Bread Fermentation

The project I’ve been working on most recently at one of my jobs is writing a baking glossary. I’ve been dreading the task because it’s a lot of work to write nearly two hundred, accurately informative, original definitions. Once I’m into the job now, even though it’s going even slower than I expected, it’s been fun. I’ve had to study what most of the words in the list mean even if I already knew the basic definition so I’m able to write something comprehensive . . . I’m learning a lot.

Here’s the finished definition:

Fermentation – In baking, this is a chemical process within bread dough which occurs during the first rise between the kneading and shaping steps of bread baking. While the kneaded dough rests in a covered bowl the yeast, or a starter culture, activates the fermentation process creating chemical compounds such as carbon dioxide and alcohol by digesting carbohydrates. Until baking, the developed gluten structure holds these newly formed gasses within the bread resulting in dough full of air bubbles. Then, during baking most of the gasses, and all of the alcohol, are released. Fermentation could take a few hours in a warm environment or up to five days if kept cold—the longer the fermentation process, the less yeast is needed, the better the structure, and richer the finished flavor. Fermentation leavens dough and gives the finished bread a distinctive, slightly sour taste and fine-grained, moist texture. In addition to bread, fermentation is also used to make other easily digestible and thus healthier food such as cultured milk, kombucha, sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.

As I was writing the paragraph for ‘fermentation’ I came across one particularly good article called The Pizza Lab: How Long Should I Let My Dough Cold Ferment?, which I’d like to share here for anyone who is interested in learning what bread fermentation actually is and how it works.

It’s been a long time since I last used the fermentation method to make artisan bread (other than making hamburger buns this summer and last) so after reading about it again I think it’s time to make some more loaves.

Here’s a Christopsomo bread loaf I made in January 2010.

This is the kind of science which interests me.


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