About this module
Welcome to your first Start Up learning module on all things baking! Our introductory chapter will cover the basics on baking ingredients, different baking outcomes and techniques for making various pastries and cakes. This is a great starting point to get familiar with all things baking, and start your foray into the creative world of sweet, delectable treats!
Breads – something most, if not all of us, are familiar with. For us Malaysians, it’s a go-to staple for breakfast, or for a quick bite on the go.
There are FOUR primary ingredients that comes together to form bread: Yeast, Flour, Water and Salt.
At the heart of bread making, is this tiny living organism called yeast. It not only gives the bread it’s fully developed shape, but also its characteristics, flavour and aroma – every baker’s best friend.
Three other ingredients are mixed together with the yeast to make bread. Together, these 4 ingredients – flour, water, yeast and salt make up the key ingredients of bread. Other ingredients can be added to create more variety and improve the finished products.
What are the functions of each ingredient?
Let’s start with Flour. Flour forms the primary structure builder which is gluten in bread. Gluten is formed during mixing and is the basis for a good quality bread.
There is a wide variety of flour available in the market.
To get a bread with a chewy and airy texture, you need to form more gluten in the bread. To achieve this, you need to use flour with a high protein content – the best option is bread flour. Bread Flour, derived from hard wheat, has a high protein content of 12% to 13%.
Bakers who want to make a softer bread do so by reducing the gluten content. This is done by mixing bread flour with a lower protein content flour, usually All Purpose Flour.
All Purpose Flour has 9% to 10.5% protein content.
Some of the most unique tasting bread comes from Rye Flour, so bakers like to add this into their recipe – typically 25 to 45% of flour. Rye flour does not contain any gluten-forming proteins, which means that too much of it will result in a dense and gummy bread. Therefore, be mindful of the amount of rye flour you use with bread flour.
Other types of flour worth mentioning are whole wheat flour, white wheat flour, pumpernickel flour and spelt flour.
These varieties of flour produce different flavours and nutritional value to your bread.
Knowing the different options available allow you to choose the type and characteristic of flour most suitable to you.
The next key ingredient is Water. It is essential to form the all-important gluten. It combines with the wheat proteins in flour to form gluten, and acts as a solvent together with other dry ingredients such as salt and sugar. In addition to that, water also helps to regulate the dough temperature for optimum fermentation.
Next is yeast, which is essential in the fermentation process. It produces the gas that makes the bread rise by feeding on the sugars in flour, and expelling carbon dioxide gas during the process. The regulating of time and temperature during fermentation is without a doubt, the most important process in baking.
The last key ingredient in bread is salt. It only has two key functions – to impart flavour to bread, and also to help to strengthen the gluten. Simple but important.
A lean dough is a dough that normally only contains four ingredients, with little to no fat or sugar. The ingredients are flour, water, yeast and salt.
Small amounts of sugar or oil may be added to some breads, for example pizza dough.
Artisan breads such as White Country Loaf, French Baguettes, Rye Loaf, and Pizza Crust are some examples of lean dough products. Since there is little to no fat or sugar, these breads are typically baked at a higher temperature. The product after baking would have a crusty exterior with a light and airy interior.
Now that we have the four key ingredients to make bread, let’s look at the other ingredients that enriches and improves the product and variety. In other words, let’s look at the ingredients that create Enriched Doughs.
Fats, Sugar and Eggs can be added to bread to create a soft and tender product and with a larger loaf volume. Fats contribute to the texture by lubricating the gluten strands, making the dough more elastic and able to hold more air. Sugar contributes by increasing the rate of fermentation and production of gas, as it reacts with yeast. Eggs, on the other hand, contain protein that contributes to the structure and provides leavening which traps air and lightens the texture of breads. In addition to the texture, these 3 ingredients also extend the product’s shelf life by helping to retain more moisture content.
Sugar also adds crust colour and flavour to the end product. This is possible as sugar caramelises during baking at high heat, and contributes to the crust colour by Maillard Browning reaction, which gives bread its aromatic flavour.
Eggs also improve the nutritional value of bread and colour and help with the structure of the bread. It’s protein-rich and acts as a binding agent in bread.
Another tip would be to add Whipping Cream into the bread dough, as this can contribute to a softer and tender product. Examples of these are Soft Buns and Coffee Mexican Buns.
Adding in these ingredients help to create an Enriched Dough – which is a softer and more tender product when compared to Lean Dough product.
Examples of enriched dough include non-sweet bread such as butter rolls and brioche. These breads have a higher fat content, but low in sugar. Brioche dough is made with a high portion of butter and eggs, and is especially rich.
Aside from Lean and Enriched Doughs, there is another type of dough that is used to make laminated products such as Croissants and Danish. The type of dough used here is called a Rolled-In Yeast Dough.
Rolled-in doughs are those in which fat is incorporated into the dough in many layers using a rolling, folding procedure. The alternate layers of fat and dough give the baked product a flaky texture.
To sum it up, each ingredient has different functions and a role to play in the final product. Flour, yeast, water, salt, sugar, fats and eggs all contribute to the end product in different ways, resulting in a good quality bread.