Baking Miniature Loaves of Bread

Times Staff Writer

Question: I have many mini-loaf pans but I do not know how to bake bread in these. I do not know what temperature to put them on, what the rising time is or how much dough I should put in each pan. I will be grateful if you can please tell me how to bake mini-breads. The size of a pan is 4 inches long, 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches deep.

Answer: Instructions for baking in mini-loaf pans are hard to come by these days. A standard bread recipe using about 6 cups flour and producing 2 (9x5-inch) loaves will make 10 miniature loaves. To make five miniature loaves divide the recipe in half. Here are some pointers from "The Good Housekeeping Cookbook":

Prepare the dough up to the first rising stage in a bowl. After it has doubled, punch down dough and turn onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces (or five if using half the recipe). With lightly floured rolling pin, roll each piece into 10x4-inch rectangle. Starting at 4-inch end, tightly roll dough, jellyroll fashion. Pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down in 10 greased mini-loaf pans. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled, about 1 hour. If desired, brush with melted butter before baking. Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes or until golden and loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped with fingers.

Q: Why can't I make good puffy fried noodles for a Chinese chicken salad? The salad always tastes excellent but my noodles are lousy. They are chewy instead of crisp, and browned, although not burned, instead of white.

A: Fried noodles will not puff completely or become snow-white and crisp if they are not fried at the proper temperature. Use a wok or deep-fryer and heat the oil to 375 degrees. Below this temperature, the noodles tend to absorb the oil and become greasy and brittle. And frying them longer will simply make them brown, rather than puffed up.

For best results, use rice noodles or dried rice sticks. Break the rice sticks apart and use only a small handful at a time, pressing all of the strands down into the oil for even cooking. If you crowd them in the wok the oil temperature goes down and you won't obtain good results. Fry about 2 seconds or just until they puff up. Never allow them to turn brown. Drain them well on several layers of paper towels. The noodles may be prepared a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Q: I opened a can of sweetened condensed milk and it was thick and discolored. Is this spoiled? It reminded me of canned caramel, done by heating the unopened can. I know this method is no longer recommended but can you print another way of making the caramel?

A: When stored for a long time or close to heat, sweetened condensed milk may become thick and caramel colored. However, this will not affect the cooking quality of the milk, according to the Borden Kitchens; simply stir before using. To caramelize it, pour the can contents into a pie plate and place in a shallow pan of hot water. Cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees 1 hour or until thick and slightly caramel colored. Chill. After can is opened, cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Use within 10 days. Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.

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