by Abrielle Chan
Bread is a staple food present in all different cuisines. From baguettes to bao, the starchy dish is everywhere. But how exactly does it work? Why do we let our bread dough ‘rise’? Why are we warned to not knead our dough too much?
Yeast is a must in the making of bread. They are small single celled organisms that feed off of sugars. The sugars break down into energy, alcohol, flavour molecules and carbon dioxide. Despite being single celled, their structure is fairly complex. Their genetic material is contained in a nucleus, similar to humans. This would classify them as eukaryotic organisms.
But Why is Yeast Important?
Yeast makes dough bread rise. When placed in water with a pinch of sugar, the yeast begin to do their work. The yeast mixture is then mixed in with the rest of the bread ingredients, where it begins to release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the major gas that contributes to bread leavening, but the alcohol yeast produces also helps. Yeast also assists in gluten development.
Gluten is another important part of bread making. When mixing flour with water, gliadin and glutenin proteins in the flour form strands of gluten. Gluten is what gives bread structure and texture. Kneading bread is essential to making these gluten strands, since it warms and stretches them, making the dough more elastic. Without this kneading step, the gluten will not be strong enough to hold the bread up, and you will be left with a collapsed and dense brick of bread.
Can you Knead too Much?
Yes. Similar to when gluten is under processed, kneading too much will break the gluten strands, resulting in a dense, small loaf. When you cut into over kneaded bread, it will often be dry and crumbly. Over kneading also impairs flavour, since it will oxidize and essentially bleach itself. So be careful when you’re kneading, more is not always better.
So, now that you know some science behind bread making, why don’t you try to make your own? Remember to thank yeast and gluten for helping your bread look and taste amazing.