The importance of bread, at least historically, cannot be understated. It is one of the oldest and most fundamental foods. Besides the nutritional value, bread is delightful to make. There is a certain joy involved in transforming simple ingredients, water and flour, into an aromatic loaf. Let's go over the fundamentals of bread ingredients.
Bread making is relatively simple. For yeast bread, the bread ingredients are usually limited to the following:
- Yeast â€“A living organism that has a wonderful feast on the flour, then multiplies and releasing carbon dioxide, which makes the bread rise.
- Flour â€“ the main ingredient in our loaf of bread. There are many types, but the most common is all-purpose flour. Because of two proteins, flour is able to form gluten, absolutely critical to the bread-making process. Gluten is an elastic web that traps the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. It gives bread it's structure and texture. To form gluten, you need to knead the dough â€“ don't worry, that'll be discussed later on.
- Water and milk are the usual liquid ingredients. They serve manifold purposes: To bind the flour into a dough, to create steam and to give the bread certain characteristics. For example, water produces a chewy bread, while milk gives the bread a softer and more crumbly texture. With the exception of rolls, water and milk can be interchanged or used in combination, depending on your preferences.
- A small amount of fat to make the bread tender. This can be shortening, oil or butter. The fats also give the bread additional flavor.
- Eggs, similar to fat, give the bread a tender texture. They promote breads that are light and puffy. Note that eggs inhibit the action of yeast, so egg breads are slower to rise.
- Salt and sugar are added for flavor. Salt is added in such small quantities that it does not affect the yeast. To a certain point, sugar can promote yeast action.
- Other additions, such as: nuts, raisins, herbs, sprouts, wheat germ, buckwheat, cornmeal, barley, rice flour, wheat flour, brain flour, oats, beans, dried fruit, onions and seeds.