Sin-A-Mon Tales

A chronicle of my kitchen experiments, a little healthy a little indulgent

B is for Bread 101, part 2

“[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells…there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
M. F. K. Fisher, ‘The Art of Eating’

Stages of Bread Baking

Today we will talk about Stages in bread baking and a very broad classifications of breads

According to Peter Reinhart, bread baking is a twelve stage process

  1. Mis en place – Mis en place is everything in its place, as with anything else in the kitchen
  2. Mixing – Mixing your ingredients together sounds simple enough, but might not really be. There are many finer points that come into play with different breads and make a huge impact on the final results in your bread – points like when the fat is to be added, or when to allow an autolyse, or mixing speeds and lengths for different doughs.
  3. Primary Fermentation – Also known as the bulk fermentation. During bulk fermentation the dough gets its motor running as the yeast starts to feast upon the sugars present. It’s the baker’s job to make sure they don’t either eat themselves to death or starve, and that control can be achieved through manipulation of time and temperature.
  4. Punching Down – For many if not most doughs, a long, slow fermentation will yield the best results and when taking this route it is often advisable to fold/degass the dough. Degassing is a very important piece of the bread puzzle. As the yeast cells chow down they produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide as byproducts, creating sour flavor and gas bubbles. After a length of time the yeast can end up more or less sitting in pools of its own waste, unable to reach enough food or oxygen. Degassing the dough here will gently let out some carbon dioxide and redistribute the food so that the yeast can resume their meal.
  5. Dividing – In most cases, a batch of dough will be divided into several pieces to be made into individual loaves. This may not apply if you were, say, producing a single country loaf at home, and is easily skipped over in such cases.
  6. Pre-shaping – Here the bread is… given direction, so to speak. For instance, if your ultimate intention is to shape a baguette or normal sandwich loaf, here is where you would shape a bâtard, or for a bagel, a boule, and so on. It’s a stop-off point on the way to your final shape, after which you can let the gluten relax for a few minutes to allow for an easier time in your final shaping. Some doughs will allow you to skip this step but for most rustic loaves it will be a fixture.
  7. Benching – As mentioned directly above, the pre-shaped loaf generally could use a moment to let the gluten relax so that the final loaf is more easily shaped, and this is that moment.
  8. Shaping – Shaping determines what your loaf will actually look like. Save for scoring, this is usually the last thing you’ll actually proactively do other than bake.
  9. Proofing – The word “proofing” comes from the yeast “proving” that it is alive and healthy. This is the final rise the bread will have before it goes into the oven, though the baker should keep in mind that “oven spring” will produce a final quick lift, especially when using a baking stone.
  10. Baking – The moment of truth. Cook the bread!
  11. Cooling – As important a step as any – bread will not be ready to eat right out of the oven! Sure, it smells great, but put it in your mouth and the texture will be doughy and the flavor disappointing; you may even burn your tongue. At least wait until it’s merely very warm to warm, like with cinnamon buns or pizza. Breads like the baguette are at their best completely cooled, generally around 4-6 hours after baking depending on who you ask.
  12. Storing – Put the bread onto a rack to cool. If left on a pan or counter-top or, most awful, in a plastic bag while still hot it will generally steam itself into premature moldiness while also ruining the crust.

Classification of Breads


There are many ways to frame the classification of bread. One of the classification system defins breads according to three categories based on hydration

  • Stiff Doughs with 50-57% hydration like bagels, pretzles etc
  • Stand doughs with 57-65 % hydration like sandwich breads, dinner rolls
  • Rustic doughs with about 65% hydration like ciabatta, pizza etc

Another classification system defines breads by hardness or richness

  • Lean dough has little or no fat added, most sourdoughs, italian and french breads are made this way
  • Enriched diygh has some fat, dairy, eggs or sugar. Something which is enough to tenderize and add a little sweetness of flavour
  • Rich dough includes breads with more than 20% fat to flour ratio such as broich, crossiants and danish pastries

The previous posts in A-Z of baking

A – Apples in baking

B – Bread 101 part 1

And don’t forget to check out the giveaway I am hosting for the 300th post 

Stay tuned for the C coming up tomorrow 🙂


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This entry was posted on April 25, 2014 by in AtoZ Challenge, Baking, Baking Basics, Breads and tagged , , , , .

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