The formula for bread is fairly simple - flour made of ground grain, liquid, oil and a leavening agent. Prior to 1843, the only leavening agents available were yeast and whipped egg whites. The invention of baking powder opened a new world of bread baking possibilities. Terre Haute's Hulman and Company was one of the companies that began manufacturing baking powder, and their Clabber Girl brand is still marketed today.
The protein gluten is responsible for the texture and cohesion of baked goods, and is a critical component of bread. Gluten is found in wheat flour in varying proportions, depending on the type of flour. Cake flour, for example, has very little gluten. This creates a baked product that tends to be crumbly. On the other hand, bread flour is made from hard red wheat and contains a high percentage of gluten. All-purpose flour is a blend of low gluten and high gluten flours, and is acceptable for most baking. Whole wheat, multigrain or other specialty breads still need to contain a small amount of white flour in order to have enough gluten to make the dough adhere.
Breads fall into two general categories: yeast and quick. Yeast breads use yeast as a leavening agent and the dough needs to be kneaded and to rise prior to shaping and baking. Quick breads use baking powder to leaven them and are made from batter rather than dough.
Tomorrow: Basic yeast bread tips and recipes