This article throws light upon the ten main steps involved in bread making. The steps are:- 1. Collecting the Mise en Place 2. Mixing of the Ingredients 3. Proving 4. Knock Back 5. Dividing and Scaling 6. Shaping/Panning 7. Final Proving 8. Scoring 9. Baking 10. Cooling the Baked Bread.
The most important thing required in any pastry operations is to collect your mise en place. This will allow you to do things in a planned manner and the product also will come out of the desired quality. Weigh all the ingredients as per the recipe and make sure the ingredients are at the required temperature. If the recipe calls for ice water, then use ice water.
Substituting cold water from tap will not give the desired results. Weigh using a digital scale, as accuracy of ingredients is very important in pastry. Sift the flour to remove any impurities.
Test the freshness of yeast by checking the following:
i. It should have a fresh smell.
ii. It should be firm and should crumble easily.
iii. The yeast shown be of ‘fawn’ colour.
iv. It should become liquid if creamed with little sugar.
v. The temperature of the yeast should be in the range of 5°C.
Select and prepare the bread tins. Always use thick and heavy pans for baking bread as they can withstand the high temperatures of the oven, without getting deformed with the heat. Shapes of bread rely on the mould used. Grease the mould with oil properly, to avoid the baked bread sticking to the mould.
Make sure that the temperature of the oven is at required degree as the temperature of the baking is very crucial and would change with different types of breads.
Mixing of the ingredients involves much more than just mixing everything together to form a dough. There are many methods in which bread can be mixed or kneaded and we shall discuss them individually as they form the basis of bread making.
Broadly these mixing methods are classified under three headings such as:
i. Straight dough method
ii. Ferment/sponge method
iii. Salt delayed method
This is one of the most popular methods used in bread production and as the name suggests, is simple and straight forward. The fermentation time can vary between 30 minutes to 14 hours. The time of fermentation can be controlled by the moisture content, yeast content, and the salt content. Wholewheat breads are made with one hour of fermentation as the doughs absorb more water, than in white flour.
The time of the fermentation can also vary with the type of ingredients. Very strong gluten flour will require a long fermentation time to help in the softening and mellowing of the gluten. However, a wholewheat bread or germ bread will require a shorter fermentation time due to the high enzyme activity in the germ of the wheat grain, and the higher water content in the dough.
The shortest method is the ‘no time dough method’ which call for a high percentage of yeast (two and a half per cent) and the dough is directly made, scaled, and moulded. This is not a very good method of bread making and must be resorted only in dire circumstances.
This method is not very efficient as it has certain limitations such as:
i. There is not enough time for the gluten to ripen or mellow down and the bread contains only carbon dioxide gas and in reality there has not been enough fermentation in the dough, so the bread lacks the flavour.
ii. The finished product is generally of poor quality and the bread becomes stale quickly because of insufficient gluten ripening.
iii. The bread structure also will show uneven expansion as the gas is not evenly distributed in the gluten network.
iv. The bread will lack the characteristic aroma of well-fermented bread as there is not enough time for the various chemical changes to take place.
Germ breads are made with this method, due the high enzyme activity that causes the dough to ripen quickly. The dough is made warm preferably to help develop the flavour of the dough quickly. The most commonly used straight dough processes are of one to five hours of bulk fermentation. This is the time from the dough making to the scaling of the dough.
The temperature of the dough increases with time as the fermentation is an exothermic reaction—involving release of some heat energy. Thus one must be careful in mixing the ingredients because if the temperature goes beyond 50°C, the yeast will die. It becomes difficult to control the fermentation process in the long processes. The longer processes are used only when the dough or the gluten is too harsh to be made into bread and the entire gluten can stand long fermentation strains.
As the fermentation time increases, the gluten softens to a larger extent. Thus the water content is also reduced. Along with this, the salt content is increased and the yeast content is lowered. This will lower the fermentation rate and help conserve maximum gassing power in the final stages. The very long process is not widely practiced and is replaced by a shorter sponge or a ferment and dough process as described here.
Breads and buns can be made in two stages to help the fermentation and yet achieve better dough ripening.
1. Ferment and dough process.
2. Sponge and dough process.
‘Ferment’ is a proportion of water, yeast, yeast food such as sugar, and just enough flour to make a thin batter. The yeast readily disperses in the water and begins assimilating the food dissolved in the water. It begins fermenting immediately and multiples and is soon active and vigorous. This makes it ready to undertake the harder work of fermenting the dough.
Ferment is made and kept until it shows a sign of collapse. This is when it is considered to be at its optimum for the bread fermentation. Usually, 30 minutes to one hour for fermentation is sufficient for achieving good results.
Ferment is usually used for doughs when they contain rich ingredients and are high in sugar concentration. Usually the ideal concentration for yeast to work is 10 per cent sugar. Thus, ferment made with this concentration will give the bread a boost.
A flying ferment is haphazard guess of water, yeast, sugar and flour which is allowed to stand only till the rest of the ingredients are weighed and the dough is prepared—approximately 10 to 20 minutes. This is done to activate the yeast and many of the books mention it as creating a well in the centre of flour and breaking up yeast with water and sugar and sprinkling little flour on top. When the bubbles start to appear on top, it is an indication that the yeast is active.
‘Sponge’ can be said to be a stiffer version of the ferment. The rate of fermentation is hence lesser and the sponge is kept for a longer time. It is made by mixing a part of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt (sometimes not), and some or all the water. The speed of the fermentation is controlled by the amount of yeast added, addition of salt, water content and the temperature of both the sponge as well as the holding temperature. When the sponge rises and collapses, the remaining materials are added to make dough which is then given bulk fermentation.
The size of the sponge in relation to the dough will give the name to the process. For example, one fourth sponge, one third sponge, half sponge. The sponge quantity will go only up to 75 per cent of the dough content.
The main purpose of the sponge is to help develop a mellow flavour which is the result of the long fermentation. This is done without subjecting all the gluten to the harsh fermentation process and thus staggering the quantity of gluten present in the final product. This prevents a weak structure or a collapse of the bread.
In most bakeries a portion of the previous day’s dough is added to achieve this effect. The dough thus ripens well at walk in temperatures 5 to 7°C for a long period of time (16 to 18 hours minimum) and gives excellent flavour to the bread. This is also known as sour dough or ferment. In Italian this ferment is known as biga and in French it is called levain. In India it is known as khameer.
One must be careful while kneading the dough. Many dough mixers have two speeds such as slow and high speed to knead the dough. Many bread recipes call for kneading the dough at slow speed for couple of minutes and then increasing the speed to high speed. Usually bread is kneaded until a film is formed when the dough is stretched. This is also known as windscreen test.
It is an excellent process used initially for harsh gluten flours, but now widely used for all bread making process as it drastically reduces the fermentation time without giving any change in quality. This process calls for the omission of salt in the first stages of dough making. As was discussed earlier, salt is helpful in controlling the pace of fermentation by the yeast and hence when the salt is omitted in the first stages, the action of the yeast will increase.
The gluten will ripen or soften well due to the rapid action of the gases released. The chemical changes that take place in the dough will also become fast and the effect of the acids produced will be visible in a shorter time.
The salt is added later on in the following three ways:
1. By sprinkling the salt over the dough
2. By using some water reserved from the original quantity
3. By using some fat to incorporate the salt
This process is the best method of conditioning dough without using higher yeast contents or an increase in fermentation temperature or time.
The next step is to let the dough to ferment. ‘Proving’ means to let the dough rise to at least double in size. This is done to let the yeast break down sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The gases thus released help to ferment the dough and distribute uniformly. The ideal temperature for proving is 32°C.
Proving is done in three stages. One is done after kneading, called first proving; the second is done after ‘knock back’ (refer to the next step given below), called intermediate proving; and the final proving is done after shaping the bread.
So we can say that fermentation is done for the following reasons:
i. It helps in production of carbon dioxide gas which aerates the dough.
ii. It helps to condition the dough. This is through the enzymatic action due to reduction of natural sugars for assimilation by yeast.
iii. It helps to reduce the proteins to simpler nitrogenous compounds for growth and development of the yeast.
iv. The enzymes are active during the fermentation period. The sugars are broken down to release heat which causes the temperature of the dough to rise. This rise can be controlled by the speed of fermentation and the storage temperature.
The fermented dough is punched down to knock off the air bubbles that had developed during the intermediate proving. This is so done to redistribute the yeast and the other ingredients evenly all through the dough. After knocking back the dough is allowed to rest for a while as the gluten tends to stretch and it will be difficult to mould the bread.
This stage is called intermediate proving. It is important not to over knead the dough in the machines as the gluten will loose its resilience. The knock back is also done to equalize the temperature in the dough.
This is used to portion dough into pieces of the required weight. As discussed in the above paragraph, it is important to rest the dough before dividing and shaping is done. The scaling of the bread that needs to be baked in a mould will depend upon the size of the mould.
Though there is no particular formula to calculate the weight, normally a loaf is calculated by pounds, so one pound loaf of bread will be baked in a one pound mould (the moulds are sold by volume they can hold). The scanning of rolls will depend upon the final usage of the product. Table 19.4 shows the weights of certain breads. This should be used only as reference and the weights could change with regards to the usage.
Divided pieces of dough are shaped in the form of loaves or rolls. It should be done in a sparingly floured surface, handling the dough gently and placing it for final proving. After a few minutes of resting, the dough reaches its optimum ripening. Thus the dough is scaled and then shaped. As the dough is deflated during knock back, it has to be carefully manipulated again as it becomes more resilient.
Machine dividing can destroy the structure of the dough. The dough is rested slightly before shaping, to allow for shaping without pressure. This final moulding is essential as the shape of the product and the crumb structure is affected. This step is also known as panning, which means to shape the bread and put in a pan.
As the dough is being shaped it is temporarily ‘degassed’ and the gluten tightens. If the dough is mature and the moulding done correctly, the skin surface will be smooth. The objective of the final proof is to allow the loaf to expand completely before baking. The production of the gas and the breakdown of the sugars must be vigorous and the gluten should be in such a condition, that it is strong enough to hold the gases and expand.
The condition under which the final proof is carried out is important. If there is a lack of humidity, the dough surface will dry and there will be a lack of bloom on the crust of the bread. Skinning is the result of draughts of air, and will show as grey patches. Excessive humidity will result in a tough leathery crust, a wrinkled surface, and holes under the top crust of the loaf.
The final proving is usually done in equipment known as proving cabinet or proving chamber. Proving chambers have a temperature of 30°C and are maintained at humidity levels of 90 per cent which is the ideal condition for the yeast to work and ferment the dough. In case one does not have a proving cabinet, it is advisable to place the bread in a warm place sprinkled with water or covered with plastic to avoid the formation of scales on the dough which will then cause a fault in the bread.
It is the process of giving marks on top of the dough with a sharp blade or a knife. It helps the bread to expand during baking without cracking. This step is not mandatory and chefs can choose to do scoring to give a rustic look to the breads. However certain breads, such as classical French baguette, have scoring marks on them.
Some chefs score the breads after shaping and some choose to do it just before baking. The look of the bread is different in both the cases.
The bread is ready to be baked once it has proved to optimum. Under proving of the dough will yield in cracked loaf and over proving will make the bread collapse in the final baking process. The bread is said to have proved well, if it springs back when depressed slightly.
During baking, dough goes through the following three stages:
The oven spring occurs and the gas bubbles in the dough expand and it rises rapidly. The yeast activity increases rapidly in the oven and the activity of the yeast stops as it kills the yeasts at 60°C. The gas in the dough expands and so do the steam and the alcohol vapour pressure. This causes a sudden burst in the volume of the bread and is called the ‘oven spring’. Some of the starch is gelatinized to make it more susceptible to the enzyme activity.
The dough solidifies because of the coagulation of proteins and transform into bread. Here the gases escape out of the dough leaving a dispersion of holes, which are responsible for the sponginess of the bread.
The dough gets its colour and crust. Enzymes are active till about 80 to 90°C producing sugars even beyond the yeast activity. This helps in the colouring of the crust. The enzyme activity helps in the crumb, crust colour, and bloom of the bread.
As the baking proceeds, weight is lost by the evaporation of the moisture from the crust. As the moisture is driven off, the crust takes on a higher temperature, reaching the temperature of the oven. The sugars caramelize and the breakdown of the soluble protein blends to form the attractive colour of the crust. The sugars caramelize at 140°C.
The texture of the bread can be altered by regulating the heat at this stage. Crusty bread would require lowering the temperature after the bread is baked to 80 per cent. This would help the top crust to get dry thereby giving a crisp crust to the loaf. The crust of the bread can also be altered by giving various types of glazes, which is mostly done in case of bread rolls.
Table 19.5 shows various glazes and toppings for bread:
When the bread has been taken out from the oven, it is essential that it should be demolded and cooled reasonably quickly, as insufficiently cooled bread when sliced will be subject to mold formation and spoilage.
The bread must be cooled on a wire rack because if the bread is placed on a flat surface, the heat from the base will condense and the humidity will let the molds grow into the bread. Also, proper cooling allows for evaporation from the surface of the loaf which would otherwise condense on the crust, known as ‘sweating’. This will show as moist patches on the crust.
Here we also came to know a little history regarding some bread and what are the various uses that these breads can be put to.
The following points summarize production of bread:
1. Keep everything warm during fermentation. Yeast requires warmth so that fermentation may take place.
2. Mix to a soft dough. Some flours are more absorbent than others and require more liquid. The dough must be elastic. If it is too dry it becomes hard and not elastic in texture.
3. Knead the dough thoroughly to distribute the yeast throughout the dough.
4. Place the dough in a warm position to rise until twice its original size. In the presence of moisture, sugar and warmth, fermentation takes place; the gas produced expands causing the bread to rise.
5. Knead lightly the second time to expel the gas which escapes as the dough collapses and to reduce the volume of this dough and yield a dough of a closer texture.
6. Allow to rise or prove a second time to continue the action of fermentation, which has been retarded by the kneading.
7. Do not over prove. The bulbs of gas may expand until they break through the dough, which will collapse and cause a heavy loaf that is sour in flavour.
8. Place in a very hot oven (235°C). This will kill the yeast and stop the bread from continuing to rise. It will enable this starch to gelatinize and proteins to coagulate giving a stable structure to the loaf/rolls.
9. Reduce the heat after the roll or load is set so that the loaf cooks through to the centre without burning.
10. Cooked bread should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.