Bread is the product of baking a mixture of flour, water, salt, yeast and other ingredients. The basic process involves the breadman mixing the ingredients until the flour is converted into a stiff paste or dough, followed by baking the dough into a loaf.
Now that we’ve got our ingredients, it’s time to mix them! Even though mixing sounds simple, it’s a very important step. When making bread it greatly helps to mix the dry ingredients first before adding the wet ingredients.
Mixing assures all ingredients are spread out over the bread evenly. It assures yeast is spread out through the entire dough and thus makes it evenly fluffy. Also, it ensures the salt is mixed through evenly. Since too much salt will prevent growth of yeast, it prevents inhibition of yeast growth. Even mixing should be done with care. Yeast can be killed if the moisture added is too hot.
During the resting period the flour hydrates, more specifically the starch and gluten of the flour are hydrated by water. Water seeps into the grains and will sit around the molecules. If a flour has more fibers and grainy parts, it will take longer for water to travel through. Often a dough is a lot softer and more flexible after resting. It tends to make it easier for the breadman to knead in the next step.
Once a dough has been made by the breadman it is ready for its first rise, also called first fermentation. In order to make a fluffy bread, air pockets have to be made. These are grown through fermentation of the yeast. Yeast consume sugars and converts this into energy. While doing this carbon dioxide is formed. This is a gas and causes the dough to expand.
Baking is where the breadman turns dough in to bread. During baking a lot of things happen. First of all, the yeast gets one last growth spike. Just before it dies because of the high heat it will greatly increase in speed thanks to the nice warm temperature. This causes the loaf to expand. Second, the bread actually cooks. Moisture evaporates, gluten networks are fixed and starch cooks. Moreover, the Maillard reaction occurs, causing your bread to turn a nice golden brown.
The temperature of your oven influences how your bread turns out. A higher heat will give a darker crust more quickly. But, if the bread is very large, the outside may be nearly black whereas the inside is not yet cooked. Higher heats give thinner and softer crusts whereas lower heats give thicker crusts. The lower heat makes you having to bake your bread longer, so more moisture evaporates. This moisture evaporation is essential to make a crispy crust.
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