On the most basic level, all types of bread are made with a grain (typically wheat, but rye, oats, and corn may also be used) and water. Most breads are also made with yeast. There’s a lot of science that goes into the interactions of these ingredients, and variations to recipes are what give bread its unique characteristics.
- Bread flour
- Water/oil mixture
Yeast are single-celled fungi that are mass produced for baking, in the form of tiny beige granules.
The other important ingredient in bread dough is salt. Aside from adding flavor, salt also acts to slow down the fermentation process so the dough rises gradually instead of all at once. It also strengthens the bread’s gluten structure.
What is Gluten?
The type of flour that we use to make bread is called wheat flour. Wheat flour contains the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which form gluten when combined with water. As the dough is kneaded, the gluten proteins are uncoiled and become stretchy. It now has the texture of gum, which is what traps the little bubbles of carbon dioxide from the yeast and prevents the gas from escaping.
Once the dough has been left to rise, it’s time to form it into whichever type of bread you’re making. For pizza, you’d roll it out into a thin circle. For a regular loaf of bread, it’s easy to shape into a blob and place it in a bread pan. When you finally bake the dough, yeast will continue to do its job and let the bread rise and the pockets of gas will continue expanding until the temperature gets too high and all the yeast dies. One of the last things that happens is that the gluten hardens so that your dough solidifies, becoming bread!
- 2 and ¼ teaspoons yeast
- 1 and ⅓ cups warm water
- 3 and ½ cups flour, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅔ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- In a large mixing bowl, combine water and yeast. Stir and let sit for about five minutes, or until the yeast is foamy and dissolved.
- Add oil, flour, salt, and sugar, and mix together for about a minute
- Once all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, knead the dough on a flat surface dusted with flour for about 7-8 minutes. Dough is ready when it is smooth and elastic. Poke it with your finger to see if it slowly bounces back into shape.
- Put the rolled up ball of dough back in the bowl, with oil covering the sides of the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for an hour and a half in a warm place. Check on the dough every once in a while to see how it rises!
- After retrieving the dough, punch it down to let some air out. Divide the dough into two smaller pieces. One of these will make a 12-inch pizza crust. Set the dough aside for about fifteen minutes while you get your pizza toppings ready.
- On a lightly floured flat surface, flatten and stretch the dough into a 12-inch circle. Lift up the edges to create a lip for the pizza crust.
- Once you’ve added your favorite toppings, bake your pizza for 12-15 minutes at 475℉.
Kratochvil, Petr. “Italian Pizza”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 2/26/2017 from publicdomainpictures.net.
Nyren, Erin (2014). “Yeast Fermentation Processes”. Discovery Express Kids, LLC.
Kratochvil, Petr. “Raw Dough”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 2/26/2017 from publicdomainpictures.net.