Bread Basics – Flour, Gluten, Leavening, Baking Theory, Procedure, Methods, etc


White Flour is milled from wheat kernels after the outer protective bran shell covering and the germ (the new wheat embryo) have been removed, leaving only the Endo-sperm, which is mostly Starch and Protein, and otherwise serves as food for New Wheat Germ Embryos

White Wheat Flour contains 63-73% Starch and 7-15% Protein, the rest is Moisture, Fat, Sugar, & Minerals

Wheat flour is the source of the protein called Gluten

Freshly Ground Flour Contains less Gluten then Flour which has aged – As flour ages the gluten become stronger, resulting in Gluten proteins than can be come longer

Chlorine & Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) is usually used to speed up the aging process, which also adds to the whiteness of the flour

Strong Flours:
From Hard Wheat – High Protein content
For Breads

Weak Flours:
From Soft Wheat – Low Protein content
For Cakes

Types of Flour:

Bread Flour is the Strongest, Highest-Gluten Flour, Creamy White Color – Best for hard-rolls, Breads – The Best bread flours are called “Patents” , “Straight” flours are also strong

All-Purpose Flour is another strong, high-gluten flour, but has less gluten than Bread flour, so its also suitable for Pastries

Pastry Flour is a Weaker, Lower-Gluten Flour, it has the same Creamy color as Bread Flour, and is best for Sweet Yeast Doughs, Cookies, Pie Pastry, Biscuits, Muffins, etc
Cake Flour is the Weakest, Lowest-Gluten, is a very white color, and is very soft and smooth, used for cakes and delicate baked goods requiring low-gluten

Whole-Wheat Flour includes the Bran & Germ (Embryo) in the Milling Process. In America, this is added later, as separate refined items. Proper Whole-Wheat Flour made in most other countries is just the entire Wheat berry ground up, and has a much more pleasant and natural flavor and texture.

The Germ is high in Fat and can become Rancid, Gluten strands are cut by sharp edges of Bran, and extra fat also shortens gluten, so their reasoning is that its better mixed with white flour or it will become heavy, and for shelf-life

It’s better to grind your own wheat berries at home.

Bran Flour is white wheat flour that has had the coarse or fine bran flakes which were removed from the wheat before milling, added back in after processing

Wheat Germ is Stored separately, as it becomes rancid fast, but can be added back into the flour mixture at the time of preparation, if desired

Rye Flour does not develop gluten, and will be hard unless strong hard-wheat flour is added to the mix, come is Light, Medium, & Dark – Pumpernickel / Rye Meal is made from whole Rye grain, Bran & Germ, and resembles Oats

Other Flours include Cornflour, Buckwheat Flour, Potato Flour, Soy Flour, Oat Flour, Barley Flour, Rice Flour, etc – they do not develop gluten and are usually mixed with Hard Wheat Flour, or they become dense and heavy – “Meal” is used to describe more coarsely milled items Balance Rye etc with high-gluten Wheat Flour, or it ill be heavy


All fats are called shortening – They Shorten Gluten strands

Surrounds gluten particles and lubricates them so they don’t stick together

Fats are Tenderizers, they Tenderize & Soften

Fats add Moisture & Richness

Increase Keeping & Preservation – Shelf-Life

Fats Add Flavor

Fats aid in Leavening in certain pastries and doughs, when used as creaming or flaking agents

Cookies that are crumbly are called “Short” because of high fat content

French bread has little or no fat, cakes contain a lot

Fat Types:

Shortening – white & flavorless, unpleasant coating in mouth – 3 Types

  • – Regular / Plastic – Good for Creaming, lots of air can be mixed in to add Lightness &
    Leavening – Best for (Creaming Method) Cookies, Pie Crusts, Biscuits, and many Flaky Pastries
  • – Emulsified / High-Ratio – Used if Sugar weight is higher than flour weight – Spreads well, good for simple mixing method, also best for Icings
  • – Puff Pastry – Higher Water content, for danish pastry, puff pastry, and products with many layers

Margarine/Butter – Flavorful – Melts in the Mouth, harder to handle at different temperatures

Oils – Spread too thoroughly through dough, and shorten too much, used in a few quick breads and cakes, greasing, frying donuts, and as a roll wash

Lard – Rendered from hog fat, plastic quality best for flaky crusts, and pre-shortening time periods


  • Fine Sugar:
    • – Fine Granulated Sugar: – Most common
    • – Very Fine & Ultra Fine: – best for Cakes & Cookies, they can support more fat
    • – Sanding Sugar / Coarse Granulated: – Used for Coatings
    • – 10X Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – the finest sugar for the smoothest icings
    • – 6X Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – standard for icings. toppings, & Cream Fillings
    • – 4X & XX Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar – used for dusting, etc..
    • Fine Raw Sugars are now available and are superior to white sugar.
  • Molasses – Concentrated Sugar Cane Juice – contains a lot of Sucrose, also has other sugars, acids, & impurities
    • Sulfured Molasses – Bitter Flavor – A By-product of sugar refining, remaining after sugar has been extracted from cane juice
    • Unsulfered Molasses – not a by-product, a specially manufactured sugar product – Less Bitter
  • Brown Sugar – Mostly Sucrose, also has molasses added
    • – Darkness of Brown Sugar is amount of added Molasses
    • – Molasses & Brown sugar contain Acids, so they can be used with Baking Soda to Provide Leavening
    • – Molasses Retains Moisture and and thus prolongs freshness
    • – Crisp Cookies with molasses become Soft very quickly
  • Corn Syrup – made by using enzymes to convert Cornstarch into simpler sugar compounds – consists mainly of Glucose or Dextrose
    • – Retains Moisture – used in icings and candy making
    • – Very Unhealthy
  • Honey – Natural – contains glucose & fructose, & flavoring elements –
    • – Contains Acid, and can be used with Baking Soda for leavening
    • – Contains invert sugars, which resist crystallization
    • – Used primarily for its flavor
  • Malt Syrup – Used Primarily in yeast breads, serves as yeast food and adds flavor and crust color
  • – Fruit, Sweet Potato, etc also contribute Sugars, and should be considered when formulating recipes


Gluten proteins must absorb water before they develop, no gluten can be made without moisture

The amount of water effects toughness or tenderness –

Pie crusts & crisp cookies are made with very little liquid, to keep them tender – Too much water will make alot of gluten, and it will become tough, without water no gluten will develop, and it will not hold together

  • Water – hard water contains dissolved minerals which interfere with gluten development – treat water before use
  • – Milks & Creams – Plant Milks, Coconut Creams, etc – Adds Texture, Flavor, Nutritional Value, Keeping Quality, Crust Color, etc
    • – High-Fat Milks – High fat content must be considered as part of entire fat added
    • – Low-Fat Milks – not counted as additional fat, so the ration to milk and other ft in the recipe is different than from whole milk
    • – Thicker & Sour Milks Buttermilk – slightly acid, can be used with baking soda for leavening, good for quick breads
    • – Creams – very high fat replaces a lot of other fat in recipe, used for many fillings & toppings
  • – Yoghurts – Use is similar to Buttermilk
  • – Fruit Juices – use to impart flavors, great for quick breads
  • – Dry Milks & Powders – Convenient, can be added with the dry ingredients separate from the liquid ingredients
  • Wine or Beer – used as leavening as well as liquid
  • – Eggs or Egg Substitutes – may be used as the only liquid due to their high moisture content
  • – Honey, molasses, Butter, Fruit, Squash, etc contribute to the overall liquid content, so careful consideration needs to be made when making substitutions or additions


  • – Add structure after proteins coagulate
  • -Important for cakes with high liquid and fat content (high-ratio) which weakens wheat gluten
  • – Increasing eggs adds toughness and chewiness, unless balanced by extra fat & sugar (tenderizers)
  • – Egg yolks emulsify fats, which smooth batters and adds volume & texture
  • – Beaten eggs contain tiny air bubbles, which expand when cooking and increase leavening
  • – Yolks contain fat and act as shortening, important if other fats are low
  • – Whole Eggs contain 70% water, Whites are 86% Water, and Yolks are 49% Water, which must be considered in the recipe’s total Liquid amount
  • – Eggs impart their flavor, Increase Nutritional Value, and color from their yolk, and their browning when cooking
  • – An Ideal Substitute may be Aquafaba Mixed with Gluten-Free Flours & Starches, and High-moisture vegetable purees


– Leavening is the incorporation of Gases in the baked product for volume, shape, & texture

– Gases must be retained in the product until the structure and shape and volume is set by enough coagulation of egg and gluten proteins

– Exact measurements are important

  • – Yeast – a Microscopic living plant organism
    • – Yeast acts on carbohydrates and changes them into carbon dioxide gas & alcohol, which is known as Fermentation – The Alcohol evaporates completely during and immediately after baking
    • – Available as “Compressed” or “Active Dry” – use 40% less Active-dry than Compressed
    • – Dry yeast must be dissolved in 4 times its own weight of warm water , 110 F / 43 C – to become Alive & Active
      • – 45 F / 7C – Yeast is Inactive – Storage Temperature
      • – 60-70F / 15-20 C – Slow Action
      • – 70-90 F / 20 – 32 C – Best Growth – Proofing Temperature
      • – Above 100 F / 38 C – Fermentation Reaction Slows
      • – 140 F / 60 C – Yeast is Killed
  • – Baking Soda – Sodium Bicarbonate
    • – Reacts with moisture and Acid from Eggs, Honey, Molasses, Brown Sugar, Buttermilk, Fruit, Cocoa, Chocolate, Cream of Tartar, etc..
    • – Heat is not required for reaction, but helpful – Must be baked immediately after mixing or gas will escape
    • – The Amount of Baking Soda is directly related to the amount needed to Neutralize the Amount of Acid
    • – Additional Leavening is added with Baking Powder, rather than with Baking Soda
  • – Baking Powder – A Mix of Baking Soda & Acid to react with it – Self-reliant Leavening
    • Single-Acting Baking Powder – require only moisture to be able to release gas and begin leavening – only react if baked immediately, like baking soda
    • Double-Acting baking Powder – releases only a small amount of gas when cold, require heat for full reaction – Allow for leavening to be added early, and can stand some time before baking – Extra Baking powder than needed can cause bad flavor
  • – Baking Ammonia – Ammonium Carbonate
    • – Decomposition During Baking releases Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia Gas
    • – Only Heat and Water are needed, no acid is required
    • – Reaction occurs quickly, and it decomposes completely – leaves no odor but is limited to small items which allow the gas to escape completely –
    • – Used when quick leavening is essential, such as in Cream Puffs


The air expands during baking and leavens the product

Air is added in the following ways:

  • – Creaming – Beat Fat & Sugar together rapidly, – most important in pound cakes & cookies
  • – Foaming – Beat Whole Eggs, Egg Yolks, or Egg Whites to incorporate air – for important in sponge cakes, angel food cakes, souffles & meringues
  • – Developing Gluten – Inside the long elastic gluten strands, air will get trapped and expand when baked causing leavening


  • – When water or moisture turns to steam, it expands to 1600 times its original volume, which adds important leavening to the baked item
  • – Puff Pastry, Cream Puffs, Popovers, Pie Crusts, etc use steam as their main or only leavening
  • – Starting temperature needs to be Higher, to produce more steam, and increase leavening


  • – Salt Strengthens Gluten development and improves bread texture
  • – Salt inhibits yeast growth, and controls fermentation
  • – Prevents undesirable wild yeasts

Other Starch:

  • Cocoa
    • Cocoa and Chocolate are high in starch – When added to the flour mixture its usually counted as a part of the overall flour content
    • It is also acid, and reacts with baking soda to add leavening
  • Starchy Vegetables
    • Sweet Potato, Pumpkins, Winter-squashes, Bananas, etc, add starch and should be considered when formulating recipes

The Baking Process:

1. Formation & Expansion of Gases

  • Some gases are already in dough, like proofed dough and sponge batter
  • Some gases must be made once heat is applied
  • Yeast & Baking Powder form gases rapidly when heat is first applied
  • Steam is also formed as the moisture of the dough is heated

2. Trapping of the gases in the Air cells

  • As gases are formed and expand, they are trapped in the stretchable network of protein created by the gluten and any eggs in the dough
  • Without Gluten or Egg proteins, the Gas will Escape, and no leavening will occur
  • Breads without enough gluten are heavy

3. Coagulation of Proteins

  • Gluten or Egg Proteins coagulate & solidify when they reach high temperatures, which gives structure to the bread
  • Too High Temperature, Coagulation starts too soon, before gas expansion has reached its peak, resulting in poor volume and split crust
  • Too Low Temperature Coagulation wont start soon enough, and the product willl collapse

4. Gelatinization of Starches

  • The Starches absorb moisture and expand, causing them to become firmer

5. Evaporation of some of the Moisture takes place throughout the entire baking
6. Melting of Shortenings

  • Shortenings Melt and further release trapped gases, and the fat surrounds the air cells and makes the product more tender
  • Different Shortenings / Fats melt at different temperatures

7. Browning of the Surface, and the formation of crust

  • When sugars caramelize, and starches & Proteins undergo changes from the cooking process, browning occurs
  • Crust will begin to form after all moisture evaporates from the surface and it becomes dry

Dough Types:

  • – Lean Dough – Low in Fat & Sugar
    • – Leanest Dough – Includes Hard-crusted bread, french bread, Italian bread, kaiser rolls, hard rolls, pizza dough, etc
    • – Moderately Lean Doughs – soft White Breads, soft Dinner Rolls – Slightly Higher Fat & Sugar Content – may also contain Eggs & Milk Solids, Slightly Richer, Softer Breads
    • – Lean Doughs – Whole grain breads, breads made with the Germs of various Grains, including Pumpernickel, Rye, Barley, etc.. – increased sugar or made with molasses, etc.
  • – Rich Dough – Higher proportions of Fat & Sugar, and sometimes Eggs
    • – Savory breads & rolls, including some rich dinner rolls, Brioche, etc..High Fat content, and often a high egg content as well, but have a low enough Sugar that they are still savory
    • – Sweet Rolls like Coffee Cakes, Breakfast Rolls, etc.. – a high sugar content as well as a high fat content, and often a high egg content as well
  • – Rolled-in Dough – Fat is incorporated in many layers by rolling and folding and rolling and folding, causing many layers and a flaky texture
    • – Savory – Croissants
    • – Sweet – Danish Pastry

Mixing Methods:

The Aim is to Combine all ingredients into a uniform smooth dough, Distribute Yeast Evenly throughout the dough, and develop enough Gluten to the proper level

The more it is mixed, the more Gluten will develop

Bread dough is mixed for a long time, to develop the gluten

Cakes, Pies, Cookies, muffins, etc, are mixed for a short time to keep them tender

Gluten strands can break if the dough is over-mixed

The Long Elastic strands of Gluten capture gases in tiny pockets or cells when leavened, and product rises

  • – Straight Dough Method – For Lean Dough Products – Combine all Ingredients into one bowl and mix them
    • – Soften active-dry yeast in part of the water first, warmed, with a little of the sugar for yeast food
    • – Add all other ingredients and mix
  • – Modified Straight Dough Method – For Richer Dough Products
    • – Soften the yeast in part of the water first, warmed, with a little of the sugar for yeast food
    • – Combine fat, sugar, salt, milk solids, & Flavorings and mix well, dont over mix
    • – Add eggs one by one while mixing
    • – Add Liquid and mix until even
    • – Add Flour and the yeast Mixture, and mix into a smooth dough
  • – Sponge Method
    • – Combine the Liquid, yeast mixture, and enough of the flour to make a thick batter / soft dough, Sometimes part of the sugar is added as well, let ferment until doubled in size punch down and add the rest of the flour and other ingredients, mix to a smooth dough

12-Step Procedure:

  • Scaling – weigh all ingredients except for eggs and liquid, which can be measured as 1 Pint = 1 Pound, and small liquid flavorings where 2 Tbsp = 1 Ounce
  • Mixing – should feel smooth and elastic – Lean doughs should not be sticky – Rich Doughs are under-mixed slightly for more tenderness
  • Fermentation – allowing it to rise – Doughs with other whole grains are usually under-proofed, over proofing causes stickiness and difficulty to work with – 80 F at 75% Humidity
  • Punching – expels carbon dioxide, redistributes the yeast, relaxes Gluten, and equalizes temperatures
  • Scaling – 10-13% of the dough weight is lost during baking – so weigh and divide the dough into the proper amounts
  • Rounding – roll each piece into a smooth round ball – creates a stretched-gluten surface skin
  • Benching – let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes on the bench to relax the gluten and continue fermentation
  • Makeup & Panning – shape as desired and place in pans with seam on the bottom
  • Proofing – continues fermentation in form, in slightly higher temperatures – 90-100 F at 85% Humidity – over-proofing causes loss of flavor & texture, under-proofing causes poor volume and dense texture – rich doughs are slightly under-proofed because they are weaker
  • Baking – American Lean Breads – 400-425 F / 200-225 C – French Breads at 425-475 F / 220-245 C – Rich Doughs are 350-400 F / 175-200 C because fat, sugar, and milk causes faster browning – Hard Crust breads & Whole Grain breads have steam injected into the oven during the first part of baking, to form a thin, crisp crust – Slice or cut / “dock” crisp breads so raising doesn’t crack the crust – Golden Brown Crust and hollow sound indicate doneness
  • Cooling -Remove bread from pans and cool on racks to allow excess moisture and alcohol to escape – Rolls can be left int eh pans if they are spread out – brush with melted butter before cooling, for softer crusts – dont cool too rapidly or in a draft as cracking may occur
  • Storing – can be left on racks for up to 8 hours, otherwise, wrap cool bread in air-tight containers – Refrigeration increases staling – Freezing preserves quality – dont wrap hard-crust breads

Bread Faults

  • Poor Volume – Too much salt, too little yeast, weak flour, under or over mixing, improper fermentation or proofing, oven too hot
  • Too Much Volume – Too little salt, too much yeast, too much dough scaled, over-proofed
  • Poor Shape – too much liquid, improper molding or make-up, improper proofing, too much steam in oven
  • Split or Burst Crust – over-mixing, under-fermented , improper molding – seam not on bottom, oven too hot, not enough steam in oven
  • Too Dense or Close Grained – too little yeast, under-proofed, too much salt, too little liquid,
  • Too coarse or Open – too much yeast, too much liquid, incorrect mixing time, improper fermentation, over-proofed, pan too large
  • Streaked Crumbed – improper mixing procedure, poor molding or makeup techniques, too much flour used for dusting
  • Poor Texture or Crumbly – fermentation time too long or too short, over-proofed, baking temperature too low, flour too weak, too little salt
  • Grey Crumb – fermentation time or temperature too high, or both
  • Dark Crust – too much sugar or milk, under-fermented “young dough”,oven temperature too high, baking time too long, insufficient steam at the beginning of baking
  • Pale Crust – too little sugar or milk, over-fermented “old dough”, over-proofed, oven temperature too low, baking time too short, too much steam in oven
  • Thick Crust – too little sugar or fat, over-fermented “old dough”, baked too long and/or at too low a temperature, too little steam
  • Crust Blisters – too much liquid, improper fermentation, improper shaping of loaves
  • Flat Taste – too little salt
  • Poor Flavor – inferior, spoiled, or rancid ingredients – poor sanitation – under or over fermented

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s