Abstract: Bread Science

Food science is a burgeoning field that draws from a variety of “traditional” scientific disciplines such as biology, chemical engineering, and biochemistry in an attempt to better understand food processes and ultimately improve food products for the general public. In my project, I will focus on combining traditional home baking with the scientific method in order to see if the manipulation of simple variables in tried-and-true bread recipes will produce clear cause and effect outcomes that might help home bakers accentuate the distinctive qualities of different loaves. I plan on experimenting with ten different types of bread from around the world, each with key defining qualities that make them both distinctive and delicious. I will work with Pita, Challah, Sourdough, Boston Brown Bread, Irish Soda Bread, Potato-Based Freckle Bread, Plain White Sandwich Loaf, Pumpernickel, Baguette, and Kulcha. For each type, five sets of dough will be produced, with the control dough coming from the prescribed recipe in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads and the other four representing a change in an independent variable that will garner new knowledge about the final product. Some examples of independent variables that I will manipulate in my experiments are: oven temperature, types of ingredients (substitutes), amount of ingredients, rising time (of yeasted breads), type of cooking implement (Dutch oven, baking sheet, etc.), treatment of dough (scoring versus not scoring the top, kneading time, etc.), and the shape of loaves.

My system of experimentation will prioritize the use of concrete variables and controls designed to establish close causation, and my final product will include pictures, descriptions, and tips about the baking process of each loaf. Essentially, the new knowledge generated from my project will take the form of better bread recipes for home bakers; I plan to experiment tirelessly in the kitchen so that fellow bread enthusiasts don’t have to, sharing my failures and triumphs with those who love bread just as much as me.