How to Make Light and Airy bread

We received an email this week:

“I have purchased several of your bread mixes and love the flavor of the breads, but they are all heavy – not light and fluffy.”  She was baking them in her oven.

“Is there anything that I can do to make the mixes lighter but maintain the wonderful flavor?”

Here’s our answer.  The same principles apply to scratch baking.

How light the bread is is a function of how much gas is in the dough.  It’s the carbon dioxide that creates all the little bubbles that makes bread airy.  Gas is created with the growth of the yeast.  The more the yeast grows, the more gas in the dough.

Yeast is very sensitive to temperature.  If you were to chill the dough in the refrigerator and take it from the refrigerator to let it rise, it might take four hours to become puffy.  If you never refrigerated but placed that same dough in a warm spot, it might be puffy in 40 minutes.

But that’s the key, letting the dough get puffy before it goes in the oven.  It should be soft and full of gas.  It you wait a little too long and the dough starts to blister, just poke the blisters with a toothpick and hurry it to the oven.  Let it get puffy and you’ll have very light bread.”

Of course there are other factors.   The recipe has to be designed properly and the ingredients have to be right.  A good quality bread flour will make a real difference as will a quality dough conditioner.  Whole wheat and rye breads can be challenging.  Add extra gluten.  Fat shortens the gluten strands so don’t add too much fat, either butter or shortening.  Salt inhibits the growth of the yeast so if you have trouble with your bread rising, cut back on the salt.

To learn more about how ingredients work, get our free e-book, “Baking Ingredients and How They Work.”