Yeast Free Bread

Baking Breads without Yeast

There are vast differences with breads that are made without
yeast. They range from round, flat, and light flakey crusted
biscuits raised only by steam and waffles and loaves using
baking powder.

Although these breads have less texture and the preservative qualities of yeast
leavened loaves, they have advantages. Doughs that are made without yeast need little
or no kneading that creates the gluten necessary to store gasses that are given off
from yeast. Yeast must have time to act on dough before baking. Some leavens rise
quickly and need only water and the heat from the stove to activate the leaven process.
Also, because non yeast leavens do not rely on gluten, you can use different flours that
have only little or no gluten forming potential like oats.

Heat alone, without a leavening agent, is enough to raise light battered and soft,
flattened doughs. The flour and water based chappatis, an Indian flatbread for example
changes the moisture in the dough into steam which puffs up the bread.
Popovers have dramatic puffing because of a higher concentration of liquid and the
use of eggs in the batter. When eggs proteins are subjected to heat from the oven,
they combine with the proteins in the flour to stiffen the gluten process. The steam
created by the batters liquid is trapped thus causing maximum expansion.
The most popular non yeast leavens utilize baking soda in one form or another. When
moistened and heated, the baking soda releases carbon dioxide, which raises the
bread mixture. However, the alkaline soda will give bread a soapy taste unless it is
neutralized by the addition of some acidic element. (The acid also speeds up the
production of gas.) Breads leavened by baking soda, are often made with some type of
soured milk to supply the necessary acidity.

Such precautions are not necessary when the soda used is in the form of baking
powder, which includes its own acid – usually cream of tartar.

When moistened, the two chemicals instantly begin to act on each other. Therefore,
baking powder also contains a little starch. In some cases, cornstarch which keeps the
mixture so dry, that the baking soda and acid cannot react while in storage.

In many parts of the world, the daily bread is no more than a soft dough of water and
flour, shaped into thin rounds and, more often than not, cooked on a griddle or in a
pan. Such a flatbread usually is made with flours that contain little or no gluten. They do
use barley, millet, oat, rye, corn or whole wheat. Nonetheless, the dough must be
kneaded and rested. Kneading, accomplished in only a few minutes, distributes the
liquid evenly, thus softening the flour and permitting its starches and proteins to bind
the dough together. Resting the dough tenderizes it by relaxing any gluten present in
the flour.

Cooking the Indian Flatbread “Chappatis” in two stages can produce light and an airy
quality. The pan is preheated and brown slightly. The bread is held over an open
flame for a few minutes. The flame could be from a gas burner, a barbecue or a
campfire. The direct heat evaporates the dough’s moisture turns it into steam thus
puffing the bread while cooking it completely. If the flatbread needs to be crisper, the
disks can be cooked in a griddle or pan so that the steam from the dough leavens the
bread. A variety of flavorings can be added to the unleavened bread. Salt should be
used to season the dough, while other spices or herbs can enhance the flavor. To
enrich the quality of the dough, you can add milk instead of water to the dough.

You can produce a flaky crust by brushing the dough with melted butter each time it is
folded. Some Indian recipes call for stuffing pureed vegetables in the dough before

Many American flatbreads were made using cornmeal. Johnnycake, corn pones and
hoecake are made from techniques learned from the American Indians. Cornmeal,
liquid and lard are mixed tighter to make a batter or dough, which is then made into
different sizes of flatcakes. These were then quickly baked on a hot surface. In old
times this was done by heating stones in an open fire.

Cornmeal soaks up moisture slower than flour because of it’s larger and more course
granules. To make sure that the moisture is absorbed evenly and to avoid producing
lumps, the liquid is added slowly and blended thoroughly. The dough should rest for at
least five minutes to let the starch puff and soften. If the dough mixture consistency
needs to be adjusted, then more liquid should be added.

During the cooking process, the starches in the cornmeal will come together. At that
time, the starch traps the steam which is produced by the liquid thus making the bread
lighter. Cooking corn flatbreads with a well seasoned and oiled pan is necessary
because the starch in the mixture is gluey. In order to make sure that the bread does
not stick to the pan, brush the cooking surface with unflavored vegetable oil. Place the
pan in a 250 degree oven for one hour. Remove and let cool overnight. Using paper
towels, wipe off the excess oil. After each use, rinse the pan with water then dry it and
wipe with an oil soaked paper towel.

Probably the most widely made corn flatbread is called Johnny cake. It was first
named Journey cake because it was easy to carry for travelers. Today mostly served
for breakfast, it is served in two forms, the crisp, lace fringed cake made from a simple
batter and a crunchy puffed cake made from rich dough.

Before the invention of modern baking powder in the 1850’s, bakers used a variety of
methods to raise non-yeast breads. The most widely used was the popovers and Irish
soda bread. Popovers used the simplest form of leavening: steam. A thin batter was
used for the popover. An equal amount of flour and milk were used. Then the butter
and eggs were added to enrich the mixture. As the batter liquid turns to steam from
the heated oven, the proteins from the flour and eggs would come together to form an
elastic outer layer that traps the steam inside. To have the most expansion, the
popover would be baked in an oven until fully risen, and then the heat is lower to
make the crust without drying the dough. The door of the oven should never be
opened because the popover is very fragile and any lost of heat would cause them to
collapse. Popovers can rise to there fullest if they are molded into small cakes. The
batter can only expand upward. When using an old fashion iron skillet, the small
cakes are placed close together and when they expand they make irregular shapes.
For more evenly shaped breads, popovers can be baked in soufflé dishes or custard
cups. If you preheat the different types of molds, then the bottom of the popover will
come together quickly and help in the rising process.

Steam is not an adequate leavening to lighten thick batters or heavy dough’s. Long
ago bakers learned how to raise heavier breads with baking soda. Carbon Dioxide is
released when it is moistened and heated. Baking soda along is not enough to raise
the dough. The salt content must be balanced with the acid such as buttermilk used in
the Irish soda bread.

In making authentic Irish bread, all white flour is mainly used. However to make the
pale brown loaf, an equal amount of white all purpose flour and wheat flout should be
used. Using a cast iron pot is the traditional way to bake Irish bread. When first
heating the dough, the container is covered to trap the moisture thus delaying the
formation of the crust and allowing the dough to rise. When it has risen, then the
cover is removed to allow the bread to brown.

When you use baking powder, baking soda is mixed with an acid like cream of tartar,
the liquid in the dough sets off the reaction from the soda and the acid so that they
release carbon dioxide even before the bread is baked. The heat of the oven
accelerates the inflation of the dough. The end result is fluffier and moist bread such
as buttermilk biscuits or blueberry muffins.  Using baking powder will help raise the
batter. The usual amount to add is 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of flour
of cornmeal. Kneading the dough quickly is very important in producing the highest
measure of increase of the dough’s texture and preventing the loss of carbon
dioxide in the batter. Working fast with the dough also prevents the emergence of
gluten, which would make the texture of the dough tougher.
For example, making fluffy baking powder biscuits, a less amount of fat combined
with other ingredients are used. The fat used may be lard, vegetable oil or a
combination of half lard and half unsalted butter. It should be soft enough to be
blended easily together.

In order to may the dough moist, adding milk to the mixture and stirring quickly is
important. Blueberries or other fruits can be added at this point. Once the batter is
kneaded, it is patted to a thickness of about ½ inch not rolled flat. Do not overwork
the dough. Fold only about seven or eight times. Using a biscuit cutter, place it on
the dough and twist slightly to produce a rounded biscuit. Bake the biscuits on an
ungreased baking sheet for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees or until slightly browned.
Serve them hot with butter, honey, jam or jelly.


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