As I’ve been learning more about cooking and baking, I’ve discovered that understanding the fundamentals behind recipes is vital. Yes, Pinterest can provide 100 bread recipes. But which one should you use?
So I’ve decided to start a series tentatively titled “How It Works & Why It Went Wrong.”
You may be thinking…why should I come read this instead of something else? After all, there are master chefs out there who can explain bread and know more about the complex history behind bread than anyone. True. But I’m going to explain it in English. Yep, no chemistry, no high-faluten “theories”…I want to know how it works and I want it in plain English.
Why does bread rise?
- Stretchy gluten not letting bubbles escape
• First, let’s look at yeast breads. I throw together flour, yeast, some warm water. Mix it, knead it. Let it sit and it starts expanding. Why?
Yeast bread rises because of a process called “fermentation.”
Basically, the yeast is alive. Yep, really. It “eats” the sugars (both any sugar added as well as the naturally occurring sugars in flour), digests it, and uh, exudes carbon dioxide (a gas…aka: a type of air). The air gets trapped in the dough and causes the dough to “rise.”
• “Quick” breads also rise. They use baking powder (which is literally baking soda plus a dry acid- cream of tarter) or baking soda & an acid. The baking soda & the acid, when exposed to water, react and leave you with three by-products: some chemical I can’t define (I think it’s a salt), water, and carbon dioxide bubbles. Yep, those bubbles again. This process is called leavening.
(If someone wants to get technical with you, leavening is rising by any means. So a yeast bread technically is both fermenting and leavening….while a quick bread only leavens. Make sense?)
• The process is the same for whatever bubbles we’re dealing with. Flour contains a bunch of proteins called glutens. When we add water, mix, and knead them, they wiggle around and change texture and become somewhat like bubble gum. They trap the little bubbles all throughout the bread. And presto, we have rising bread! As it cooks, the proteins set in place.
Next part of this series will be : Why didn’t my bread rise?