Since we learned fermentation course, I’ve set up the Beatles song “ Oh, loaf is all I knead” as my alarm clock, it shows how much I love bread class. We learned a lot about fermentation, it is so interesting, it likes science, from this course we understand the basic baking principles, lean and rich yeast dough; artisan bread, we can smell the sour of the dough, watch the rising of the dough, and taste those different breads. I had so much fun.
I learned three basic methods of mixing dough.
- Straight dough method
- Modified straight dough method
- Sponge method
 Straight dough method is simplest form, it called all in method, just combine all ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix, for yeast evenly distributed in the dough, it is therefore safer to mix the yeast separately with water.
- Soften the yeast in the water. Ideal temperature is 26c
- Combine the remaining ingredients, in the mixing bowl. Add the dissolved yeast.
- Mix to a smooth, developed dough (use window test).
 Modified straight dough method usually for rich sweet dough, the straight dough method is modified to ensure even distribution of fat and sugar.
- Soften the yeast in part of the liquid, using a separate container.
- Combine the fat, sugar, salt and flavorings and mix until well combined, but do not whip until light.
- Add the eggs gradually, as fast as they are absorbed.
- Add the flour and yeast. Mix to a smooth dough.
 Sponge method which allows yeast to speedily and fully ferment and activate with part of the flour and water in the recipe and later incorporated with the remainder of the ingredients. I feel this method offers a better texture, rise and taste for very rich or heavy yeast dough recipes compared to the straight dough method. Sponge dough is prepared in two stages. This procedure gives the yeast action a head start.
- Combine the liquid, yeast and part of the flour. Mix into a thick batter or soft dough. Let ferment until double in bulk.
- Punch down and add the rest of the flour and the remaining ingredients. Mix to a uniform, smooth dough.
Everything is new for me. But the most interesting and make me surprised is the history of sour dough (our kitty) Since we made kitty I know which sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. The oldest recorded use of sourdough is from the ancient Egyptian civilizations. It was probably discovered as most things are by accident. I wonder maybe there was a super lazy wife made that accident, then use the sourdough baked delicious bread, which they’ve never ever eaten it before. If you simply mix any ground up grain with a liquid such as water or milk and let it sit in the open air at room temperature, wild yeasts in the air will settle in the mix, eat the natural sugars and convert them into lactic acids which give it a sour flavor. They also give off alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is what will cause the bread to rise. When worked into bread dough, the bubbles get trapped into the structure of the bread, and that is the little holes that you see. When I check the history of sourdough, I found the first recorded civilization we know about that used sourdough was the Egyptians around 1500BC. That really surprised me.
Of course, there were challenges for me; one of challenge was funny, I was fear of rack oven cause I’ve watch a horror movie about that, as a baker, how can I say I’m scared of rack oven? Someone is acrophobia, someone is bacteriophobia, and I am rackovenphobia, but it was not a big problem, I figured out, when I using rack oven, I tried focus on my work, don’t thinking something else, and take a deep breath, practice more, so I don’t have fear any more. Another challenge was the water temperature; we need accurately right water temperature for melt yeast, at the beginning, I spend so many time for measure it, but now I can easily testing water temp with finger, then use thermometer to make sure it is right or not.
As we know, without fermentation by yeast, a living and natural product, we could not obtain the equivalent of bread. Fermentation is the process by which yeast acts on the sugars and starches in the dough to produce carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. This release of gas produces the leavening action in yeast products. The alcohol evaporates completely during and immediately after baking.
There is three yeast forms: fresh yeast, active dry yeast, and instant dry yeast. The dosage of yeast for bread making, the amount of yeast used is between 2 and 5 kilos of compressed yeast for 100kilos of flour. In practice, this proportion varies effectively according to the baking process and the temperature of the bakery. In 100 grams of flour, 1 to 10 million micro organisms live among which only 30,000 are the so-called wild yeasts. A standard amount of 2.5 grams of baker’s yeast for 100g of flour provides 25 billion yeast cells. This is the proof that baker’s yeast is predominant in the bakery fermentation, fermentation begins as soon as the yeast is in contact with the mixture of water and flour. During the bulk fermentation, we let the dough rise for a first time, then the physical properties of the dough extensibility and elasticity are modified, thus completing the kneading action. This is an important stage on which depends the final quality of the bread: external and internal characteristics, taste and aroma. Before molding the dough requires some rest so that the dough pieces may relax, in order to recover some extensibility. Temperature is so important for yeast fermentation. Yeast will ferment at any temperature between 1-40°C, if the temperature is too low, fermentation will be slow and acidity will be produced, on the other hand, a high temperature promotes excessively rapid fermentation and the development of “off” flavors. So, most production breads are fermented at a temperature of about 25-27°C. at 60°C, yeast is killed, fermentation stop.
There is three main factors contribute to the rate of fermentation: Fermentation time, temperature and specific ingredients in dough formulation.
- Fermentation time. This factor determines the amount of time yeast gets to act on the sugars present in the ferment, whether it is a sponge, brew, or straight dough. While the rate of fermentation declines with time at a constant temperature, it does not completely stop. However, the longer the fermentation time, the higher the degree of fermentation.
- Fermentation temperature. Like any other living cell, the various enzymatic activities of the yeast cell are closely tied to the temperature of the environment. Therefore, higher ferment temp increase yeast activity.
- Specific ingredients in dough formulation. Generally, stiffer dough takes longer to ferment as compared to slacker ones. With additional water, the soluble solids are diluted, and the osmotic pressure on the yeast cells is reduced. In other side, the presence of high concentrations of sugar and salt is retarded the yeast fermentation.
For me to manage the fermentation rate of my dough, it depends what condition it is, if it necessary to slow down my dough’s rate of rising, I usually bring dough from the mixer at a colder temperature, cause the colder the dough, the slower the rate of fermentation. If it is bulk dough, what can I do is divide it into smaller pieces, the larger a piece of dough is, the longer it takes to cool down or warm up. However if my dough is not rising fast enough, I will keep the dough at warmer temperature for a longer time. For example, use warmer water for dough mixing, to create the quickest rate of fermentation, let the dough bench rest for a longer time before putting it into the cooler, the longer dough is at room temperature, the faster is fermentation. Otherwise, longer proofer can help rising too.
(Shaping and moulding techniques)
Part of the craftsmanship in making bread is the attractive shapes and styles of a wide array of breads, from large loaves, small buns and everything in between. During bread class, we learned a range of dough to be able to made most bread shapes. We learned artisan breads, baguette Cuban bread, pan bread rolls and sourdough bread.
For baguette. Press the dough with the heel of your palm into a rectangle roughly 20-25cm or 8-10 inches long. Fold this dough in half (width-wise) and press to seal. Fold again in half to make a long loaf. Find the seam and pinch it shut if it seems open.
Roll out the dough. Using palms, start at the middle and roll the dough outwards. The bread should end up a little fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends. In practice, do not roll out a loaf bigger than you can bake.
Make the loaf. Turn the cylinder of dough over and pinch the seam and gently roll with your hands from the middle out to make a shorter and fatter loaf. To make a Vienna loaf shape, the bread should be noticeably fatter in the middle and this is done using very light pressure applied to the ends of a round loaf so it makes an oval shape
For round loafs. Gather the dough and place hand to the side of the dough, palm facing the dough. Press the side of the ball with the edge of hand and press down, pushing it forward. The dough should rotate as we do this.
Make a plait with the bread. This is just like plaiting hair, otherwise we may look at the three portions as a simple pattern, folding one strand over another: 1 over 3, 3 over 2, 2 over 6, and so on until you run out of dough.
What other shaping techniques do I want to learn? I think is croissant shaped rolls. May be we are going to learn it later, I am looking forward to it.