How is bread made? Who made the first cake? Why shouldn't you touch raw eggs? On this episode of But Why, we're talking about baking. We get a lesson in bread making on a field trip to King Arthur Flour. Later, the Botanical Society of America weighs in on a recent episode where we talked about why some berries are poisonous.
"One of the things I love most about bread is that anyone can make it and have a lot of fun doing it. Try it, it's fun!" says King Arthur Flour baking instructor Robyn Sargent.
If you want to try making a loaf of the simple bread we make in this episode, here's the recipe.
"In flour there are a few proteins that when you work them and when they get wet, they develop this stretchy substance that's called gluten. So we want to make sure that we have enough of that gluten to trap the air that the yeast makes. It's called carbon dioxide and it's what makes the bread rise, kind of like a balloon."
The basic bread recipe has flour, milk powder, sugar, yeast and salt. The dry ingredients are blended together and a little bit of butter and a cup of warm water are added to the mix.
The dough should come together in what Sargent calls a "shaggy mass," to be kneaded. "I'm just turning it and kneading it until it gets nice and soft and smooth. It's kind of like clay, so it's really fun to play with."
Once the dough is smooth and soft it will go back in a bowl to rise. "What's happening is the yeast is enjoying being in this nice warm environment, kind of like us when we have a good meal, and it's producing lots of carbon dioxide bubbles, which are getting trapped by the gluten in the dough," explains Sargent.
Next, the loaf is degassed, shaped and placed in the loaf pan to rise again. When it just crests the top of the pan it goes in the oven and is baked. Once it's cool, it will be ready to be enjoyed with butter or jam or your favorite topping!
Listen to the full episode for answers to how cakes were invented and why we shouldn't touch raw eggs.