensed version of this video is that I measured, weighed and mixed the ingredients listed below, and then covered the mixing bowl with Saran Wrap.

Once the sponge was covered, I set it aside for an hour to rise. A sponge, a poolish and a biga are all ways of getting more flavor out of a yeasted bread, and to use less yeast than you otherwise would. We talk about this a lot in our "Advanced Baking - Preferments" book.

We've noticed that with some browsers you may have to click on the "play" button several times to get the movie to start playing.

The recipe, or formula, for the sponge is given in the table below.

Sponge Ingredients Common measure, from recipe Grams as measured
Water 1 cup 235 grams
Bread flour 1 cup , sifted 130 grams
Fresh yeast 1 1/2 ounces 14.5 grams instant yeast
See note 1, below

Once the sponge was healthy and bubbly, it was time to
prepare the final dough. Again, I measured and recorded the weights of the ingredients. Each ingredient was measured in turn and added to the scales. Usually, I remembered to zero the scales between additions. When not, I had to do a bit of math to record the weight of the added ingredient. Again, I did have some minor issues with my small scales. I have since gone back and re-weighed the small ingredients, and while the amounts spoken in the videos are incorrect, the tables on this web page are correct.

Once the measuring was done, I mixed the ingredients with a wooden spoon.

The dough seemed a bit dry until I noticed I hadn't added the sponge. Once I added the sponge, the dough felt a lot better!

For your convenience, the correct weights of all the ingredients are provided in the table below.

Final dough ingredient Common Measure Measured weight
Flour 7 cups , plus bench flour 1,076 grams
Sugar 3/4 cup 177 grams
Butter 1 cup , melted 216 grams
Salt 1 tablespoon 19.9 grams
See Note 2, below
Eggs 5 each 251 grams
Egg Yolks 10 each 201 grams
Anise Seed 1 Tablespoon 9.3 grams
See Note 3, below
The Sponge, from above Not specified 375 grams

Once the dough was mixed, it was time to knead it. Kneading is a soothing activity, and one way of developing dough. Because this dough is somewhat wet and a very rich eggy dough, it developed very quickly. As you knead dough, it starts looking rough and ragged. It quickly progresses to smoother, but with lumps in it. At this stage, the dough looks like the ads in the back of ladies magazines that have something to do with the dangers of unsightly cellulite. The best thing to do at this stage is keep kneading - the cellulite appearance WILL go away!

We've stopped filming because kneading isn't all that exciting to watch. As the 5 minutes nears an end, we start filming again so you can see what the dough looks like at the end of the first 5 minutes of kneading.

As you can see, the dough looks pretty smooth and it's ready for the poke test. If you poke the dough gently, it should spring back at once.

After 5 minutes of kneading, it is time to cover the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. The resting time allows the flour to absorb water and to develop without your effort.

We had recorded the second kneading, but something "went wrong" and we don't have that video, nor the video of the windowpane test. Sooner or later we'll be re-shooting this, so keep checking back!

As mentioned before, the dough has been allowed to rest for 5 minutes, it has been kneaded for another 5 minutes, and it has passed the windowpane test. Next, we let the dough have its first rise, which took about an hour. And that means we're ready to form the bread into loaves. We're going to form the bread into 2 round loaves and two small round loaves.

If we were forming the loaves and rolls for sale, we'd carefully weigh them. We'd also weigh them so they weighed about 12% more than the amount we wanted to sell. Customers want to take home the weight that is on the label, and when the dough is baked a lot of water boils off. So, we have to make the loaves we form a little heavy so the loaves will be the right weight after baking. After the loaves are formed, we cover them to keep critters off of them and to keep them from drying out.

About an hour later, they are ready for the next step. Since one loaf and one roll are going to church as communion bread, it seems appropriate to slash a cross in the top of the bread. The other loaf and roll are going to be topped with sesame seeds and not slashed.

We start by slashing the breads that need slashing. Next, we paint all the loaves and rolls with an egg wash. I like to mix an egg with 1/2 eggshell full of water, beat it up, and use it as an egg-wash. The egg-wash gives the breads a nice luster, or shine, and helps things like sesame seeds stick on. I like to do this just before the bread is going into the oven, though some people prefer to do it right after the loaves are formed.

The breads are baked about 30 minutes at 375F. Breads with sugar in them, or egg wash on them, tend to brown very quickly, so keep an eye on the breads. Half way through the baking, I do a bread shuffle. The breads are swapped between the top and bottom shelves, and from left to right and front to back. In other words, the bread that was on the top left rack, will now be on the bottom right rack, and the side that faced the front of the oven will now be facing the back of the oven. This helps even out the uneven heat distribution of most ovens. I even have to do this with commercial convection ovens!

While the breads might look a bit dark, they are far from burned! They have a rich eggy taste, with a very nice anise flavor. In the Mexican state this bread is from, it is traditional to toast it, or to dunk it in hot chocolate. Both are very nice. This clip was inspired by the first Star Trek movie. If you saw the movie, I am sure you'll understand what I mean (though the people who filmed that movie didn't have creaky floorboards!).

Once the amounts of each ingredient have been measured, it is possible to enter the amounts into a spreadsheet, so we can scale the formula to make the number, and size, of loaves we want. We can also play with the amount of liquid in the dough, should that be necessary. If you'd like to play with a spreadsheet, you can download this one. Just enter the number of each type of loaf you'd like to make, and the spreadsheet will tell you how much of each ingredient to use. Please feel free to use the "Contact Us" link to let us know what you think about the spreadsheet, and how it could be made easier to use.

Once the first bake is done, I like to think about the bread and decide what I could do to make it better. I really feel that the dough rose too quickly, so in the next test bake, I will cut the yeast in half.

Some notes....
Note 1. The small scales I was using had gotten gunked up and were not reading correctly. As a result, the weight of yeast mentioned in the video was incorrect. The correct amount was, as shown in the chart, 14.5 grams.

Note 2. Similarly, the salt measurement was incorrect. The amount stated in the video was incorrect. The correct amount is in the chart, at 19.9 grams.

Note 3. Finally, the Anise Seed measurement stated in the video was incorrect. The correct amount is in the chart, at 9.3 grams.

Note 4. As mentioned above, I felt the bread rose too quickly, so the next time I bake this bread, I will cut the yeast in half.

Note 5. If you substitute salted butter for the unsalted called for; if you use margarine instead of butter; if you use something weird instead of eggs; if you use an artificial sweetener instead of sugar; if you decide to be healthy and use whole wheat flour... please don't send me an email to let me know this is an awful recipe. It's very nice as it is.