The Big 4 of Bread – By Michael Kalanty

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The wealth of technical information about bread baking can sometimes be overwhelming to the novice baker. There is so much that can be said about flour, the main component of bread, it’s better to give enough information to inform but not so much that it overwhelms and confuses.

A kernel (grain) of wheat has three parts: the Bran, the Endosperm, and the Germ. Each has properties that affect bread dough differently. Understanding these pats and how each one functions, helps you make better bread.

Endosperm is the largest component of the grain of wheat and makes up about 85% of the whole kernel. The ground Endosperm is what we commonly call Flour. On a nutritional level, Flour contains starch and protein. There is more starch in the Endosperm than protein. The protein in the flour gives the bread its structure and its elasticity. A baker needs both starch and protein when making bread. The protein is the framework that holds the bread up. The starch fills in the structure, providing the bread with taste, flavor and texture. In a high rise analogy, starch is the walls, floors, and ceilings. When you look at a slice of bread, the creamy white part you see is the starch. The tiny air cells inside the starch were formed by the protein matrix when the CO2 bubbles caused the dough to rise.

Bran is the light tan or reddish-brown outer covering of the wheat kernel. The Bran contains B vitamins, it also contains fiber. Adding wheat bran to a dough does two things: The small solid pieces of fiber cut through the strands of protein in the dough so kneading is slower and with less pressure. Secondly, since the bran is on the outside of the kernel, it’s covered with natural yeast. This extra yeast speeds up the fermentation process and helps the dough to rise.

Germ The Germ is the heart of the kernel, and seed, that sprouts into the next generation of wheat. It contains A, D, and E vitamins. It also contains a high amount of oil. (Store in a dark, cool place or refrigerate). It can be added to breads, giving them a rustic flavor. Lightly toasted, the wheat germ gives a nutty character to your breads. Add one ounce of toasted wheat germ per pound of flour in a formula.

Hard Flour vs Soft Flour
The more protein in a flour, the HARDER it is. Products made with a hard flour are chewier and sturdier than products made with a soft flour.
      Cake Flour is very soft with an average protein content of 8%.
      Pastry Flour is soft with an average protein content of 8.5%
      All-Purpose Flour is moderate with an average protein content of 10%
      Bread Flour is hard with an average protein content of 12%
      High Gluten Flour is slightly coarser than Bread Flour with an average protein       content of 13.5%

To find the best flour for your breads, do a bake test then compare results. One of them will work better for you in terms of handling, rising, and baking.

At The Bronwood Bakery, we specialize in using Muhammad Farms Premium Whole Wheat Flour in all our our baked goods. to learn more, click here.

Yeast is a fungus, a live organism. Individual yeast cells are extremely small; over 100 billion can be found in a Tablespoon of commercial yeast. The scientific name for commercial yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or S. cerevisiae, which means fungus that eats sugar.

Yeast cells digest food in order to live and multiply. Their preferred food is sugar. In a bread dough, the starch in the flour changes into sugars, providing the food source for the yeast. There are enzymes on the outside portion of the yeast cells. These help change the starches in the flour into sugars.

While digesting the sugars in the dough, yeast produces carbon dioxide gas, CO2. The elastic and stretchable protein network in the flour holds the CO2 gas inside the dough, causing the dough to rise. This whole process is called Fermentation.

Commercial yeast is available in three forms: Fresh, Active Dry, and Instant. There is also “wild yeast” that is available to leaven your breads.

Water is the second largest ingredient in bread making. Tap water works fine. Unless the water in your area is overly hard or extremely chlorinated, you can use it. If necessary, filter the water to remove some of the minerals and chemical additives. Bottled water can be used, but becomes costly if you plan on doing a lot of baking.

The most important consideration for water is its temperature. When dough is cold, the yeast action slows down; when the dough is warm, it speeds up. When the water is hot (over 125 degrees), it stops the yeast. As a rule of thumb, water should be 90 to 100 degrees at the start of the Ingredient Mixing Sequence. Bread dough is most reliable when its temperature is about 80 degrees. Water at 90 to 110 degrees warms cold flour and other ingredients, giving the dough a combined temperature of 80 degrees.

Salt performs several functions in bread baking. Salt provides Flavor. Without it, bread tastes flat and dull. Without salt crust color is dull and pale. Because salt slows the fermentation rate in the dough, there are more sugars left inside the dough by the time the dough is ready to bake. These remaining sugars are what caramelizes in the oven, giving bread it toasty aroma and dark, appealing crust color.

The color pigments inside the bread are preserved when the salt is added to the dough BEFORE kneading begins. When baked, the interior is cream-colored, and it has a distinctive wheat-like aroma. Without the salt, the color is pale, and the aroma is less prevalent.

Salt slows down, or retards, the action of the yeast. Without salt, the yeast sets out on a feeding frenzy, digesting all available sugars in the dough. The result is a quickly rising, alcohol-filled bread, with poor flavor. By slowing down the yeast’s activity, the dough develops a full, rounded flavor.

Salt helps to tighten the protein structure in the dough. Without salt, the dough is looser and tends to rip. During shaping, unsalted dough tends to be tacky, not handling as easily.

Any type of salt may be used in bread baking; sea salt and kosher salt are popular selections. Some bakers say that iodized table salt imparts a harsh taste profile to the bread, so it is generally avoided. Store salt in a dry place. Keep it covered.

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