Ever Wondered What Makes Bread Rise?

Hint: It also occurs in winemaking.

By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Baking is a scientific exercise, especially when it comes to baking bread.

You may be familiar with baking powder, which chemically leavens cookies and cakes. But bread recipes don’t usually call for these leaveners because bread rises through another process all together: fermentation.

If your head just immediately went to kombucha, beer and kimchi, you’re not far off. Fermentation occurs in all of these food products and bread — it’s a chemical process by which molecules like glucose are broken down in the absence of oxygen.

But what does all of this science mean for bread, specifically? Everything starts with yeast, which is actually a living organism. Yep, every single variety is living, from active dry yeast to instant yeast to fresh yeast. When you add yeast to water and flour to create dough, it eats up the sugars in the flour and excretes carbon dioxide gas and ethanol this process is called fermentation. The gluten in the dough traps the carbon dioxide gas, preventing it from escaping. The only place for it to go is up, and so the bread rises.

Carbon dioxide actually also helps gluten develop in bread. Unless you’re gluten-intolerant, gluten is a great thing, folks. Essentially, it creates the structure of the whole bread. When you mix together flour and water, proteins in the flour attach to water and create a gluten network. You can strengthen that network by kneading dough, which jostles around water and protein and allows more of them to find each other and connect. As carbon dioxide bubbles form and rise up, they also jostle around water and protein to create a stronger gluten network. No-knead breads rely on carbon dioxide to create their gluten structure.

Now, a bit about the ethanol that’s also excreted. Ethanol, a type of alcohol, is released in equal parts to carbon dioxide. Though ethanol is indeed the type of alcohol that’s often distilled into liquor, it doesn’t pack a punch in breadmaking. Instead, it actually contributes to bread’s complex bread-like flavor and aids in rising. When the bread starts baking, ethanol evaporates and causes more rise. When it turns into gas poof it’s no longer alcoholic.

And there you have it, a concise explanation of fermentation, which makes bread rise. Now is anyone else feeling inspired to roll up their sleeves and start kneading?

Channel the smell of a French boulangerie in your own kitchen this simple recipe. Pay special attention to the dough's moisture level before proofing the dough.

Food Stylist:  Stephana Bottom
 Prop Stylist: Leslie Siegel

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Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Leslie Siegel,Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom Prop Stylist: Leslie Siegel

Photo by: Lisa Shin ©Lisa Shin Photography Inc.

Lisa Shin, Lisa Shin Photography Inc.

Dried rosemary and salt give this tender sandwich bread some extra zing.

Thanks to a touch of brown sugar and butter, Ree's wholesome loaves taste rich and dreamy.

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Photo by: David A. Land

David A. Land

With soft raisins and veins of cinnamon twisting throughout, this bread makes the tastiest PB&J you’ve ever imagined. Save the leftovers for French toast the next morning.

A round loaf of bread with a part of it missing that is placed on a cutting board along with a knife

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A round loaf of bread with a part of it missing that is placed on a cutting board along with a knife

©Con Poulos

Con Poulos

After eating a slice (or three), you’d never guess this recipe involves zero kneading — just resting at room temperature overnight.

American Standard “How To Make Bread At Home”, bread group, as seen on Food Network’s Fantasy Kitchen Sweepstakes 2019.

American Standard “How To Make Bread At Home”, bread group, as seen on Food Network’s Fantasy Kitchen Sweepstakes 2019.

Photo by: Josh Grubbs

Josh Grubbs

If you’ve been meaning to make sourdough for years, this simple recipe will convince you that it’s totally possible to make a tangy boule from scratch. Cooking it in a Dutch oven means an extra crunchy-chewy crust.

PARKER HOUSE ROLLS, Dave Lieberman, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman/Daveâ  s Home
Bakery, Food Network, Sugar, Active Dry Yeast, All-purpose Flour, Salt, Eggs, Butter, Salt,PARKER HOUSE ROLLS, Dave Lieberman, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman/Dave’s Home
Bakery, Food Network, Sugar, Active Dry Yeast, All-purpose Flour, Salt, Eggs, Butter, Salt

PARKER HOUSE ROLLS, Dave Lieberman, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman/Dave’s Home Bakery, Food Network, Sugar, Active Dry Yeast, All-purpose Flour, Salt, Eggs, Butter, Salt,PARKER HOUSE ROLLS, Dave Lieberman, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman/Dave’s Home Bakery, Food Network, Sugar, Active Dry Yeast, All-purpose Flour, Salt, Eggs, Butter, Salt

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

It takes less than two hours to whip up these melt-in-your-mouth pillows. And trust us, they pair well with every single meal.

FC FEATURE_ How Do You Like Your Pie

Photo by: chris coppa

chris coppa

Pizza dough is a great place for a yeast-dough beginner. It's a simple, easy recipe with a spectacular payoff — homemade pie. This recipe calls for San Marzano tomato puree, and and mozzarella cheese, but customize it to your taste, pantry stock and creativity.

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