Guide to Enriched Bread Dough

Some of the best breads in the world start with one main ingredient, yeast. But when it comes to breads made with yeast, there are two different types. Lean breads and enriched breads. Both have many similarities but also differ in some major ways.

Lean breads tend to be heavier with a crispy crust while enriched breads have a lighter crumb and softer crust. This is usually due to the process enriched breads undergo when the yeast is added. Enriched breads will take longer to make than lean breads but the process is worth it in the long run. The flavor will be much more intense and the options are endless.

Some of the more common lean breads are ciabatta, focaccia and pita. While enriched bread favorites are challah, brioche and yeast rolls. The difference and taste between these two types of breads is night and day and so is the creation process.

What Is Enriched Bread Dough?

The main difference between lean bread and enriched bread is the fat content. While lean breads may have some small amount of fat, which is usually oil, it is not near the amount that goes into enriched breads or even the same type. The types of fat that are added to enriched breads are usually dairy based like eggs, milk and butter. Also, most enriched breads tend to be sweeter than lean breads because of the mixing process and the amount of sugars that go into the recipe.

When lean bread is made, the yeast is usually added to warm water and allowed to rest for about 10 minutes before any other ingredients are added. This process is called “blooming the yeast”. But when the yeast is added to enriched doughs, usually many ingredients are added at once including sugar. This means the fermentation process of the yeast will take much longer than it would with lean breads.

When making an enriched bread using dairy fats, the fat will soften the dough and shorten the gluten strands. Then when the dough is being mixed, the process will take much longer than when lean dough is mixed which creates a stronger gluten structure. This makes the dough extremely pliable and easily shaped.

Additionally, when sugar is added with yeast to water at the same time, they tend to fight over the water. Dry active yeast needs water for it work on the simple sugars in flour and sugar naturally attracts water. So, when the two are added together, the process will slow down which creates more flavor in the breads end product.

How do you make enriched bread dough?

Ingredients

If you are planning to make an enriched bread dough, then there are few things you need to know about the ingredients before you start. It is important to know what certain types of ingredients to use and how to treat them in order to make an excellent dough.

When using milk in a dough, it is vital that you prepare the milk before adding it to the yeast. Milk will often times kill the yeast when added cold. So, it is important to heat the milk up to at least 180 degrees before adding to the milk. This process will neutralize the enzyme in milk that will harm the gluten. When you heat the milk on a stove a t low to medium heat the process is called scalding. But be very careful not to scorch the milk which will actually burn the milk and give your bread a very bitter taste.

Also, if you want to add heavier dairy products like eggs or butter then it is best to use the correct type of flour. Even if you don’t plan on using these products, it is still wise to stick to the same type of flour when baking breads. The type of flour you want to use is called bread flour. It is often referred to as “high gluten flour” or “hard flour”. Using this flour will strengthen the dough and give it the elasticity you will need to proof and shape the dough before baking it. Never use all-purpose flour as it just will not do the trick. Many bakers also like to shift the flour before using it in order to get any clumps out of the flour and to make sure all the ingredients meld together.

Mixing

There are three different methods to use when making enriched bread dough. They are not all that different but each one will create a different effect on the outcome of the dough. The first method is called the straight method which is when all the ingredients are added to the bowl at once and then mixed. Usually this process us used when there is a lower fat content in the dough or if it will need to be kneaded for longer periods of time.

The second method is called sponge. This is where you add all of the yeast to a very small amount of all the other ingredients in a small bowl and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. You could say that this process is like the blooming process we talked about earlier with lean dough. It allows the yeast to activate without fighting the sugars and speeds up the fermentation process. Once the allotted time is up, you then mix the everything else together with the sponge and continue the mixing.

The last method is very simple but will take a lot of elbow grease to get the process done. All you need to do is mix all of the ingredients together and mix. Then knead the dough until the gluten has formed and the dough is at an elastic stage to where you are able to pull the dough apart so it is almost transparent without it breaking or tearing. This is called the “windowpane” stage. Then the dough is rolled out and high fat butter at room temperature or colder is folded into the dough and rolled over and over again until it has been fully incorporated. This method works great for breads like brioche and croissants. It is also used to make homemade puff pastry but will take an extraordinary amount of time and patience

Proofing and Shaping

With enriched bread doughs there are usually two separate proofs. The initial proofing rise will happen directly after mixing or kneading the dough and the second happens after shaping the dough. For the first rise, it is best to allow the dough to proof in the fridge for 10-12 hours. But if you don’t have that much time to make bread then try proofing at room temperature for 1 hour then in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours. Enriched dough prefers to be proofed in a cold environment whereas lean dough needs a warm environment.

Once the dough has gone through the first proofing process it can now be shaped into the bread you are intending to make. Enriched dough will be heavier and very pliable when it comes to shaping so there should be plenty of room for many different designs.

Once you have shaped the dough into the desired bread product form, you will need to proof it once more. Again, you don’t want to warm of an environment. If it is too warm, butter can start to melt or you also risk the chance of over proofing the dough. If the dough becomes over proofed, then the rise will fall and you will be left with a very mediocre bread. It is best to keep the dough around 70 degrees when proofing but no warmer.

Baking

In order to bake enriched dough, you are going to want to preheat the oven to no more than 350 degrees. The reason is because of the high fat content in the dough. The same theory works when cooking meat with high fat content, slow and low. The bread will take longer to bake but since it is so heavy and thick, it will take some time for the heat to penetrate the center of the dough to cook fully. The larger the loaf is intended to be, the lower the temperature needs to be in order to cook properly.

The exterior of enriched breads are also usually a dark brown because of the longer cooking time. Many bakers like to brush egg wash on their doughs before baking in order to protect the dough. This will give a deep brown color and keep the bread moist while it bakes.

Once the bread has finished baking it is wise to allow the bread to cool down completely on a cooling rack before slicing into it. Once it has cooled down, use a serrated blade knife to cut the bread. This will keep it from tearing or smooshing the bread while cutting.

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