La Cottura


Baking is the culminating moment of the bread-making process, where the bread takes on its final shape, flavor, color and texture. This step transforms leavened doughs into delicious baked goods through a series of chemical and physical reactions.

Main Phases of Bread Baking:

  1. Expansion and Steam Cooking :

    • In the first minutes of cooking, the heat of the oven causes a final boost in leavening called "oven jump" or oven spring. The carbon dioxide in the dough expands rapidly before the bread's structure stabilizes.
    • Steam is often introduced or generated at the beginning of cooking to keep the surface of the dough moist, thus allowing for greater expansion and preventing the early formation of a hard crust.
  2. Gelatinization of Starches :

    • As the temperature rises, the starches within the dough begin to gelatinize, absorbing water and swelling. This process contributes to the structure of the bread crumb, making it soft and moist.
  3. Caramelization and Maillard Reaction :

    • The bread crust acquires its characteristic golden color and aroma through the caramelization of sugars and the Maillard Reaction, which involves amino acids and reducing sugars. These reactions not only improve the color and flavor of the bread, but also contribute to the crunchiness of the crust.
  4. Protein coagulation :

    • Proteins such as gluten coagulate during baking, stabilizing the structure of the bread. This coagulation prevents the bread from collapsing once the gas has expanded and the steam has evaporated.

Cooking Considerations:

  • Oven Temperature : The oven temperature must be adequately calibrated for the type of bread. Bread with a moist, dense crumb, such as a loaf, may require a lower temperature and longer baking time, while baguettes and thinner breads may require higher temperatures for a crispy crust.
  • Positioning in the Oven : The position of the bread in the oven can affect how heat is distributed and absorbed. Bread placed on the bottom or top shelf may have significant differences in the texture of the crust.
  • Humidity : Maintaining a humid environment, especially at the beginning of cooking, is essential for a good bake. This can be achieved by adding steam or with specialized ovens that generate it automatically.

Mastery in baking bread is acquired with practice and experience, as each oven is unique and each type of bread has its own specific baking needs.

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