Intro to Bread Making: The Basic Process
Learn the basic steps of how to make bread dough. This general process is used for all yeast breads with slight variations for each type.
The process of how to make bread dough can be a bit confusing if the general steps are not understood. There are 8 basic steps that the production of all yeast doughs follow. Keep in mind that each step may have slight variations based on the specific yeast bread being made.
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How to Make Bread Dough
While each variety of bread will have slight variations, the basic process of making bread dough is the same across the board. These are the basic steps for how to make bread dough:
1. Mise en Place (Scaling)
Before starting the bread-making process, it is important to gather all of your ingredients (mise en place) and measure them accurately. Measuring ingredients by weight is a much more accurate way to measure and is the preferred method for bread making.
Optional Step: Proofing Yeast
Some bread recipes include a step prior to mixing the dough called “proofing the yeast.” This step involves hydrating dry yeast in some or all of the liquid used in the recipe and adding a pinch of sugar.
The water wakes the dry yeast up from its dormant state and the sugar gives the yeast something to feed on. After mixed, you will allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes to check for foaming. Bubbles and foaming are signs that the yeast is alive and you can add it to your dough.
While this step is never required, it can always be used to jump start your yeast and to check that it is alive. I recommend doing this if you are brand new to bread baking or if you are worried that your yeast might be old.
Note: The original form of active dry yeast did require that you hydrated it prior to adding it to your dough. However, these days it does not require this. You can add either active dry or rapid rise yeast into your dough without proofing, or you can choose to proof them if you like.
The order in which ingredients are combined varies based on the types of bread. The straight dough method, the modified straight dough method, and the sponge method are the three mixing methods for combining ingredients for a bread dough.
After the ingredients for the bread dough are combined the dough is kneaded. Dough can be kneaded in a stand mixer using a dough hook, or by hand. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
The length of time dough is kneaded depends on what kind of bread you are making. Doughs without any fat (lean dough) will be kneaded longer, while bread dough that contains fat (enriched dough) will be kneaded for a shorter period of time.
Kneading Dough: Kneading bread dough is an important process to developing a gluten structure which strengthens the bread. It also creates a more even crumb for the final product and improves the flavor of the bread.
4. Bulk Ferment (1st Rise)
After the dough is mixed and kneaded, it is allowed to rest and ferment. Fermentation occurs when the yeast begins to feed on the starches and sugar present in the dough. As the yeast feeds, carbon dioxide is produced which makes the dough rise and develops the texture and flavor of the bread.
After the dough has bulk fermented, it is shaped into rolls, loaves, or specialty shapes likes braids.
6. Proofing or Proving (2nd Rise)
The term proofing also called proving, refers to the rise that happens after the dough is shaped. The same fermentation process is happening during this step as it is in step 3, but this is where the shaped dough gains the bulk of its volume. Typically, shaped bread dough should rise until double in size.
Why is it called proofing?
When dough rises it is “proof” that the yeast is alive and that the bread will continue its rise in the oven.
After the bread has proofed sufficiently it should be baked. If you wait too long to bake the bread dough after it has proofed, it can overproof which will cause a sour taste and large holes in the final product.
Bread is cooked through when its internal temperature reaches 190-200 F (99-94 C).