Stella Culinary School Podcast Episode 18| Four Pillars of Bread

SCS 018| Four Pillars Of Bread

In this episode of the Stella Culinary School Podcast we kick off our bread baking lecture series with a lesson on the four ingredients needed to make bread. We discuss the science behind flour, water, yeast and salt and how it will affect your overall bread dough recipe.

In this episode:

  •     The baker's percentage and why it's important.
  •     Gluten and what role it plays in producing a great loaf of bread.
  •     The difference between cake, active dry and instant dry yeast.
  •     Salt's effect on gluten networks and yeast.
  •     The role acidic, alkaline and hard waters play in dough development.
  •     The different types of flour used for bread baking.

Books mentioned in the culinary quick tip:

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There are 23 Comments

esavitzky's picture

Great first episode in the Bread Series.  Lot's of new info that is not in the FCS series.  Can't wait for the next episode in the series about Lean Doughs and Baguettes.


jacob burton's picture

Hey Eliot,

Glad you enjoyed the first episode. This will be an important foundation for our more advanced lectures that will be coming up soon.

jacob burton's picture

@ Sharksfan7,

Great suggestion, I'll add a link right now.

strikingtwice's picture

Listened to this on my plane ride to Italy just the other day. Terrific job, did a great job of expanding on a bunch of stuff you told me through an email conversation. Can't wait for the rest of this series.

Also, to anyone who is interested in baking bread, the recommended book "My Bread" by Lahey is a staple. The bread in the book takes time, as it is no-knead, but the results are astounding. He goes into some technique as well, but the basic bread recipe is so open to any changes. Try roasted garlic, kalamata olives or roasted tomatoes, and happy baking!!!

jacob burton's picture

@ StrickingTwice,

I'm glad you enjoyed the first podcast in the bread series. Even though a lot of the stuff we covered is common knowledge, especially if you've been hanging around on the forums for awhile, I was still important to set that foundation so we could expand BIG TIME coming up in the near future.

Hope you ate lots of great food in Italy.

GreenBake's picture

Using all of the techniques to strengthen the dough (slightly alkaline/mineral rich water, mineral rich salt, high-gluten flour, high-hydration, etc.), how much whole wheat flour can be used to get “close to” the texture of a good sourdough loaf? 25%?

esavitzky's picture

I add a mixture of 85% bread dough and 15% whole wheat flour to my starter when feeding.  Works for me.  I had to experiement with the amount of hydration and baking temp to make tradeoffs in the spring, crust and crumb.  A lot of trial and error.  Mostly error.  In the end, it all depends on your personal preference.  I also learned that one of the best parts of my sourdough is the high fat content European butter I use as a spread wink


jacob burton's picture

@ GreenBake,

I find that anything above 25% whole wheat flour will start to create a dense texture. This doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done, but I've found that's the point where the whole wheat flour will start to degass the loaf and form a denser crumb.

Porkbutter's picture

Great first episode in the bread series.  I'm looking forward to the rest.  After 6 weeks, I'm finally caught up! Woo Hoo!  yes

jacob burton's picture

Hey, glad you liked the first episode. After building out a lot of the videos that I wanted to get done, I'm now focusing on finishing the bread lecture series along with the technique videos.

Also, thanks for the two quiz questions you submitted for this episode. Fifty Stella Stars each, and I will be incorporating them into the upcoming quiz.

donner2000's picture

Because of your podcasts (both FCS and SCS), I have become extremely curious about bread and baking. Thank you so much for opening up that world. I am on a quest to make the perfect hamburger bun. SO if anyone has any suggestions... I'm all ears!


Compressed, Active and Instant. If a formula outlines compressed yeast, and I want to use active, or instant, does the percentage stay the same?

For instance, if a recipe calls for .83% instant yeast (baker's percentage), will that be equal if I used compressed yeast or active?

Looking at a Danish pastry recipe, it calls for 55g of compressed yeast to 645g bread flour (8.8% BP). How much active yeast will I require? (won't it taste and smell very yeasty?).



jacob burton's picture

Hi Marc, good question. There is a slight difference in the yeast that you use. Usually with enriched dough (like hamburger buns or brioche) I like to use cake or "compressed" yeast because it gives that nice "yeasty" flavor. You can convert yeast though with the following formula:

100% Cake Yeast = 40% - 50% Active Dry Yeast = 33% Instant Yeast.

Hope this helps, and I do plan on doing a burger bun video in the future.


Wartface's picture

Chef Jacob...

I'm thinking of trying the brioche formula listed on the bakers percentage list.

If I use 500 grams of bread flour the way I understand it I would then add
110 grams of water
10 grams of salt
665 grams of fat

I assume 7 grams of active dry yeast would be enough yeast...?

What fat would you recommend?

I'm thinking hamburger buns.

jacob burton's picture

Fat content is on the high side, which is normal for brioche, but it will also make the dough harder to work with. When you have this much fat in your dough, it's usually best to let it bulk ferment in the fridge overnight. The delayed fermentation will create better flavor, but it will also make the dough much easier to form (brioche dough gets really hard to handle at room temp).

All your other ratios look spot on. For the fat, I would recommend using whole butter, 1-2 eggs for structure, whole milk for your water.

You might want to set your butter weight at 500 grams initially, and then add more by sight. Super high fat brioche breads can be a bit finicky for the uninitiated, so you may want to work your way up to it.

Wartface's picture

Thank you Jacob...

I've watched a few videos on YouTube about making brioche. I think I've got a pretty good feel for it now. You... Really ought to do a brioche video. I like your tone and style of how you instruct in your podcasts and videos.

Wartface's picture

Hmmm... One other question. If time is NO issue - should I use 3.5 grams of instant yeast and should I autolypse the dough before I put in the butter? You say 1000 grams of flour should have 7 grams of yeast. I'm retired and have plenty of time. I want quality more than speed. Will less yeast and a longer rise give me a better finished product?

jacob burton's picture

Yes, less yeast and a longer rise will give you a better end product.

And you're right, I absolutely need to do a brioche video.

Wartface's picture

I've watched many YouTube videos about how to make brioche. They all put the butter in differently. One even melted the butter before they added it. Some mix everything except the butter and autolyse it before they add the butter. What method would you recommend?

jacob burton's picture

It depends on the texture you're trying to achieve.

  • If you mix the fat with the flour before adding water, the fat will coat the gluten strands, keeping a lot of the gluten from forming. This will give you a more cake like texture.
  • If you mix the fat in with the flour and water at the same time (most common approach), this will still give you a rich, cake texture, but with a little more gluten structure.
  • If you allow the flour to autolyse with the water first, and then add the butter, you're giving the gluten structure time to form. This approach is most common when making sliceable brioche bread.

For a good starting point, I would mix all the ingredients together at once, with the butter melted. If you want a more structured bun, then next time, you can do an autolyse step first.

Melting the butter will incorporate it more thoroughly into the flour, yielding less gluten development. If you want more gluten, then mix the butter in at room temperature.

If the butter stays cool throughout the entire mixing and proofing process and is still in chunks when you bake, then the butter will cause the formation of layers as it melts and it's water content turns to steam. This is how you get croissants and biscuits.

Wartface's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you... I appreciate your clear concise answers. I will try it all ways. Making a good croissant would be a real feat.