Let’s talk about bread…It is a lot easier to make homemade bread than you think. Save yourself some money and make your own. And save your body from unnecessary ingredients. The majority of bread found in a grocery store contain high fructose corn syrup. Seriously! And I am talking white bread, whole wheat, whole grain, bagels, English muffins…They all contain high fructose corn syrup. Next time you go to the grocery store read the label on the different brands offered. Learning how to make bread at home starts with the basics. After you learn the basics of bread making, you can make basically any bread you want. So welcome to Bread Making 101 !
This post will be a long one so grab a snack and a drink (water?…wine? your choice) and get ready to learn about bread.
Bread Making 101
During pastry school, there are two things I was known for…my bread skills and my chocolate skills. Making bread is something that I have been doing since I was little. Learning how to make bread starts with the understanding that bread was first made with only flour, water, and yeast and has since grown from there.
Being successful in bread making depends largely on your understanding of two basic principles: gluten development and yeast fermentation.
Let’s talk about gluten. I know that word you hear so many people try to avoid. But in bread making, gluten is important. To learn how to develop gluten, you need to learn what gluten is!
Gluten proteins give structure to baked goods. Gluten is a combination of two proteins called glutenin and gliadin. During the mixing process when the proteins mix with water the forms a stretchable substance called gluten which has an elastic texture.
Another important part of bread making is yeast fermentation. Yeast is a microscopic plant and is the leavening agent in bread and similar products. Fermentation is the process by which yeast acts on sugars and changes them into carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. The release of gas produces the leavening action in yeast products and helps with gluten development.
Yeast fermentation helps gluten development because of the expansion of air cells by yeast stretches the gluten just as mixing does. After proper fermentation, the gluten strengthens and the leavening also tenderizes the product. Too much fermentation, on the other hand, can hurt the gluten structure, because the gluten once again becomes overstretched. The over fermented dough has poor texture and has an off taste.
Since yeast is a living organism, it is sensitive to temperature. At 34 degree the yeast is inactive, which is perfect for the storage of yeast. From 60 to 70 degrees the yeast is slowly reacting. 70 degrees to 90 degrees is optimal for best growth for fermentation and proofing of bread dough. When you get above 100 degrees the reaction of the yeast slows. Anything about 130 degrees kills the yeast.
Bread Making 101: The 12 basic steps of bread production
There are 12 basic steps to follow when making yeast bread. These steps are generally applied to all yeast products, with some variations depending on the product that you are making.
1. Scaling/Measuring Ingredients
You must weigh or measure your ingredients properly. I prefer to weigh my ingredients when making bread. Weighing ensures accuracy in baking and whenever I am making a recipe I start with weight. Then convert to volume for others who would like the recipe but don’t want to buy a kitchen scale. I would recommend learning to use a scale when baking. You will see an improvement in the consistency of your product.
If you are measuring your ingredients, you need to make sure you are leveling off your ingredients. I recommend using a scoop and scooping your flour into your measuring cup. That helps prevent the flour from packing into the measuring cup. Which can add too much flour to the dough and result in a dry dough.
Special care must be taken when measuring spices and other ingredients that are measured in small quantities. This is very important when measuring salt because salt affects the rate of fermentation.
When making bread mixing has 3 main purposes. To combine the ingredients, to distribute the yeast evenly throughout the dough, and to develop gluten.
Let’s talk about mixing to ensure proper gluten development. When mixing the dough three important processes take place. First, the mixing action blends the water with the flour so the proteins can hydrate. After that takes place air is mixed into the dough. The oxygen in the air reacts with the gluten and helps strengthen the gluten to make the dough more elastic. When you continue mixing the gluten stretches and aligns the gluten into an elastic network.
When you make bread dough, the dough is soft and sticky, to begin with. But as the gluten develops, the dough becomes smooth and less sticky. If you overwork the dough the gluten strands will break and become stringy. Overmixing results in poor loaf volume, since the broken gluten is no longer able to hold structure.
Mixing times given in recipes are only guidelines! It is important to be able to tell when the dough is thoroughly mixed by sight and feel. The windowpane test is a good indicator of proper gluten development. You do the windowpane test you take a small part of the developed dough and stretch it. It should be thin and translucent enough to be able to see through the dough.
3. Bulk Fermentation
Fermentation is what happens when yeast reacts with the sugars and starches in the dough to produce a carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. When the dough is in the fermentation stage gluten becomes smoother and more elastic. Fermentation is important for the bread to be able to rise and hold volume. An underfermented dough will be coarse and an over fermented dough will become sour and have an off-putting smell. For proper fermentation, the dough temperature is about 80 degrees. Place your dough into a bowl and cover with a towel or saran wrap. The dough should double in size.
Punching? That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? After the fermentation is complete the dough is “punched” down to let out some of the carbon dioxides, relax the gluten and to equalize the temperature. To do this you fold the sides of the dough to the center while pushing down. If it is hard for you to tell when you need to do this, most suggest that you wait until the dough doubles in size.
5. Portioning the dough
Quickly portion the dough to avoid over fermentation. I recommend using a scale while dividing the dough to ensure that they are all the same size. If you do not have a scale you can use a bench scraper to cut the dough and eye the size of the dough. Remember that eyeing dough will not always produce rolls that are the same size.
After you cut the dough into portions you shape the pieces into smooth, round balls. You use your hand to roll the dough on the work bench into a smooth ball
7. Bench Proofing
The rounded portions of dough need to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. This relaxes to gluten which makes shaping easier and continues the needed fermentation of the dough. While the dough is resting cover the dough with a towel.
8. Makeup and Panning
Next thing you need to do is shape the dough into loaves or rolls and then place into pans or on baking sheets.
Proofing is the continuation of the process of yeast fermentation that increases the volume of the shaped dough. Proofing temperatures are generally higher than the fermentation temperatures. If you underproof the bread it will result in poor volume and a dense texture. Overproofing can cause the bread to have a coarse texture and a loss of flavor. Generally, you want the dough to double again but some recipes, like rich doughs, are slightly under proofed because they have a weaker structure.
A lot of changes take place during baking. The three biggest changes are a rapid rise to the bread, coagulation which means the product becomes firm and holds its shape, and the formation and browning of the crust.
Oven temperatures and baking times adjust depending on the product you are making. You bake lean bread at 400 to 425 degrees. Bake french bread from 425 to 450 degrees. Bake Rich products for 350 to 400 degrees. You bake rich doughs at a lower temperature because of their fat, sugar, and milk content which makes them brown faster. The baking time depends on the size of the dough that you are baking. Fully cooked bread has a golden brown crust. Cooked loaves sound hollow when thumped.
After the baking process, remove the bread from the pan and cool on a cooling rack. Cooling bread on racks allows moisture to escape. Do not cool bread in a draft because the crust may crack.
Store your bread in a moisture proof bread to prevent the bread from staling. Make sure that your bread has cooled before you place the bread into a bag or moisture will collect in a bag. If you would like you can wrap the bread in saran wrap and freeze the bread.
Do not place your bread in the fridge! It will only make the bread go stale faster.
Hopefully, this post helps you in your breadmaking process. I will be following this post with different types of bread. From lean dough to artisan bread. You are even going to learn how to make rolled-in dough like croissants and danishes.
I wanted to start with this post so that you could understand some of the basics to bread making before we begin our bread journey together.
Let me know a bread that you would like me to teach you how to make! I love to make bread and would love to help you impress your friends and family.