The baking process
Bread is the product of baking a mixture of flour, water, salt, yeast and other ingredients. The basic process involves mixing of ingredients until the flour is converted into a stiff paste or dough, followed by baking the dough into a loaf.
The aims of the breadmaking processes used in New Zealand (mechanical dough development, bulk fermentation and no-time doughs) are to produce dough that will rise easily and have properties required to make good bread for the consumer.
This web page gives an overview of the general process. It does not consider the differences between baking methods.
To make good bread, dough made by any process must be extensible enough for it to relax and to expand while it is rising. A good dough is extensible if it will stretch out when pulled. It also must be elastic, that is, have the strength to hold the gases produced while rising, and stable enough to hold its shape and cell structure.
Two proteins present in flour (gliadin and glutenin) form gluten when mixed with water. It is gluten that gives dough these special properties. Gluten is essential for bread making and influences the mixing, kneading and baking properties of dough. When you first start to bake bread the mixing is important.
Bread making involves the following steps - mixing, proving/fermenting, baking and cooling and uses flour, water, yeast and salt as the basic ingredients.
First all the ingredients are weighed and added to the mixer with the water. After mixing the dough is then divided into the sizes needed for each loaf of bread; These pieces are then kneaded to develop the gluten in the dough - this will become the "skeleton" of the loaf and retain all the bubbles created by the fermentation process (this is what makes the crumb structure of the loaf).
After kneading the dough is left to stand in a warm and moist area to allow the fermentation process to occur. Fermentation is when the yeast interacts with the enzymes and sugars in the dough to create carbon dioxide gas - this is what fills the "bubbles" of the crumb. Alcohol is also created from this process, but this evaporates during the baking stage - it does however go a long way to enhancing that fresh bread smell that we all love! Any sugar in the mix that is not consumed by the yeast remains and helps to colour the crust by being caramelised during baking.
After baking the loaf must be left to cool - if you try and cut freshly baked bread it will tend to tear easily. After cooling the bread can be sliced and, if made in a plant bakery, can be wrapped ready to send to your local store.