A bread loaf is the most common form in which bread is available at bakeries around the world. Bread loaves, whether made with whole wheat flour, refined flour, multi-grain, or other flours, has five main ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, water and yeast.
The success of a bread loaf lies in the proper proportion of the ingredients – so these must be properly weighed. Once that is done, you can start preparing the dough, which should be fermented for the proper length of time to yield a well aerated loaf. During fermentation, yeast cells act on the sugars and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Once fermented, the dough will rise in volume because of gas retention. This risen dough is punched to release the gases and placed in greased bread tins. The dough will rise once again inside the tins. They are then brushed with an egg wash or milk wash, sprinkled with sesame seeds or poppy seeds if required, and covered with a lid. It is then baked in a pre-heated oven till done.
Bakers often use various additives, collectively known as Bread Improvers. These improvers enable the baker to produce loaves with better keeping properties, finer texture, softer crumbs, added bloom or enhanced flavour. Bread additives include mineral additives, enriching agents or yeast foods like malt sugar, Demerara sugar, etc.
Do note that a bread loaf should not be sliced when freshly baked. They are best sliced when they are completely cool. Thus, if you have prepared bread loaves at evening, slice them in the morning using a bread slicer or knife.
How to select
• A good bread loaf will have a uniformly coloured crust; it will be firm yet spongy to feel.
• If purchasing from a bakery, check if freshly baked.
• Always check the manufacturing and expiry dates, and watch out for crumbly and mouldy loaves.
• You can select from various varieties like white bread loaf, brown bread loaf, garlic loaf, herb loaf, multi-grain loaf etc.
• Toast fresh bread slices and enjoy with butter and jam or honey for a quick breakfast.
• Bread loaves are commonly sliced and used as sandwich bread. Apply spreads, butter, vegetables etc. to make vegetable sandwiches. You can also make cheese or jam sandwiches too.
• Bread loaves can be sliced, cubed (with or without crust) and fried or toasted to make bread croutons.
• Bread loaves that are a little old and dry can be ground into bread crumbs, which are used as a coating agent.
How to store
• Bread loaves are best used within 2 to 3 days.
• Cover unused bread loaves with plastic film and then store under refrigerated conditions.
• Breads are high in carbohydrates, and hence a good source of energy.
• Depending on the variety of bread, it can also increase the protein and fibre quotient of your diet.
• Switching from white bread to whole wheat bread helps relieve constipation.
• Breads also contain healthy vitamins, minerals and fats.
• Eating a slice of bread before bedtime is known to reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
Bread loaf cubes
Place the bread loaf on a flat clean chopping board and make a series of slices using a sharp knife. Lay the bread loaf slices on top of each other and make a series of lengthwise slices, (½ inch slices for smaller cubes, 1 inch slices for larger cubes. Make a series of ½ inch or 1 inch crosswise cuts through the bread loaf and it will fall away into cubes.