The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie Questions

jcorlando's picture

Newbie Questions


I'm a total newbie. I've made 6 loaves that I had to throw away,
Yet, I learn someithing new each time.
And Now I've got some random questions.

1) What does yeast do???
    Does it just aerate the dough?
    Or does it do more like change the dough's structure.

2) Does dough keep rising? or does it stop.
    E.g.: does the yeast reproduce or does it just eat?

3) If when proofing yeast, I'm to leave it in water for 10 minutes
    or until the water begins to foam.  What happens if I leave
    the proofing fluid for 20 or 30 min?  Is the yeast worse off,
    do I need to add more yeast or does it not matter? Again,
    is the yeast reproducing or just eating and dieing??

4) Can I fix fallen dough?? E.g.: the recipite calls for letting the
    dough rise for 2 hours, folding it and trasfering it into a
    9 x 5 bread pan and letting it sit for another 2 hours.
    BUT, I dropped the dough when moving it to the bread pan
    and now the dough is 1/3 its previous height.  Can I leave
    the dough in the bread pan for 4 hours or 6 hours to get the
    intended hight and airyness???

5) If a recipite calls for whole milk and I use 1% milk, can I
    expect the dough to be more or less airey?  Are there other
    changes, e.g.: sweeter

6) Is there a difference between covering dough with an airtight
    plastice wrap versus a breathable cloth??


Any thoughts would be wonderful!

In Annapolis, MD

clazar123's picture

You are certainly on the path to a great hobby and asking wonderful questions. There is a lot of research (some of it quite delicious) ahead of you. I recommend you take a look at this site for the Handbook,lessons, and ,of course, the forum.

There are some wonderful books and online sites that explain what the role of all the ingredients are and how yeast works.Take a look at the book recommendations. You don't have to buy every book-the public library is a great source, as are used book stores and sites.

The best way to learn about breadmaking is to make bread-just like you are doing.Find a basic recipe for a single loaf and make it over and over until you know how it behaves. Then start tweaking it. I also kept a notebook with notes every time I baked and how it turned out and suggestions to myself on what to try next time.If I had a chewy loaf and wanted a soft loaf, I researched how to soften the crumb and then tried those suggestions.There is a LOT of collective experience on this site and very encouraging members so bring your questions here.

Welcome and happy baking!

00Eve00's picture

Hi there,  I'm pretty new to baking so I'll try to answer some of your questions and leave the others to the pros.  :)

What does yeast do???

    Does it just aerate the dough?
    Or does it do more like change the dough's structure.

Yeast have specific enzymes that convert starch to sugars for consuption (amylase), zymase that breaks down that sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide and protease which breaks down the protein chains (the structure) of the dough.  The "aeration" (bubbles) you are seeing is the product of the zymase.  Specifically, the carbon dioxide collects in the air pockets that were created during the mixing process. The enzymes that the yeast produce also give the bread it's flavor.

Does dough keep rising? or does it stop.
    E.g.: does the yeast reproduce or does it just eat?

There is a point in which the gluten structure can no longer stretch to accommodate the increase in carbon dioxide gas.  The end result is that the structure tears apart and collapses. 

Yeast do reproduce.  It's called "budding".  However, in Hamelman's book, he says it takes several hours for reproduction to occur and therefore it would not happen between the time from mixing to baking.  But he goes on the say that preferments allow enough time  for reproduction to occur.

Sorry I can't answer any more, but I don't feel quite as knowledgeable as other people on here but I figured I would at least give these questions a shot.

I hope I helped. :)



jcorlando's picture

Thanks!  I'm learning.

I thought I could just throw the ingredients in a pan and go.

But I'm finding this is a real art.

I could just settle for the factor CO2 airblown bread.
Even my worst bread is better than that stuff.


ehanner's picture

Hey John,

You know those are all pretty good questions that make total sense from your standpoint. I'll take a stab at some of them.

First if you are using any dry yeast product, forget about proving it first in warm water. That's not necessary. I like Instant Dry Yeast because you can add it to the flour and it works every time.

Yeast is a living organism that feeds on the sugars in the flour. When it consumes the available food it looses it's energy and goes flat. All the bubbles surface and it looks like it's dead.

Something you should understand about bread is that you can make a single loaf of bread with 2 teaspoons of yeast or 1/2 teaspoon. The amount of yeast you use will affect how long it will take to ferment all that flour and create the co2 gas that rises the dough. Also a slower rising dough will taste better because the fermenting process creates acids that taste good.

The pre ferments mentioned above use a tiny amount of yeast (say 1/4 tsp) for 1/3 of the flour and some of the total water. After 12 hours or overnight the preferment will smell great and be ready to incorporate into the dough.

You can use what ever milk you want. Whole milk has more butter fat in it and will make the bread slightly softer. I use what ever I have on hand. Butter honey and milk all have the effect of helping the bread last longer before going stale. Most of the sweetener is consumed by the yeast unless you add more than 1 Tablespoon per loaf.

Hope this helps.


ehanner's picture


I neglected to mention that the single most important thing to understand is that yeast activity is directed by the temperature of the dough. Most normal recipes work best using a temp of 74-78F. Above that level and things are moving fast and the flavor will suffer. A cold dough in the 60's will take forever to rise. You need a quick read thermometer. Adjust the water temp to arrive at a DDT (desired dough temp) of 76F and then try to find a place in your kitchen that will maintain that or be close.

The suggestion above about a straight sided container is excellent. It helps to keep track of how much your dough has risen.


jacqueg's picture

Here are some things that I have found out while learning.

Using non-chlorinated water helps a bit

Using SAF yeast helps a bit

Taking notes helped *a lot*.

But the most important thing I did was stop using a bowl to rise the dough. I got a plastic, straight-sided container (you can buy a dough bucket, but I just use a tall, rectangular "cracker-keeper"). I use a piece of regular magic tape to mark the level of the dough when I put it in the container, so I am not guessing when it doubles, I know. The other thing I did was devote a day to an experiment. I set the timer for regular intervals, and checked on the appearance of the dough. In the bucket, I could see what was happening under the surface as well as at the surface. I learned more from doing this once than I learned from baking loaves blind dozens of times.

Baking bread reminds me of teaching a biology class. We would set up all the experiments for the students just so, making sure to get the conditions exactly as they should be. After all that work - the organism would just do as it damn well pleased. 

Guess what - even my not-so-great experiments turn out better than the local bakery, whose loaves look gorgeous, but have little taste and an unpleasant texture. And that's not just *my* opinion. 

Have fun!