All ingredients must be weighed accurately. Special care should be taken when measuring spices and other ingredients used in small quantities. This is very important with salt, which effects the rate of fermentation.
Mixing has three main purposes:
To combine ingredients into a uniform, smooth dough.
To distribute the yeast evenly throughout the dough.
To develop the gluten. There are three mixing methods used for yeast doughs: the straight dough method, the modified straight dough method, and the sponge method.
Fermentation (first rising or first proofing):
Fermentation is the process when the yeast acts on the sugar and starches in the dough to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. The dough should be placed in a greased container large enough to allow for expansion of the dough. Cover the container and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place (80 F). Fermentation is complete when the dough has doubled in size. This process may be slowed down by putting it in the refrigerator overnight. The dough must then come back to room temperature before continuing the process. If the dough rises too quickly before you have the time to finish it, you can simply punch the dough down and allow it to ferment again. The dough can rise several times. Gluten becomes smoother and more elastic during fermentation, so it can stretch and hold more gas. Dough that is under fermented will not develop the proper volume and the texture will be poor. A dough that ferments too long or at too high of a temperature will become sticky, slightly sour, and be hard to work with. Yeast action continues until the cells are killed when the temperature reaches 140F in the oven.
Punching is not hitting the dough. Rather, it is a method of deflating the dough that expels the carbon dioxide, redistributes the yeast for further growth, relaxes the gluten, and equalizes the temperature throughout the dough. Pull the dough on all sides, fold it over the center, and press down. Then turn the dough upside down in the container.
Scaling is simply dividing or measuring the dough into pieces of the same weight. This should be done quickly so the dough doesnâ€™t over-ferment or develop a dry exterior crust. A bench knife or knife should be used. NEVER pull or tear the dough into separate portions.
After scaling, the pieces of dough are shaped into smooth round balls. Rounding simplifies the shaping process, and helps retain gases produced by the yeast.
The rounded portions of dough are covered and allowed to relax for 10 to 20 minutes. This relaxes the gluten and makes the shaping of the dough easier.
The dough is now ready to be shaped into rolls, loaves, or desired shapes and placed in pans or on baking sheets. All gases should be expelled during panning. Bubbles left in the dough will result in large air holes in the baked product. Seams should be center bottom of each piece.
Proofing (second fermentation, second rising):
Proofing is a continuation of the process of yeast fermentation. This increases the volume of the shaped dough. The best conditions for proofing are 90F and 85% humidity. The dough should again double in volume. To test, touch lightly; if the dough springs back slowly, it is done. If it is still firm and elastic, it needs more proofing. If the dent remains or dough deflates, the dough is over-proofed. Under-proofing results in poor volume and dense texture. Over-proofing results in coarse texture and loss of flavor. French bread is usually given a long proof to create its characteristic open texture. The strong gluten can withstand the extra stretching of long proofing. Rich doughs are slightly under-proofed, because their weaker gluten will not withstand too much stretching.
Now were ready to bake the dough. Several important things happen during this process. Oven spring is the rapid rise in the oven due to the production and expansion of trapped gases as a result of the ovens heat. The yeast is very active at first, but stops acting when the temperature reaches 140F. Then, coagulation of proteins and gelatinization of starches occurs, so the dough holds shape,. and finally browning occurs. Oven Temperatures and Baking Times: When the proper temperature is used, the process works so that the inside of the dough becomes completely baked while the crust achieves the desired color at the same time. Larger pieces are baked at a lower temperature for a longer time than smaller rolls. Rich, sweet doughs are baked at a lower temperature because their fat, sugar, and milk content makes them brown faster. French breads are generally made with no sugar and a long fermentation, so they require a very high temperature to achieve the desired crust. Golden brown crust and a hollow sound when loaves are thumped are a good indication of doneness.
After baking, bread must be removed from the pans and placed on a rack to cool. This allows the excess moisture and alcohol that was created during fermentation to escape. Smaller rolls may be left on their baking sheets.
Bread served within 8 hours can be left on the rack. For longer storage, wrap cooled bread.