In the beginning, there was just bread. With bread as the heart and soul of our business, we have an almost fanatical dedication to delivering the freshest and finest in homemade artisan loaves.
Preferment is a bread-making technique that involves using a premixed dynamic mixture of water, flour and yeast. Using preferment imparts a more authentic texture and richer flavor to the bread.
At Beyond Bread we use two types of preferments:
Often referred to as sourdough. This is a pre-made mixture of flour, water and naturally occurring yeast. A portion of the starter from the previous day is reserved and included in the next day’s starter. It is allowed to develop for many hours until it reaches maturity, then is included in the mixing process. Starter imparts a sour flavor and develops a distinctive crust on the bread.
A very wet mixture of water, flour and a small amount of yeast used in the fermentation process.
In the mixing step, the gluten is developed as all of the elements of the recipe are incorporated into a homogenous mixture. The development of gluten is a two-step process, and is important because it provides the foundation and structure of the bread.
First, flour, water, salt and leavening are mixed together; then more water is added gradually while mixing on a low speed. After the appropriate amount of water is added the second stage of gluten formation and development begins. Gluten is formed by the combination of water and proteins found in the flour, and is developed by the stretching and folding of the dough (kneading). Now, the first stage of fermentation also begins. Fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates (sugars) to alcohol and C02. At this point, the dough will spring back when pressed.
We divide the dough into proportional sizes and then pre-shape it into rounds by hand, which helps to work out the gases developed in the previous stage. Once pre-shaped, we cover the dough to keep it moist and allow it to rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
Once the dough is relaxed, it is ready to be shaped into its final form. Any excess gases are expelled very gently by pressing and squeezing the dough by hand. The expulsion of gases makes for a more uniform loaf of bread with less air pockets and also helps to rejuvenate and accelerate the fermentation process. Once shaped, the dough is placed on pans or boards that have been dusted with flour.
The dough is then covered and allowed to continue fermenting in a cool, dark, humid atmosphere. During this stage, the dough rises to the desired volume and consistency. Some of our breads "proof" for as many as 12 hours. Ideally, when finished, the dough should be soft and slightly pliable.If pressed with a finger, it should leave an impression. This type of "proofing", along with other details special to our bread-making process, gives our bread its unique texture, depth of flavor and crispy crust.
The final step is the baking process. During the initial baking of the dough, there is a tremendous expansion of gas called "oven spring" which causes the dough to tear. To control where the bread tears, our bakers score the loaves. The cuts create both a weak area for the gas to expand, and a way to help us identify certain loaves that appear similar. The sight of steaming fresh bread being pulled from the oven, the aroma of freshly baked bread, and the sound of crackling crust is the reward for all of our bakers' hard work!