Breaking Bread, an exploration of bread and its many facets.
Thought Experiment #1: Data Points
One of the basic questions bakers must ask themselves is what makes good bread. Once we have quantified that, we can then elaborate the process and materials needed to reach those quantities. Of course, each of us will have different ideas of what constitutes good bread, but that's really irrelevant to the this thought experiment. What is exciting is the idea that we can quantify what is good bread. If that's possible, then we can plot differences in taste, begin to explain with more clarity what it means when we like something.
Let's take a direct-method dough, for example, even the standard French dough:
Every home-baker reading this sentence also likely has Google. Just from this formula, we can gather reliable data that might act as reference points for good bread. Remember, though, in defining good bread you are also defining what is bad bread.
A good, reliable metric available here is the yeast. There's a wealthy of information available via Google to be found. What's more, we can also build our own data point. We know the starting percentage of yeast, we also know the starting weight. If we know its weight, we can reverse-engineer its make-up. We can ask ourselves relevant data can we gather that might help us measure good bread?
Yeast is the major contributor of flavour compounds in this formula. Instant-dried yeast do not produce that many volatiles. These are knowns or givens. They can easily be looked up. We can also find the type of yeast, what it was selected for, its population per gram, the water content, the proportion of live cells versus dead cells, generation time, CO2 output versus temperature, volatile output versus temperature and/or food source, and so on.
We can also calculate the end population of the yeast with this data. It is very easy to model. The final quantities, in mg, of volatile aromatic compounds are also expressible.
How is any of this a data point? Well, is the bread the formula produces tasty? Why or why not? What if we increase the yeast amount, and therefore the total final population and total aromatic compounds produced? (Of course, we know that there is a fixed number the yeast population can reach based upon substrate conditions, but we can easily look this up and predict this, too. Most formulas do not have the entire yeast population reach the death stage until several minutes into the oven.) What is the upper-limit of total yeast present before going into the oven that is desirable?
With these sorts of data points the baker can begin to build his or own model by which to gauge other formulas, revise their own, and so on.