Thursday, 15 December 2011

BREAD BAKING: Understanding the Main Ingredients and Their Functions in Bread Baking

BREAD BAKING: Understanding the Main Ingredients and Their Functions in Bread Baking:

The science of bread making lies on the functions of each of its ingredients and how they interact with each other and with other factors present in bread baking.  There are four major ingredients for bread, particularly yeast , and these will be discuss in this article.  We will also be expounding on each of these ingredients in separate articles.  These are :  FLOUR, YEAST, WATER, & SALT.  We will also be discussing other ingredients such as fat, sugar, eggs, and chemical bread improvers.

Why do we need to know these?   It is important in order to better understand how each ingredients functions and interacts during the baking process in order for us to be able to overcome any problems that may arise during the baking process and for us to be able to develop better recipes. 

1. FLOUR :  Flour is the main ingredients in bread making and it is basically the basis in determining the amount of yeast, water, and salt to be used in a certain bread recipe.  As  mentioned in my post see Baking Ingredients: Flour   flour provide the backbone, bulk, body, structure, texture, and flavor of the baked goods

The type and quality of the flour greatly affects the bread. In order to understand this, we have to know the composition of a flour, particularly, wheat flour which is the most common flour used in most baking process, bread, cakes, or otherwise.  Here are the major constituents of wheat flour:  protein (10.5 – 13%), carbohydrates / starch (71-74%), water/moisture (12-14%), minerals in the form of ash (0.45-0.65%)  Please take note that a high level of ash is an indication of a bad wheat flour quality as it affects quality in terms of gluten quality.

The two important composition of wheat flours that has a high impact in the production of bread are:

Protein - protein when it interacts with water forms gluten.  The higher the protein content of a flour, the more and better gluten can be developed.   The mixing process (mechanical or through hand kneading) of the water and the protein allows the development of longer and stronger chains we call gluten network in the dough which will form the backbone of the dough.  These chains of gluten provide elasticity to the dough and allow the dough to capture and retain the gasses created by the yeast during the fermentation and cooking, and there by allowing the dough to expand making the bread lighter. Thus, a well developed gluten network provides better gas retention that translates to better volume in breads. That is precisely why the first thing they teach you in actual bread processing is how to properly mix the dough to achieve better gluten.  How to know that you achieved a well developed gluten? Tear a small part of the mixed dough and stretch it.  The dough should not break and should form a thin plastic-like stretch, when you see that, you got a well-developed gluten.

In the bread manufacturing industry, the addition of gluten is important. (Gluten can be bought from food ingredient companies) Additional quantity of gluten in the dough helps increase the absorption and retention of moisture and helps in better processing.  Not to mention that it also improves the volume of the end product.  The addition of gluten just by one percent improves 0.6 % of protein and helps in improving the water addition by 1.5% in the dough. By addition of gluten in the formula, mixing and fermentation times are generally increased and tolerances are improved.

Starch –  Starch is a long chain of sugar that provides the necessary food (sugar) for the yeast during the fermentation process.  The starch absorbs water and becomes fully hydrated and when heated it gelatinized.  During baking gelatinization which occurs at 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit or (60-82 degrees Celsius) the starch gets embedded in the gluten network. This is the time all the structure is set. The starch when gelatinized forms the crumbs.

As mentioned earlier, the kind of flour affects the bread.  For you to be able to produce a good bread, our suggestion is to use flour with higher protein content.  You go with bread flour or all purpose flour.  Also, always check the labels, since not all flour even those with the same brand have the same amount of protein in it.  For better quality breads use, bread flours,

For further reading, see Baking Ingredients: Flour

2. YEAST :  There are different leavening agents used in bread making: baking powder and baking sodas for quick breads and for yeast breads, yeasts are used.  Yeast is an essential ingredient in bread baking,  particularly for baking yeast breads.  Yeast is a one-celled organism that under the right conditions – right temperature, right amount of liquid, and the right amount of sugar, it releases carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol through fermentation, which will make the dough rise and gives volume to the bread as well as flavor. 
For further reading, see  Baking Ingredients: Yeast

3. WATER & OTHER LIQUID :  These are the second largest ingredient in bread process and is an indispensable component of a dough.  Water is the most common liquid used for making breads.  Milk as well as juices can also be used. 

The main function of water and the other liquids in bread making is on the hydration of flour and other ingredients as this is the start of the baking process.  This activates the chemical process among ingredients to produce the key elements to baking a good bread, such us gluten, gelatinization of starch, and the development of flavor, volume, structure and texture, as well as stability, and extensibility of the dough.  The quantity of liquid greatly affects the finished product. Too much liquid results in a denser, stickier, flatter loaf with less regular holes in it. Too little liquid on the other hand restricts the expansion of the dough and results in a tight, dry, hard loaf.  However, there is no such thing as right amount of liquid to be added as it all depends on the absorption capability of the flour used.

Also, the kind of water, hard or soft, also creates an impact in  bread baking.  For further readings, please see Baking Ingredients :  Water and Other Liquids

4. SALT :  Salt is an essential ingredient in bread making specially in yeast breads.   Yeast is not only used to add flavor and balance the sweetness in bread.  The bread will be insipid, tasteless, and boring without salt.  It’s most important function however are: 1. It helps in conditioning the dough by strengthening the gluten network of the dough making it firmer and more resilient 2. it helps control the fermentation process thereby creating  a better texture for the bread.

For further reading, see Baking Ingredients: Salt

 © Fresha-licious (14December 2011)

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Sources / References :
1. Previous training notes provided by Puratos Philippines( )
2. Yeast:  A Treatise on Baking  by The Fleischman Division of Standard Brands, Inc - 3. On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky
4. The Professional Pastry chef :  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry (4th Ed) by Bo Friberg.
5. My Bread by Jim Lahey
6. The Essential Baker by Carole Bloom
7. Baking Ingredient Science By Linda Larsen, Guide ( )
9. by Willie Prejean
13.  Real Bread-making –

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