The Science of Bread-Making

Post by community member:

If you have already mastered the art of making yeast bread, you might want to browse Farm Bell Recipes or read stories on Chickens in the Road. This post is for cooks who have less experience with bread. You’ll find this interesting if you want to learn what role each of the ingredients has. I have taught a number of bread-baking classes and found that my students became much better bread bakers when they understood how things worked together.

Basic yeast bread needs flour, yeast, sugar, salt and liquid. Eggs and milk can also be used. For a basic white bread, bread flour or unbleached flour works the best. Yeast is often sold in strips of three packets. It’s much more cost effective to buy a one pound package and refrigerate it in an airtight container. My all time favorite yeast is SAF. It makes gorgeous loaves.

A sweetener could be sugar, or honey. Some say molasses, but that’s better in whole grain bread. The liquid could be water, milk, rice milk, or a combination of milk and water. While not absolutely necessary, the addition of oil or butter makes bread more tender.

It helps to think about the process when making bread. Yeast is a microorganism that has been dried. When you add warm water/milk, it “wakes up.” When you give it sugar, you are feeding it. Salt helps strengthen the gluten, and it slows things down so the yeast doesn’t give out too early. The yeast gives off carbon dioxide, which gets caught in the gluten of the flour. As the gas is trapped it pushes upward. While cooking, the liquid in the loaf gives off steam. This helps the loaf to expand. If eggs are used, they add to the nutrition and richness.

A basic white bread is the easiest thing to start with. You can then move on to whole grain breads. If you’ve never tried bread-baking, try some this fall. Warm bread with butter melting on the top is a treat on a crisp autumn day!

You can also find Patrice at Everyday Ruralty.

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