The traditional methods of bread making, as described above for the straight dough and sponge and dough methods, require sufficient time for the initial or bulk fermentation to occur and for the dough to develop. In the past several decades, an emphasis on speed and economy of scale has led to newer methods of bread manufacture.These methods rely less on bulk fermentation and natural dough development, and more on mechanical dough development and a relatively short fermentation period. The straight dough method, for example, can be shortened considerably by adding more yeast and giving the dough just a few minutes of floor time, or perhaps even eliminating the bulk fermentation step altogether. The sponge and dough method can be similarly modified by reducing the flour-to-water ratio in the sponge (i.e., adding more water), thereby shortening the pre-fermentation time and producing a pumpable sponge.
One of the best examples of the quick type of process is the continuous bread-making procedure, sometimes called the liquid sponge process (Figure 8-9). Developed in the 1960s, it was adopted by large-scale bakeries in the United States to enhance throughput and to mass produce loaves in as short a time as possible. The method saved time and labor and was very economical. As much as 35% to 50% of the industry used this method, but its popularity eventually waned, and now more bread is probably made by sponge-and-dough methods. In principle, the process is simply an extension of the sponge-and-dough rationale.
Instead of making a thick sponge (i.e., mostly flour), a thin, liquid sponge (mostly water) is made.This mixture of water, yeast, and a very small portion of the flour is allowed to ferment in a tank to form a liquid "preferment." This pre-fermented material is then metered into high speed mixers, where it is rapidly mixed with the remaining dough ingre dients. The dough is then divided, panned, given a final proof, and baked.
Although the process is fast—three hours versus up to six hours for sponge and dough methods—and produces bread with a uniform structure and texture, many experts have argued that bread quality is not nearly as good as that made by other methods. By growing mainly in the liquid material and not in the actual dough, the yeasts have less time to generate flavor compounds or to react with flour compo-nents.Moreover,yeast has an oxidizing effect on gluten proteins during fermentation in the straight dough or sponge and dough methods, leading to increased elasticity and stronger dough structure. This is lost in the continuous mix system. Thus, these breads are typically softer and spongy, less elastic, and have a weak, cake-like texture.The flavor is rather bland and not well-developed. One noted bread researcher suggested that these breads are simply wrappers for meats, cheeses, and jams.Today, continuous mix systems are used almost exclusively for hot dog and hamburger buns.
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