The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Breaking Bread, an exploration of bread and its many facets.

ars pistorica's picture
ars pistorica

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:

100% flour

67% water

2% salt

.4% idy

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.


varda's picture

Could you explain in some detail for people who have no idea what you are talking about more about volatile compounds?   I don't know anything about this, and you are referring to it a lot in your posts, so I'm having a hard time following.   Thanks.  -Varda

Addendum:   just read another post of yours in which you said a question such as I've asked here might irk you.    Even if it does irk you could you please answer and not tell me to just look it up.   Thanks.  -Varda

golgi70's picture

 He/She is obviously studied in the area of chemistry behind bread yet I taste a pretentious attitude in his posts.  We all are here to study and improve our bread mechanics both home bakers and professionals alike.  I assure you we are all trying to remember all the details but that comes with time.  Something the scientific guru of bread might overlook is that much of baking while scientific is also intuitive gained through experience.  So if I'm crazy to use a process that creates "volatile" compounds and breaking the paramters based the timing of innoculations I sincerely appologize.  I feel myself as well studied, as well as many that frequent this site.  Now if only our very knowledgeable poster could share, opposed to having us do our homework wouldn't that be a "Christmas Miracle"  I greatly appreciated the educated response to my post but was slightly offended by the nature of how he got to helping me find my answer.  Sometimes we can google our bread queries and probably find an absolute answer to it and then experiment with the information we gather.  But if we also post here where so many experienced bakers love to share and help others we may take leaps past just the "information" that google will give us along with some experiences with that information.  

Happy Baking and Holidays