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Great Site! I've been baking bread for years, mostly french and sourdough. I still haven't figured out how to keep my rolls and loaves from flattening while rising (ie. while on a sheet pan.) I've tried making really dry dough (bread isn't as good). I'd appreciate any help. Thanks!
-- Anonymous, February 24, 2001
Bread is essentially held together by a matrix of proteins called gluten. When these proteins are "developed" (mixed), they weave into a fabric of sorts that traps the CO2 generated by the yeast to "rise". When the product goes to oven, the brisk increase in temperature causes these gasses to expand even further giving what is known as "oven spring".
The three things to watch for to obtain a nice round, tall product are- 1. Development-be sure you are developing the gluten in the bread to the right stage; This can be tricky as the development follows an asymptotic curve, that is it becomes stronger and stronger to a point then becomes very weak. You will know when this happens, as bread that is overmixed becomes sticky, very elastic, and has a characteristic shine. Bread that is properly developed will shape more easily and retain shape better. For educational purposes, it is nice to watch a dough from start to overmix, in this manner, you know what to look for. As a side note, be sure you have the right flour for the purpose-High gluten flour will best suit you needs, but if you are adding fats and/or sweeteners, note that these will work against the gluten.
2. Rise-Note the rise on the product. As the product rises, the bread expands, loosening the bonds of the gluten. A product that is overproofed will not have as much "oven spring" as one that is properly proofed. A common symptom of overproof is a notable "sagging" or lack of strenghth.
3. Oven Spring-This is where many a bread is lost or won. I have watched breads that look flat turn into golden orbs, and round buns turn into pancakes. There are many factors involved here, but gluten is the most noteworthy. Basically, a properly developed matrix of gluten is one that will give the best oven spring. It is important to note physics here.....a bread that is placed into a pan has sides, which direct the force of expansion upward. On a sheet tray, your buns do not have this. It is important for you to develop a radial gluten structure around the outside of the bun. When baked, this radial structure will mimic the effect of a pan and focus the energy upward. This radial effect is a result of "rounding" the dough either by hand or machine. A good baking book will detail this step, perhaps with pictures.
I hope this shines light on your query.
-- Anonymous, February 26, 2001