Whilst a Mature student at Harlow Catering College, part of the course involved writing an essay on a

food related subject of my choice, I chose as my project a subject that had fascinated me  for many

years, breadmaking.  

During the mid 1960s  I worked  at Bartons Bakery at Basildon Essex, as you may or may not remember;

Bartons had a bakers shop in almost every town in the Southeast of England, their fleet of maroon and

white bakers vans could be seen delivering bread cakes and pies to homes on almost every street, sadly

now a thing of the past.

Anyway I digress, in order to complete the assignment, I had to scour the internet for information, on

the subject of bread-making and compiled these notes, I cannot claim that every word was written by

me, for as already stated I obtained much of my information from the internet.

I have placed the notes  here on my blog as they might well be of interest to others.

A Brief History of Bread Production

The bread making process originated thousands of years ago.

In its simplest form bread is the mixing of flour with water, (sometimes fat), salt and some source of

aeration, followed by baking.

Over 4000 years ago the ancient Egyptians were making fermented bread, they used a little of the

old dough from the previous batch called a starter, leven or poolish, to fire up or start their new

batch of dough, this  would have saved the time it took for wild yeast cultures to develop in the new

dough, these two doughs were mixed together and allowed to ferment (rise) some hours before


Bread was very important in their lives, they made an around 50 types, some workers were paid with

bread, they even adorned their tombs with scenes of bread-making.

Many methods have since been developed in making a starter (leven or polish), the Baker's Patent for one, required the fermentation of  hops and scalded malt for at least two to three days, basically a liquid brewers yeast, bread in those times was allowed to prove or rise for up to 2 days.

In the late 1800s it was discovered that by adding small amounts of chemicals to the bread flour, it not only improved the finished product,  but reduced the fermentation time by about 80%, Those chemicals were oxidants.

In those days, dough was mixed  by hand in a trough made of timber, they would plunge their hands and arms into the mixture, punching and kneading it until all ingredients were mixed, definitely a job for the stronger individual.

Ovens have developed dramatically since those times, home made bread were made  in what we today

would call a Dutch oven or cauldron, over the hot embers of an open fire.

Early bakeries used  beehive shaped ovens, the fire was lit inside, and when hot enough the fire was

drawn and the bread inserted.

Now days the technology of making bread has improved a great deal

much of the production of bread has been mechanised, much of the hard work eliminated.

In large scale commercial bakeries, various methods are used, the two main ones being A/ Bulk fermentation, B/ Mechanical dough development.

In the Bulk fermentation method, the mixed dough is left to rise for approximately two hours until it is ready to be divided into loaf size pieces. It is then given a final rising, (sometimes in a steam room) and baked,

In the Mechanical Dough Development the dough is mixed at very high speeds and has higher levels of some essential ingredients. This cuts down the amount of time the dough needs to rise from two hours to ten minutes. The dough is then divided, moulded into loaf size shapes, given a final rising and baked.

A Scientific Explanation of Bread Making


Mixing has two functions:

1.    To evenly distribute the ingredients,

2.   To allow the development of a protein network (a.k.a gluten)

       in order to produce the best bread possible.

Each  type of dough has an optimum mixing time, depending on the type of flour used as well as the

mixing method used.

Mix for too long and you will end up with a dough that is very extensible with reduced elastic


Under mixing may cause small unmixed patches which will remain un-risen in the bread. This will give a

final loaf with a poor appearance inside.

Rising (fermentation)

Once the bread is mixed it is then left to rise (ferment).

As fermentation takes place the dough slowly changes from a rough dense mass lacking extensibility

and with poor gas holding properties, into a smooth, extensible dough with good gas holding


The yeast cells grow, the gluten protein pieces stick together to form networks, and alcohol and carbon dioxide are formed from the breakdown of carbohydrates (starch, sugars) that are found naturally in the flour.

The yeast uses sugars in much the same way as we do, i.e. it breaks sugar down into carbon dioxide and water. Enzymes present in yeast and flour also help to speed up this reaction.

When there is plenty of oxygen present the energy which is released is used by the yeast for growth and activity.

In a bread dough where the oxygen supply is limited, the yeast can only partially breakdown the sugar. Alcohol and carbon dioxide are produced in this process known as alcoholic fermentation.

The carbon dioxide produced in these reactions causes the dough to rise (ferment or prove), and the alcohol produced mostly evaporates from the dough during the baking process, giving the finished product flavour.

During fermentation each yeast cell forms a centre around which carbon dioxide bubbles form. Thousands of tiny bubbles, each surrounded by a thin film of gluten form cells inside the dough piece.   The increase in dough size occurs as these cells fill with gas.


Any large gas holes that may have formed during rising are released by kneading. A more even

distribution of both gas bubbles and temperature also results, the dough is then allowed to rise again

and is kneaded if required by the particular production process being used.

Second Rising

During the final rising (proving) the dough again fills with more bubbles of gas, and once this has proceeded enough the dough is transferred to the oven for baking.


The baking process transforms a lump of dough that is almost inedible into the loaf of bread that we all know and love.

1.    As the intense oven heat penetrates the dough the gases inside the dough expand, rapidly increasing the size of the dough. This is called "ovenspring" and is caused by a series of reactions: Gas + heat = increased volume or increased pressure. Gas pressure inside the thousands of tiny gas cells increases with the heat and the cells become bigger.

2.   A considerable proportion of the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast is present in solution in the dough. As the dough temperature rises to about 40°C, carbon dioxide held in solution turns into a gas, and moves into existing gas cells. This expands these cells and overall the solubility of the gases is reduced.

3.   The oven heat changes liquids into gases by the process of evaporation and thus the alcohol produced evaporates.

4.   Heat also has an effect on the rate of yeast activity. As the temperature rises the rate of fermentation increases, and so does the production of gas cells, until the dough reaches the temperature at which yeast dies (approximately 46°C).

From about 60°C onwards stabilisation of the crumb begins, starch granules swell at about 60°C, and in the presence of water released from the gluten, the outer wall of the starch granule cell bursts and the starch inside forms a thick gel-like paste, that helps form the structure of the dough.

From 74°C upwards the gluten strands surrounding the individual gas cells are transformed into the semi-rigid structure commonly associated with bread crumb strength.

The natural enzymes present in the dough die at different temperatures during baking. One important enzyme, alpha-amylase, the enzyme which breaks starch into sugars, keeps on performing its job until the dough reaches about 75°C.

During baking the yeast dies at 46°C, and so does not use the extra sugars produced between 46-75°C for food. These sugars are then available to sweeten the breadcrumb and produce the attractive brown crust colour.

As baking continues, the internal loaf temperature increases to reach approximately 98°C. The loaf is not completely baked until this internal temperature is reached. Weight is lost by evaporation of moisture and alcohol from the crust and interior of the loaf. Steam is produced because the loaf surface reaches 100°C+. As the moisture is driven off, the crust heats up and eventually reaches the same temperature as the oven.

Sugars and other products, some formed by breakdown of some of the proteins present, blend to form the attractive colour of the crust. These are known as "browning" reactions, and occur at a very fast rate above 160°C. They are the principal causes of the crust colour formation.


In bakeries bread is cooled quickly when it leaves the oven. The crust temperature is over 200°C and the internal temperature of the crumb about 98°C. The loaf is full of saturated steam which also must be given time to evaporate.

The whole loaf is cooled to about 35°C before slicing and wrapping can occur without damaging the loaf.

A moist substance like bread loses heat through evaporation of water from its surface. The rate of evaporation is affected by air temperature and the movement of cool air around the loaf.

In a bakery there are special cooling areas to ensure efficient cooling takes place before the bread is sliced and wrapped.


Bakers Percentages

How to calculate Bread Baking Percentages.

The baking profession do not use ingredient amounts, they prefer formulas.

Bread is all about proportions, and a baker's way of breaking down ingredients into proportions is to use a formula, so that they can scale up or down as needed.

It also makes baking much easier because, once you understand the basic proportions, you can freely mix and match ingredients to invent all kinds of breads on your own.

You can of course continue using the standard recipes, but it can infinitely expand your ability to mix and match ingredients and break free of recipes, to create your own formulas.

In baker's math, every ingredient is expressed as a percentage of the flour weight, which is always expressed as 100 percent.


A Recipe for French bread                                          

Flour: 100%.................................................................. 1000 grams  (1 Kilo)

Water: 66%..................................................................1000 x 0.66   = 660 grams

Salt: 2%.........................................................................1000 x 0.02   =   20 grams.

Instant yeast: 0.6%................................................... 1000 x 0.006     = 6 grams

Total: 170%

We can also first decide how much dough we want, and work backwards. Let's say we want to make 1 kilogram of dough. First, we need to figure out how much flour we need. To do this, we divide the total of all the ingredient percentages added up (170% = 1.7) into the total weight of the dough:

1000 grams / 1.7 = 588 grams of flour (rounded to nearest gram).

Now that we know the flour weight, we figure out the weight of each of the ingredients by multiplying their percentage by the flour weight, just as we did above.

    * Water = 0.66 * 588 = 388 grams

    * Salt = .02 * 588 = 12 grams (rounded)

    * Instant yeast = .006 * 588 = 4 grams (rounded)


At its core, bread is made of four ingredients: flour, water, salt and some sort of leavening. It’s possible to make bread without salt, though salt-less bread, to most palates, tastes a lot like cardboard. There are even those who eliminate leavening, though at this point, the loaf doesn't really taste like what most of us would expect from a loaf of bread.

One can add all sorts of other ingredients, of course, from sweeteners, to nuts, fruits and fats – but the essence of any bread comes down to these basic four.


Water activates the yeast and starts the process of developing the proteins that make up gluten into a web that will trap air and create a dough.

Basically, concerning water, if you can drink it, you can bake with it.

That said, some water treatment plants put a  lot of chlorine in their water. If you’re concerned that the chlorine might interfere with the action of your leavening, the solution is simple: fill a bowl with water and leave it uncovered overnight – the chlorine will dissipate completely.

The percentage of water varies quite a bit depending on the type of bread.

Bagels:  from                                       50% to 60%

Sandwich bread:                                 60%  to 65%

French bread (baguettes, etc):           65% to  70%

Ciabattas:                                           70% to  80%

Whole grain breads: Whole grains absorb a lot more water than do white flours. For whole-wheat bagels, bakers hydrate the dough at about 60%. For most other breads, they go anywhere from 70% to 85%.


Other Ingredients

Milk, buttermilk, yogurt: When used in place of water, these ingredients soften the crumb and crust, and, especially in the case of buttermilk and yogurt, add flavor to the bread. They will also accentuate the browning of the crust.

Flavored Water: When making onion or garlic flavored breads, one thing that can be done is to flavor the water used to make the dough. Typically dry onions are added to boiling water to rehydrate the onions then allowed to cool. A small amount is all that is needed, say, 1/4 Cup of onions in 2 cups of hot water. You may add the re hydrated onions to the mix or use it as topping, or not. The water will add a wonderful aroma and flavor to the bread. Dry garlic chips may also be used in this manner. Onion bagels benefit from this treatment.

Fats (oils and butter): Fats soften crumb and crust, add flavor and lengthen life of bread. The amount varies widely. Sandwich breads usually have somewhere between 2% to 10% of the flour weight, whereas a brioche could have 80%, even 100% (!!) the flour weight in butter.

Sugar (honey, molasses, sugar, syrup): Sweeteners also add flavor, and, in some cases like honey, can also delay staling. It is a myth that the yeast needs additional sugar in order to work in the dough. In fact, in high quantities, sugar can negatively affect the yeast. Typically sweeteners are 5% to 15% of the flour weight.

Seeds and nuts (sesame, flax, pecans, sunflower, etc.): These really  add flavour;  and are often toasted before adding them to the dough, usually at the end of the dough’s development. Sometimes, the addition of seeds and nuts requires the addition of more salt, bumping the salt percentage up to 2.5% or so.

Dried fruits: These are excellent additions to breads, especially raisins and dried apples. It’s a good idea to soak these for a half-hour or even overnight before adding so that those that end up on the surface don’t burn. Dried fruits are typically at 15% to 30%.

Spices and herbs: These can add a lot of flavor to breads, but be careful not to overdo it. Dried herbs are best. Traditional additions include dill, rosemary and cinnamon. Typically these are about 2% to 3%.

Note: Tree-bark spices like cinnamon and allspice contain anti-fungal compounds that retard the activity of the yeast. You may want to bump the yeast up by about 50% if you’re using these kinds of spices in the dough.



Add the salt to the flour. Mix them thoroughly and then add the yeast, also mixing.

Melt the butter and mix with the other ingredients in a separate bowl. Add these to the flour

mixing well until everything is hydrated.

(Other ingredients i:e   water/ buttermilk/honey. fruit )

Dough development

You’ve got several choices on how to develop the dough.

Traditional kneading: Let it rise 2 to 2.5 hours in the bulk rise at room temperature.

Stretch and fold: After the final stretch and fold is finished, give it 2 hours at room temperature.

French fold: Give it two hours after the French fold is finished.

If you’re not retarding the bread, deflate the dough after the first rise with a stretch and fold, and let the dough rise once more before shaping. It’ll take about 1.5 hours or so.


Shape the dough into the type of loaves or rolls that you require place on a baking tray or into loaf tins and allow to rise again until double in size.


After the first rise is complete,  shape it, put another pan on top and then place it in the fridge   and leave overnight,  it will need to stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours before use.

Scoring and baking

Score the dough with a single slash down the center if you feel inclined,  bake at 180c for about 55 minutes.

If you like, you don’t even need to preheat the oven. Just pop it in cold and turn the oven on.

I have to add at this stage that the most usefull tool that you can have when baking bread by hand is a

plastic or stainless steel bakers scraper,  it is essential when trying to manipulate wet and sticky doughs,

and very usefull for scraping dough residue from bowls and work surfaces, also saves having to try and

remove it from the washing up sponge or brush (Oh the ear ache I have had over this in the past). These

can be obtained from kitchen-ware shops, but to save money I get mine off of ebay buy a couple they will

last you for years.

Dough/Pastry Scraper

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