Bread is certainly one of the most interesting foods that we eat on a regular basis. Though we consume it often (daily, for many of us), the process by which bread is made is often unknown. Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of bread baking is how bread actually rises, both as a dough and when it is baked.
Have you ever wondered what exactly happens that causes bread to rise while it is being baked? Perhaps you’ve been told something like, “You add this yeast thingy to the bread dough when you are mixing it and then poof!” Fully risen bread, fresh out of the oven! Yes, this is a simple version of the process, but how does the yeast make the bread rise? Maybe your dad told you there was a little wizard who lived behind the oven that made the bread rise by magic... While that certainly is a captivating theory, we can explain the actual science behind bread rising in a way that is not all that complicated or confusing.
It all comes down (or up, as the case may be) to yeast. But what is yeast? More specifically, what is active dry yeast? Active dry yeast is yeast that, once dissolved in water, will be ready for use in bread dough.
Yeast is actually a living single-cell organism that falls under the classification of fungi. To work its “magic”, yeast needs moisture, oxygen, the right temperature, and a food source. Under all of these conditions, the yeast organisms will reproduce and generate a form of alcoholic fermentation. During this fermentation process, the little yeast organisms consume sugars, and in doing so, produce alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Let’s break the process down even further. First of all, bread dough is a perfect place for yeast to do its thing, and yeast actually starts its work even before the dough is baked. Bread dough kept in a warm place already has water in it, has oxygen in and around it, and is at the right temperature for yeast to work.
Here are the steps that occur when yeast is mixed into bread dough:
- Bread dough has starch in it. When yeast is introduced to bread dough, these starches convert into sugars by amylase enzymes (enzymes that convert starch and glycogen into simple sugars).
- Yeast activating in dough is basically a process of fermentation, with the second step being that yeast consumes the sugars in the bread dough that used to be starches not long ago.
- Once consumed, the yeast ferments the sugar, which results in an release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and alcohol.
- The released CO2 has nowhere to go, as it is trapped inside the bread dough. As it tries to escape, it becomes stuck in the gluten network of the dough itself.
- Now for the last part—yes, you guessed it—this attempt of the CO2 trying to escape is what expands the dough and causes it to rise!
During the baking of the bread, the alcohol evaporates, so there is none left over in the finished loaf. But what is left over is a beautifully baked loaf that, through the above process, and with the crucial help of yeast, has risen to perfection.
At 20 Shekels Bread we have the best tasting and healthiest bread available. Come by our location at 1877 Drew Street, Clearwater, Florida to try some for yourself!