Common Baking Ingredients
Did you know that when you are making bread, you are actually conducting a complex "science experiment" right in your own kitchen? Many factors can determine the success or failure of any science experiment.
In bread making, yeast is the essential ingredient. It is a living organism and therefore each ingredient in your recipe can have an affect on how the yeast performs and/or on the final product quality. The "chemistry" of bread making is the transformation of the individual ingredients into your finished product. Understanding your ingredients and how they work and interact with each other will help you have success in baking.
Below are some common ingredients used in bread making. If you would like additional information on any ingredient, click on the name below or in the menu to the left.
Flour is a basic ingredient in all bread making. Wheat flour is the most common type of flour used when baking with yeast. Wheat flours include bread flour, all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. When wheat flour is mixed with liquid, proteins in the flour combine to form gluten. As the gluten is manipulated in the kneading process, it becomes elastic and forms the structure of the dough. This structure, or network of gluten strands, captures the carbon dioxide gas produced by the yeast allowing the dough to rise and expand.
Bread flour contains the highest amount of gluten-forming proteins. Bread flour is the ideal for yeast-raised breads. All-purpose flour has a lower amount of proteins, making a weaker gluten network. All-purpose flour does not always withstand the actions of a mixer or bread machine. Whole-wheat flour contains only a small amount of gluten-forming proteins. Breads made with 100% whole-wheat flour will be heavier and dense. Substituting in some bread flour will provide more gluten, making the bread lighter and airier.
Liquids hydrate and dissolve yeast granules, blend and bind ingredients together, and mix with the flour to form gluten. The type of liquid used and the temperature it is used at will have a great impact on the overall quality of your yeast-leavened bread. For traditional baking use liquid temperatures 110°F – 115°F when dissolving dry yeast directly in liquids, and use 120°F – 130°F liquids when adding dry yeast directly to your other dry ingredients. For bread machine baking, use liquid temperatures at 80°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. Liquids that are too hot will kill the yeast, and liquids that are too cold will slow down or stop yeast activity.
Salt regulates the rate of yeast activity, providing a slow, steady rise. This allows the yeast to develop the characteristic bread flavor. Salt strengthens the gluten structure of the dough, not allowing the trapped carbon dioxide bubbles to expand too quickly. This helps produce bread with fine texture and grain. Salt also enhances the flavor of your product.
Sugar provides "food" for yeast, which converts it to carbon dioxide and alcohol; sugar enhances bread flavor; gives the crust a golden color; improves the crumb texture; and helps retain moisture in bread. White sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and molasses can be interchanged equally in bread dough. Artificial sweeteners do not provide food for the yeast so they cannot be used in breads to perform the same function as sugar does.
Fats include butter, margarine, oil and shortening. They add richness, moisture and make the bread tender.
Eggs make yeast breads richer, help provide color and volume and also bind the ingredients together.