Breadmaking is a process of combining ingredients to create dough, then kneading it before leaving it to rise. The four main ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt.
This combination forms a soft, sticky dough that requires kneading before it’s left to rise. Kneading introduces air pockets into the dough that are essential for making fluffy bread.
Yeast is one of the most important ingredients in breadmaking. It allows dough to rise, making the bread fluffy and delicious.
It’s a fungus that, when activated by water and moderate temperatures, feeds on the sugars in the flour. As it does, yeast produces carbon dioxide, which inflates air bubbles that give the dough its texture.
Yeast is also responsible for beer and wine production. When yeast eats sugar, it converts it into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
A baker’s staple, flour is a powdery substance made by grinding or milling grains (usually wheat). Other grain-based products like rye and barley are also incorporated into flour.
Flour is important in breadmaking because it contributes to liquid binding and absorption. This is important to dough cohesiveness and helps breads stay light and soft.
Flour can be divided into several categories based on the amount of protein, and the type of milling it has undergone. Flours with higher protein levels develop gluten more quickly, making them ideal for breadmaking.
Water plays a huge role in breadmaking. It helps to enhance structure, crumb texture, flavour and regulates fermentation.
In fact, a high level of water is necessary for yeast and other living tools to survive in the dough system. It also acts as a solvent for salt and sugars.
The water used for baking is affected by a number of different factors, including the minerals present in the water supply. Water with too many minerals can slow the yeasts fermentation process. This makes it less suitable for quickly-made bread and can increase kneading times.
Salt has a wide range of uses in breadmaking. It helps regulate yeast fermentation, makes crumb and crust moist and slows down oxidation to preserve carotenoids.
It also accelerates the cross-linking of starch to starch and starch to protein, making the dough more resistant to extension and less sticky. It also strengthens the gluten structure which is crucial for yeasted dough products.
Adding salt to the flour during mixing has long been noticed by bakers as a way to alter certain characteristics of dough such as mixability, resistance to extension and machinability. However, it is important to add the salt gradually.
Sugar is a key ingredient in breadmaking. It keeps the dough soft and moist, and it helps keep the baked goods fresher longer by attracting water molecules to itself instead of to microorganisms.
It also adds sweetness and flavour to the final product. It is often used to balance out protein-based ingredients such as flour and yeast, and it can help to improve texture and browning.
There are a wide variety of sugars, ranging from agave nectar (high in fructose and sweeter than honey) to jaggery, which is made from date palm sap or sugar cane juice. These can vary in colour, crystal size and flavour.
Heat facilitates various physical and chemical reactions during bread baking that contribute to the final quality of the product. These include breaking, mallard reaction and caramelization.
As dough gathers internal heat, the starch and protein coagulate and gelatinize. These processes help the bread to rise and develop a hard crust.
The moisture in the dough also reduces as the temperature increases. Moisture loss depends on the heating mode and the baking conditions used in the oven.