Bread is such an ordinary thing that we often forget how much science is involved. It's amazing to consider that bread has been known for thousands of years and is known in all cultures. To create bread, the following ingredients are essential: liquid, fat, sugar, salt, flour. There are two varieties of bread: quick breads and yeast breads. Quick breads are generally sweet varieties, such as some types of coffee cakes, that don't use yeast.
Yeast is essential in some bread because it “eats" sugar and produces carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide in turn combines with the flour's gluten to make the bread rise. To work properly, yeast must be used carefully. Be sure to use it at room temperature. Also check the date on the yeast package, if it's too old, it won't work. Also, don't use too much yeast or else there may be air pockets in your bread.
Likewise, the liquid you use in your bread should also be at the right temperature. Lukewarm is generally best. To test it, place a tiny amount of water inside your wrist. If it comfortable to you, not too hot or too cold, it will be all right in your bread. In these days of low-fat diets, you may be surprised to learn that fat is essential in bread. Fat gives bread its flavour and keeps it moist. You can use margarine, shortening, butter or vegetable oil. If you are on a low- or non-fat diet, don't despair, you can use applesauce or apple or orange juice from concentrate instead.
We all know sugar adds a sweet taste to bread, but remember, it is also needed to help the yeast rise. Sugar is also what gives bread its wonderful brown colour. Sorry, but sugar substitutes may not work as well in bread as they could break down chemically during the heating process. Instead of white sugar, try brown. You can also try honey, molasses, maple syrup or even jelly.
Salt is important in bread to bring out its flavour. It also acts to control the growth of the yeast.
Flour is probably the most important ingredient in bread but there are many types of flour you can use. Wheat flour is the type most commonly used because it develops gluten when it is kneaded. This gluten traps carbon dioxide, making the dough rise. There are many kinds of wheat flour available: all-purpose flour, bread flour and whole wheat flour are the most commonly used. Bread flour has more protein and gluten than other flour types, for a finer grain in the bread. This is because it has a special conditioner in it to improve gluten development.
When making bread, it is important to use all ingredients at the temperature listed in the recipe. It is also essential to add ingredients in the exact order given in the recipe or else the chemical process may not work correctly. But, by following the recipe carefully, you will get a tasty product worthy of the delicate science involved.