Bread Essentials: The role of fermentation


Bread Loaf Open Face Buckwheat Bubbles

At the most basic level, we begin making all our bread by mixing together a handful of ingredients into a dough. Mixing flour with a variety of other all-natural ingredients, we can achieve a variety of doughs from flaky pie and pastry doughs to cakey muffin doughs to a range of hearty doughs for loaves and baguettes. 

For most of the bread in this latter group — including our Sourdough loaves — mixing the ingredients leads to fermentation magic thanks to one crucial ingredient: our levains. Levain (or levain starters) is a leavening agent used to bake bread that’s made from a mixture of flour and water. Our levains are no exception with their mixture of all-natural yeast, flour, and water. 

What’s important to know is that the yeast is actually a living organism, feeding on the other ingredients. When the flour and water mix, the many starches in the flour begin to break down into simple natural sugars. These sugars are the perfect food for the yeast. Feasting on these sugars, the yeast goes on to produce carbon dioxide and a number of other byproducts like ethanol.

Dough multigrain bubbles

Cultivated over the length of many, many years, our levains each have their own unique profile. Different strains of yeast and different types of flours all affect the levain’s characteristics as the amount of carbon dioxide, ethanol, and other byproducts varies. It’s this variation that then goes on to affect the bread in our bakery and on your table.

To start, the carbon dioxide that yeast produces is the very reason we add levain to so many of our breads. This carbon dioxide gets trapped in the dough as small bubbles. However, with enough yeast, flour, and time, these bubbles add up, multiplying the volume of the dough. Not only does this increase the bread’s overall volume, but this also creates the airy structure you can see when you slice open one of our loaves.

Moving on to the flavor side of things, the many other byproducts of the yeast’s fermentation process can contribute to the final loaf’s flavor profile. From the classic tanginess of sourdough bread to more subtle flavors, the levain we add to our dough transforms our bread.

All these transformations happen before our artisan bakers even shape the individual loaves or put them in the oven to bake. And they all happen thanks to the wonderful natural levains we use at our bakery.

– Team BREADBAR

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