Mixing – this involves the mixing together of flour, water and yeast – as simple as that. At this stage, the gluten proteins begin to unfold and form water-protein complexes. Secondly, the yeast begins to feed on the sugars and starts the process of fermentation and the production of carbon dioxide. In some of our recipes, we use the “sponge” method, which involves mixing up to half of the flour in with the yeast and water mixture. This can give a slightly more aerated end product due to the longer time of fermentation.
Kneading – this improves the aeration of the dough and furthers the development of the gluten. It is best done by hand if you prefer a product with larger air bubbles but some bread machines and food mixers these days do have dough hooks, which will result in a very fine, cake-like texture. Your technique for kneading will determine the final texture of your bread or base. Your dough is well kneaded when it takes on a silky, satiny appearance. Rich, buttery or sweet doughs generally require longer kneading than others.
Rising (fermentation) – the stage when the dough is set aside and covered with a clean tea towel in a warm place. The gluten development is still happening but the main activity is the multiplication of yeast cells, which causes the dough to rise and expand. The yeast is producing more carbon dioxide, which in turn expands the air pockets resulting in the final texture. The dough should approximately double in size and then it is ready. At this stage it is important to punch the back to release the pressure, shape it and leave it for a further short rising. Then it is ready to be rolled out and topped.
Baking – when the dough is initially put in the oven it will experience a sudden expansion as the heat will cause a rapid production of carbon dioxide. When the interior reaches about 60°C (140°F] the yeast cells will die and the rising will cease. Will then undergo a phase of browning which will give the dough its crispy texture. The perfectly-cooked dough should sound hollow when tapped.