Bread Chemistry 101 - Healthy Eating, Cooking, and Baking Blog at - 284085

Healthy Eating, Cooking, and Baking

Bread Chemistry 101 
Sep. 14, 2012 2:17 am 
Updated: Mar. 28, 2013 2:56 pm
So far we have covered some of the benefits of long fermentation and parts of the grain seed and their benefits, but we still need to know what happens when we make bread. How do all of the ingredients work together and how do different ingredients affect the outcome of the finished product? Once you have a basic understanding of the functions of the ingredients, you will be able to modify recipes with a better chance of success in the outcome. This is not to say that all “experiments” will be successful, but you will have a better chance to figure out where things went wrong and how to make corrections. Bread making is truly a chemistry, and every loaf of bread is a learning experience. Many of my favorite bread recipes have been created through a series of tweaking to get the results that I wanted. In this post, I hope to give you enough knowledge to experiment on your own.

The basic bread is only flour, water, salt, and yeast. I have posted a recipe that uses only these ingredients to make an excellent loaf that is much like Italian bread. The link is; < if you want to try it. This is an excellent basic no-knead long fermentation bread that that does not use whole grain flour.

Anyway, back to the chemistry and how everything works together. Flour provides the strength to the dough through the gluten content and the food (sugars) for the yeast. Higher protein (gluten) flours will provide a higher, less dense loaf. Water activates the yeast, the phytase in the flour, and creates a growing medium for the yeast. Salt helps to control the yeast growth. It actually kills some of the yeast so that it can’t grow so fast that it kills itself with its own gases. Yeast is the living organism that makes the whole thing work. These little guys live a very happy but short life to make our bread develop and raise into our perfect loaf.

Each type of flour and grain has a different amount of gluten, or protein, and sugars. The more protein that a grain has, the less help it needs to provide structure to the bread that will help the dough to hold the gases released by the yeast as it grows. Water activates the yeast that uses the sugars in the flour to grow and multiply. This is the reason that long fermentation bread is better for people with diabetes. The bread actually has less sugar because the yeast consumes it.  As the yeast multiplies and consumes the sugars, it gives off an alcohol gas that stretches the dough causing it to raise. This is the reason that most no-knead breads don’t need to be kneaded. The stretching of the dough by the gases from the yeast does the kneading for you.

This is particularly useful in whole grain breads. Freshly ground flours and those that contain whole grains contain the bran of the grain. The bran, even ground, has sharp edges that can cut and damage the gluten strands as they develop. Think of the gluten strands as a kind of web of strands that hold the dough together as the gasses of the yeast stretch it. If the gluten strands are cut by the bran, the dough loses structure and is unable to hold in the gasses. This can also happen if the bread is over-kneaded. The dough will simply not raise.

The salt kills some of the yeast to prevent it from raising too fast. If the yeast were uncontrolled, the gasses that it gives off kills will it. This is probably similar to our eating too many beans. After the dough has fermented, we need to “punch” it down to release the gas so that the yeast can continue to grow. Then we fold or knead it to redistribute the food for the yeast. This is all done after the fermentation, or the first raising. It can also be beneficial to punch down and turn the dough once or twice during a long fermentation.
After the fermentation of the dough (the first raise), the dough is “punched” down, folded, and allowed to rest at least 15 minutes. Then it is formed into a loaf shape and allowed to raise, or proof, until it has raised to not quite double its original size. This time usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, but can vary depending on temperature in the environment and yeast activity. The dough should be baked when it has risen to less than double because the oven temperature will accelerate yeast growth and the release of gasses that will cause oven spring (additional raising in the oven). If the dough is allowed to raise too long before baking, the gasses and alcohol given off by the yeast will start to kill it, and it will have no energy left for additional growth.

When the bread is baked, the additional heat will cause a surge of yeast growth that will cause oven spring. The heat will also cause sugars on the outside of the loaf to form a crust. If the crust forms before gasses and moisture have been released, the top of the loaf will open in cracks to release them. For a nicer looking loaf, the top of the loaf should be slice on an angle at intervals to allow release of the gasses and to create a nicer looking loaf.

When baking bread, keep in mind that all times for raising and baking times can vary depending on your environment and oven. A warmer environment will cause faster fermentation and raising times. Variations in your oven size and type (gas vs. electric) can cause baking times to vary. As you gain experience, you will learn what the dough should look like to get the best results. When baking, a thermometer comes is very handy. As a general rule for most breads, the internal temperature should be 1900 to 2000. If you don’t have a thermometer, the loaf should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Although the basic bread recipe contains only flour, water, salt, and yeast, you will come across many recipes that contain other ingredients. Most often the additional ingredients are enhancers that make improvements to the bread to compensate for the use of whole grains or other purposes. The following is a list of enhancers, what they do, and how to use them. You can use items in this list to improve results of your own modifications to bread recipes.

Bread Dough Enhancers

Dough enhancers / improvers can improve the texture, taste and crust of the bread. Some act as preservatives which helps keep your bread fresher long and they are natural and perfectly safe to add to your bread.

Substitute 1/4 tsp. instant yeast for 1/4 cup of starter or vice versa

To substitute instant or bread machine yeast for active dry yeast, use 25% less instant yeast than active dry

The following table will help you understand the different dough enhancers / improvers and their uses. I compiled this list from a number of different references. This is probably more information than most bakers need, but this list can be helpful in finding substitutions when you don’t have ingredients on hand.
Lecithin – 1 tbsp. per recipe
- Helps keep bread fresher longer & works with the gluten to make a lighter bread. It also helps make the bread moister and acts as a mild preservative.
- Cut back on a tablespoon or two of fat and substitute it with an all-natural, soy-bean based add-in. However, any time you start substituting fat with something else, the recipe is automatically altered in both texture and flavor.
- Made from soy or egg yolks.
- Comes in liquid or granular form.

Diastatic Malt – 1/2 to 1 tsp. per 3 cups flour
- Its enzymes help yeast grow effectively and efficiently, resulting in better texture, more flavor and improved shelf life

Non-Diastatic Malt – Use strictly as a sweetener
- Diastic malt without the enzyme activity capability

Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) – 1/8 tsp. per recipe (Orange juice can be used at 2 tbsp per recipe
- Creates an acidic environment for the yeast which helps it work better. It also acts as a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth. With just a touch of ascorbic acid, in your Artisan breads, the yeast will work longer and faster. French bakers add it to their French bread, baguette or boule recipe. 
- If you can't find pure ascorbic acid crystals you can use Fruit Fresh (canning isle) or a crushed/powdered vitamin C tablet, but measure accordingly.

Dry Acid Whey – 1 tsp. per recipe
- It is the essence of buttermilk without the milk solids. Like with Ascorbic Acid it helps create a good environment for the yeast work quickly and vigorously, giving a maximum rise in short periods of time. Acts as a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth. 
- When buying Dry Acid Whey make sure it says "acid" on the package. If it doesn't assume it is sweet whey which isn't the same and won't work correctly.

Vital Wheat Gluten - Use 1 teaspoon per cup of all-purpose or 1- 2 teaspoons per cup of bread flour; 1-1/2 to 3 teaspoons for every cup of whole grain
- Vital wheat gluten occurs naturally in all wheat and wheat derived white flours. Some white flours have more or less than others. In a dry form, it is used to give the yeast a boost because it contains a high amount of gluten forming proteins. Vital wheat gluten only does one thing, it helps improve the rise and texture of bread. Without it you have a rock, door stop, paper weight.
- Use it in your heavier breads that rise slowly, such as rye, whole grains, or ones loaded with sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Do not add it to regular bread recipes. Some people use it all the time when using a Bread Machine especially when using whole grain or all-purpose flour. 
- Generally, if you are using white bread flour, you don’t need to add any gluten. However, all-purpose or whole grain flours need Vital Wheat Gluten.
- To substitute whole grain for bread flour, add 1 oz. (28.35 gm) vital wheat gluten for 16 oz. (453.59 gm) of whole grain flour
- It’s better to use less than more as too much vital wheat gluten can make your bread tough.

Dough Relaxer – Add a few tablespoons to your favorite recipe
- A combination of all-natural, gluten relaxing ingredients. It's useful so you don't have to fight the dough when it is shaped and rolled, because of its gluten strands. However, you can also just relax the dough during shaping by covering it with a towel and letting it rest for 5 - 10 minutes on your countertop.
- Dough relaxer greatly facilitates rolling out pizza dough
Pectin – 1 tsp. per recipe
- Pectin adds moistness to the bread and it replaces fat in the bread. This is the same pectin used to make jams and jellies. It comes in liquid and granular form. The granules are easier to work with and store.
Ginger – 1 tsp. per loaf
- Ginger is a yeast booster it gives it a "quick-start", and keeps it working. Because of its astringent properties it also helps keep the bread fresher longer and it deters mold and bacterial growth. It is best to use powdered ginger in your bread. 
 It is most useful in long fermentation breads and for those that use a sour dough starter
- You don't have to worry you won't taste it in the amount used.
Dry Milk – 1 tbsp. per cup of flour
- Not to be confused with Instant Non-fat Dry Milk Powder. Milk helps with crust browning, bread moisture, taste and nutritional value. It also helps the dough to relax for those times you want to roll it out or shape it. Dry milk or powdered milk also works.
- Some recipes call for scalded milk. but scalding is no longer necessary since  pasteurization. The purpose of scalding is to break down the serum protein in milk that can adversely affect the bread’s structure. This process is necessary only for unpasteurized milk since pasteurizing sufficiently heats the milk to break down the serum protein. Most non-fat dry milks are high heated, but not all. 
- I generally use baker’s dry milk, but sometimes use non-fat dry milk with no adverse effects. 
Gelatin – 1 tsp per recipe. Add with dry ingredients
- Gelatin helps with bread texture and moisture. It is also of nutritional value and is good for the hair and fingernails. Make sure to use unflavored gelatin powder; do not reconstitute.
Fats – 1 tbsp. per cup of flour
- Fats help with taste, texture and the moisture of the bread. Most French bread recipes don't contain fat as it takes away the chewiness of the bread. You don't need to be worried about the fat content of most bread. Most recipes use a tablespoon or two and that is for the whole loaf. A single slice is very low in fat.
- To increase nutritional values in bread, I have used various nut oils such as almond and walnut, and sometimes olive oil. Butter is also good in some breads
Eggs – 1 egg replaces part of the liquid in the recipe, measure to know how much
- Eggs add rise, color, texture and taste to bread. Also, if you use the yolk as well you get some of the effects like using lecithin.
Buttermilk – 1/2 cup replaces part of the liquid in the recipe
- Buttermilk helps the yeast work quickly and vigorously, giving maximum rise in the time frame allotted by bread machines. It also softens the texture of the bread. Like with any acid type addition it also helps keep the bread fresher longer and it deters mold and bacterial growth. You may need to add 1/2 to 1 tsp. of baking soda to the bread to offset the tartness of the buttermilk. I personally, like the tartness as it reminds me of sourdough.
Garlic – 1 tsp per recipe
- Garlic is a flavoring in larger amounts, but in smaller amounts it helps the yeast, it makes the dough easier to roll out and it is a preservative & deters mold and bacterial growth.
Cake Flour – up to 1/4 of the flour called for in the recipe (no more)
- Cake flour makes for a softer more tender bread. It also makes a good addition to pizza dough as it helps make rolling out the dough easier.
Potato Flour – 3 tbsp. per loaf
- Adds moisture to the bread and extends the shelf life. Can also use 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes. Increase water for addition of potato flour and decrease water for addition of mashed potatoes. 1/2 cup of potato flakes can be used

The following is information I have found on some different types of wheat and their uses.

Types of Wheat

In the United States, there are six predominate types of wheat.

Hard winter red wheat: This wheat is mostly grown in the Plains states as well as the northern states and Canada. It is a versatile wheat with excellent baking characteristics for pan bread. It is also used for Asian noodles, hard rolls, flat breads, general purpose flour and as an improver for blending. It is moderately high in protein (about 10.5%) which makes it good as an all-purpose or bread flour. About 40% of all of the wheat grown in the United States is hard winter red wheat.

Hard spring red wheat: This wheat is mostly grown in the northern states and Canada. It is considered the aristocrat of wheat when it comes to "designer" wheat foods like hearth breads, rolls, croissants, bagels and pizza crusts. It is also used as an improver in flour blends. It is one of the hardest wheats and therefore has one of the highest protein counts (13.5%). About 24% of the wheat grown in the United States is hard spring red wheat.

Soft winter red wheat: This wheat is mainly grown in the eastern states. It is a low protein wheat with excellent milling and baking characteristics for pan breads, general purpose flour and as an improver for blending. About 25% of the wheat grown in the United States is soft winter red wheat.

Hard winter white wheat: This is the newest class of U.S. wheat. It is sweeter and lighter in color that red wheat, with a protein profile similar to hard winter red wheat. It is great for making Asian noodles, whole wheat, pan breads and flat breads. Only about 1% of the wheat grown in the United States is hard winter white wheat, but it is gaining in popularity.

Soft spring white wheat: This type of wheat is generally grown in a few eastern states and in the Pacific Northwest and California. It is a low moisture wheat with high extraction rates that provides a whiter product for cakes and pastries. This variety is similar to soft winter red wheat with a slightly sweeter flavor. About 7% of the wheat grown in the United States is soft spring white wheat.

Duram wheat: This is the hardest of all wheats and has a rich amber color and high gluten content. The protein content ranges for 12.5 to as high as 17%. It sets the “gold standard” for premium pasta products, couscous and some Mediterranean breads. About 5% of the wheat grown worldwide is duram, but only about 3% of the U.S. wheat is durum, mostly grown in North Dakota.
Within these different types of wheat, there are many varieties and substrains that offer an array of possibilities for millers as well as bakers. Bakers can choose between soft, low-protein cake, and pastry flours, medium-protein all-purpose flours, and various degrees of hard, higher protein bread flours.
There are different degrees of grind as well, such as course, medium, and fine. Other terms used to describe coarseness include: grits, groats, chops, cracked and meal.
Even with the info provided here, I encourage you to research on your own. There is so much information available, I can’t possible post all of it on this blog. As I had mentioned once before, my intention is to spark your curiosity and to give you enough information that you can find more on your own. The internet can be a wonderful source of information, but you need to know enough to filter the good information from the bad. Look for consistencies and use logic to eliminate bad information.
In my next post, I will begin to inform you about GMO foods, how they began, and how the government has hidden their potential dangers. As for my bread posts, this subject will be split into a number of posts so that each isn’t too lengthy. This is a subject that all should be knowledgeable on for the sake of the health of our families.
Sep. 14, 2012 3:50 am
Judy2304,had no idea there were so many different kinds of wheat,very informative,thanks for taking so much of your time to let us know all this.
Sep. 17, 2012 10:16 pm
Sorry everyone. I had to redo part of the post because some of the formatting in Word doesn't work in the blog. Everything should be good now.
Mar. 28, 2013 2:56 pm
Thank you! This is invaluable information. Some friends and I have been desperately trying to "understand" bread making. Your blog has helped immensely. We are grateful for you sharing your expertise!
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About Me
I breed large parrots, like to write, raise most of our veggies, completed my AS degree at 65, enjoy cooking specialty dishes and baking bread. I have done extensive study of cooking and eating healthy. A few years ago, I started researching healthy eating for my parrots, and it has since changed focus to the diet of my family. At this point, I make all of our bread using fresh milled flour that I make. We eat primarily pastures fed meats and eggs, and I make many of our condiments. We also avoid GMO foods and ingredients as much as possible. Since my 93 year old mother has moved in with us, we have eliminated the 10 medications she was on, and her physical and mental condition has improved considerably. I totally believe that we are what we eat. What is really best for us is a constant learning experience.
My favorite things to cook
I get bored with cooking daily meals, but enjoy making specialty and new dishes. I also enjoy baking breads from scratch using freshly ground flour made from various grains that I buy in bulk.
My cooking triumphs
One of my cooking triumphs was baking whole grain breads that are light, tasty, and healthy.
My cooking tragedies
My latest cooking tragedy was recovered with some effort. I made the Navy Bean and Ham soup that I posted and after the cooking time, much of the liquid had evaporated. I was tired when it finished and put it into containers and froze it as it was. The next day we had it for dinner and it was way too thick. As much as I didn't feel like it, I thawed 8 containers of the soup, added more broth, and repackaged it for freezing. It was really a pain, but I'm glad I did it. The finished soup was so much better.
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