FLOUR - Flour gives the bread its sturdy and firm structure. Wheat flour has protein which in turn contains gluten. When flour is vigorously mixed with water, gluten is formed. This is what makes breadmaking half a dollar different from cakemaking. In baking cakes, we try to mix all ingredients as gentle as we can to avoid developing the gluten. In baking breads, we need to develop the gluten. Quite the opposite.
Bread flour or hard wheat flour - the most common type of flour used in breadmaking. It is cheaper and has a darker creamier color than all purpose flour. You can use 100 % hard wheat flour to create all types of bread. Bread flour cannot be used to make cakes and pies but you can use this type of flour to make cream puffs. The strong protein creates a sturdier and firmer crust. Yo can also use some bread flour to make your cookies chewier.
Not all flour brands are the same so experiment on the water level it uses and record.
All Purpose flour - this is mostly used to make a wide variety of cakes and pastries and can be used to make breads also. The resulting bread will be softer but due to its lower protein content will absorb less water than bread flour.
Cake flour - is used only to add softness to breads and cannot be used 100% except for cakes. Has longer shelf life due to its low protein content. Has very white color.
Third class - around 9% protein content and is added as a flour blend to some formulas that need a softer/crispier finished product like ensaimada, doughnuts, monay, crack pandesal and even pizza crusts. why bother buy an expensive all purpose flour or cake flour to add to your ensaimada recipe when you can use this cheaper flour? It does not make sense. The only reason why you will opt for all purpose or cake flour in a formula is when you want the dough to be white as in siopao doughs or dumplings. If you will look at most ensaimada recipes on books, they will usually tell you to use all purpose or a combination of all purpose and cake flour. Why i don't like it?
First, it is too costly. Second the yield is less. Using a bread flour and 3rd class blend is better because the dough can use up larger amounts of water, meaning bigger volume, and will stand up better because of the strength in the bread flour's protein content. You end up with a softer bread, bigger volume and cheaper product. Do not give this recipe or formula to anyone else.
YEAST - Active dry yeast is sold in small jars and in some baking supply stores by the grams. This type of yeast needs to be rehydrated before use and a small amount of sugar is used to check if the yeast is still alive. Instant yeast is preferred by most bakeries because of its ease of use. There is no need to rehydrate it, simply weigh and add to the rest of the ingredients. Instant yeast have a longer shelf life and is considered more potent because they are dried at a much lower temperature than active dry thus producing more live cells. If you do not bake regularly and is not quite sure if the yeast still works, proove it first in a small glass cup, add tap water and a teaspoon of sugar. Wait for 5 -10 minutes and if the mixture does not froth or bubble, throw the yeast and buy another jar. In 10 minutes, the yeast should be very active and has risen.
WATER - hydrates the flour and makes gluten development possible. It is also used to control the temperature of the dough during mixing. If the weather is hot, very cold water is used to prevent the dough from heating up. Water should be weighed but it is variable depending on the type of flour that you use. Not all brands of flour have the same % of protein thus differing in their absoprtion rates. If you are not familiar with the type of flour you are using, reserve a quarter of the water and add only if the dough is still dry and unyielding. If you are using or planning to add milk or eggs to your recipe, make sure that you lessen the amount of water in the recipe. In hot weather the amount of water is reduced especially if the humidity is very high. For beginners, how much water to add or when to stop adding it is oftentimes very tricky. A very experienced baker will be able to tell by poking his fingers into the dough or simply by just looking at the dough.
This is why manual mixing is crucial to someone who really wants to learn how to bake breads. There is no book in the world that can teach you how a dough feels like..
SALT - Added in small amounts only but its role is not only to add flavor to the dough but to act as a retarder to the yeast growth. Without salt, the bread tastes flat like biting into a cotton ball. The dough will be slack and dark in color. Used too much and the rate of fermentation will be greatly affected.
SUGAR - Sugar provides food for the yeast. The amount of sugar used in a recipe depends upon the type of recipe. For lean types, 4-8 % of sugar is used, Sweet yeast doughs use around 15-20% sugar. Sugar acts as a preservative and has the ability to retain the moisture in the crumb thus a french bread or pizza crust with very little sugar will mold and dry faster than a dinner roll or ensaimada.
FATS - The most commonly used form of fat in breadmaking is the shortening, next is margarine and then butter. Fats help the gluten strands to be more elastic and the finished product is softer and has a longer shelf life compared to breads made with none or very little fats. Shortening has a bland flavor and has excellent creaming quality. Most bakeries use the flavored margarine because it adds a vanilla like flavor to the bread and cost almost just the same. This so called margarine lasts longer than shortening especially in warm temperatures because it has salt and preservatives. Butter on the other hand is used only to make high end products such as cinnamon rolls, ensaimadas and brioche or cream buns etc., There is a truth to the saying that there is no substitute for butter because butter comes from animal milk and margarines are just flavored shortenings with annatto extract added for coloring. Shortening is made with hydrogenated vegetable oil or a combination of different types of oil.
The average range of fat used in a recipe again, depends on the type of recipe you want. For lean doughs, 2-4 % is sometimes used or none at all ( French Bread and Other Hearty Country Loaf). Sweet yeast doughs have a range of 12-18% and very rich doughs from 18 - 40%. In France, a brioche should be made with 46% butter to be called a brioche.
EGGS- A very expensive ingredient and used solely to create high end products such as ensaimada, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts etc., Breads made with eggs produces a deep golden brown crust and very soft interior with a fine crumb. The biggest benefit from using eggs in a recipe is that it extends the shelf life of the bread. Since the lecithin in the egg is a form of fat, this provides extra moisture to the crumb.
The fats, sugar and eggs are called enriching ingredients. They are used to create variations and added flavor and texture to the finished product. The first four on the list are the basic ingredients because you can make a wonderful artisanal type of loaf bread with them. Sometimes it is not what you put in the dough but how you make the bread that spells the big difference.