Bread baking questions
I regularly bake bread, and do so for several families on the holidays, and while it is good, I wonder if it could be improved, my questions are,as follows 1. the recipe I use calls for shortening, in thinking about this I would really rather use butter, thinking it would add to the flavor, the shortening can gives a reverse sub, saying you add water when sub'n shortening for butter, so do I need to remove water from the recipe when using butter?2. while the bread becomes pretty lite in texture, it is much heavier than even a good bakery roll, sometimes this is good but not always, what would happen if i were to use cake flour in place of the all purpose flour?, in the articles I have read it says the cake flour lends to a more delicate texture.3. the recipe I use also calls for sugar, I am really not crazy about using sugar, and am curious about switching to honey, again the things I have read say to use roughly 7/8 as much honey as you would sugar, as it is sweeter, and to also remove some water from the recipe, I would like to make all 3 of these changes but do not like to waste things, and don't want to make an inedible mess, and my background in trying to go faster with cars and bikes tells me 1 change at a time ,so you don't get lost....what do you bakers out there far wiser, and experienced than I recommend?, thank you.
When subbing butter for shortening you need to add 2 tablespoons per cup of shortening used. You can cut some of the water out, but I would go slowly. I would remove 1-2TSP of water per cup used before subb'ing.
You cannot swap cake flour for for AP, as it doesn't have the needed gluten for the structure that bread requires. I think you might want to increase the fat ratio, as this will make for a less chewy product.
I would use the butter, and melt it, before you consider changing the flour.
The substitution of 2% milk for water might give you want you want, if you are looking for a product that is similar to a commercial bakery roll.
How much cane sugar are you now using in the recipe? You are correct that water must be removed when honey is sub'ed for granulated sugar
I agree that you can only make 1 ingredient change, as more then that will lead to confusion of the results.
You might benefit from read a few bread baking books from the library before purchasing them.
The Bread Bible -Rose Levy Beranbaum
Any of Peter Reinhart's books.
Harold McGee or Shirley Corriher's food science books
Would you post your recipe so we can offer specific comments? What do you want to improve in the bread? You mention more flavor, lighter texture, eliminate refined sugar. Which one is most important to you right off? Is there a commercial (artisan) bread you would like to copy?
In addition to the books mentioned by kelli, I really like the way Jeffrey Hamelman explains things in 'Bread: A bakers ...' Not much in the way of coffee table pictures, but really informative.
Other than what's been recommended, I've found that adding a little vital wheat gluten for bread flour makes a nicer texture, chewier and more substantial.
Also, do you love the recipe you use, or since you're making so many changes, you might be better off finding a recipe that already incorporates all that. Most of the rolls I've made use already call for butter instead of shortening. I third the Peter Reinhart books. I found them at the library.
All the advice given so far has been good. The beauty of bread is that you can do almost anything to it, and it still tastes good. Yes, try butter. Or split the difference and use oil. Try honey, or maple syrup, or molasses, or dark brown sugar. Try a good bread flour, like King Arthur, instead of all-purpose. But note: you will probably need LESS flour than usual. I hope you are determining the amount of flour by feel, and not just measuring. Just to humor me, try making the dough wetter than usual. Too much flour makes for a heavy bread.
Don't be a slave to your recipe. Experiment! That's where the fun and discoveries come from.
Let me second the thought that you might get better responses if you posted the recipe you are using.
The first suggestion I would make is to find a high gluten bread flour. In the controlled operation of the bread machine, I saw an immediate increase in the height of my bread using this. Someone mentioned King Arthur. I find All Trump high gluten flour at my local Costco - 25# for about $6.50.
I'm not sure what you mean by "shortening." Try a tablespoon or two of olive oil. It will change the texture.
For more flavor, use a longer first raise. You use less yeast. See some of the threads for no-knead bread on these boards. The flavor comes from the 18 hour raise time. Baking this bread in a pot gives it the crust, but you could bake it in a loaf pan just fine. It would have the open texture and flavor, just not the same crust.
King Arthur web site has good, reliable recipes. Try them. Free. Unless you buy flour and accessories. TeeHee
Don't be too rigid about this bread baking stuff. It's almost always edible.