Bread Magic- How bread works is fucking cool

I’m not joking when I say the way bread works is fucking cool; its literally a science experiment you can eat. So here are 6 little nuggets of knowledge that are both cool to know and will help you make your homemade bread even better.

Yeast is a bunch of little living creatures

Yup, those weird little brown sprinkles in a packet of instant yeast are actually little micro organisms and their digestive process is what makes bread rise. The yeast chows down on the sugar and the natural sugars in the flour and excretes bubbles of carbon dioxide. These bubbles inflate and stretch the gluten strands to form the light and fluffy structure of a really good loaf of bread. Essentially bread is a net made of gluten strands and CO2 bubbles.

Why salt AND sugar?

Adding both salt and sugar to a recipe may seem counter intuitive but they both serve a unique purpose. The sugar acts as food for the yeast, as we discovered above. The salt has two jobs. First (the obvious one) it seasons the bread for a great taste, secondly it keeps the yeast in check. Without the salt to limit the rise the yeast will produce too much CO2 and cause tunnelling through your loaf. If the salt makes direct contact with the yeast before mixing it will kill your little micro organism friend so be sure to weigh them out separately like this:

Water measurements will always vary

Most bread recipes will give you a specific water measurement, however this can be misleading. The amount of water your bread needs to be the perfect texture can vary depending on your flour. The level of moisture in your flour can be affected by its age, your climate or even the current weather conditions. Some days you may need more water than the recipe calls for but others it could require less. To combat this add your water a little bit at a time until it reaches the right consistency, this will get easier to figure out with practice.

Kneading is the most important part

This stage is your make or break when it comes to the texture of your loaf. Kneading is where you develop the gluten strands needed to trap the CO2 bubbles and create an open dough framework. Underkneading can result in heavy stodgy bread, gross. This point is so crucial in my eyes that I have a whole video on it coming in the final instalment of my bread series, stay tuned!

Always prove to double in size

This is a pet peeve of mine when I’m reading bread recipes online. They will often say ‘Prove for 1 hour’ and then move swiftly on to the next step. This is a load of bollocks. Yet again (bread is a fickle mistress) proving time depends on your surroundings. Heat and humidity play a major role in how fast your bread rises because yeast loves a warm environment. On a hot day your dough could prove in no time, on a cold day it could take hours! The rule of thumb is to always prove to double in size, no matter how long that takes.

Shaping and Slashing

This is the point where you get to make your bread pretty. You want to create a nice round boulle (fancy french word for you) with a good amount of surface tension so the loaf rises up tall and even. You can do that by tucking the dough under itself like this:

After the shaping the dough must be proved again until its grown by about two thirds.

Your dough is going to split as it does its final prove in the oven (known rather whimsically as oven spring) but by slashing it you can ensure that it splits in a more aesthetically pleasing manner. There are many ways to do this to achieve different looks. The loaf in my Basic Bread Starter post is a simple cross with a very sharp knife but here’s one that’s a bit more fun:

With any luck all these elements will come harmoniously together to give you something like majestic loaf (if I do say so myself).

Happy Baking!

..to recieve a free printable conversion chart to make converting recipes quick and easy.

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