Kneading. Elasticity. Tenderness. And how gluten is the glue that holds bread together.
What’s the difference between a tender loaf of bread and a dense one that could sub for a doorstop? Chances are, the satisfyingly chewy bread was the result of vigorous kneading, while the doorstop didn’t get much of a workout.
Mixing wheat flour and water hydrates the proteins in the flour, forming gluten. New chemical bonds are formed as the proteins cling to one another in long, elastic strands. When you knead the resulting dough, the chemical bonds, called cross-links, strengthen and provide the structure that will hold the bread up as the dough rises and bakes.
Gluten acts like little stretchy balloons that trap the gas given off by yeast in the dough, which is why you find air bubbles in the texture of baked bread. This makes the bread fluffy.
On the other side of the table sit the doughs that don’t benefit from too much kneading. Pastries and pie crusts (see below) still need the structure that gluten provides, but they require a lighter touch to preserve those signature flaky layers.
To make a winning piece of bread, use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour to make bread as it has a higher protein content, which helps with gluten formation. All-purpose will yield you a fine loaf, but bread flour will literally take it to a higher level.
Now put this knowledge into action and go make a great loaf of bread (see video below)!
How do you get your bread to be extra tender and chewy? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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photos: in order – depositphotos/gosphotodesign; RomanShyshak; lenyvavsha