The Science of Making Bread: Markaye Russell in Ouachita Parish

Markaye Russell, Ouachita Parish Flavors of Health Agent, taught a bread making workshop with Family Consumer Science students at West Monroe High School. The students learned the science behind bread making and measuring ingredients. When it comes to baking bread, success depends on the right chemical reactions taking place, and this depends on using exact measurements, temperatures, and even kneading and rising times. Students explored what makes bread dough rise.

First, what are yeasts? They are single-celled organisms that feed off of simple sugars and break them down into a variety of substances including carbon dioxide, alcohol, flavor molecules, and energy.

In bread making, the carbon dioxide molecules that the yeasts expel get trapped within the dough, therefore creating small pockets of air. This process is what causes the dough to rise. While the bread dough bakes,the carbon dioxide expands as the the bread rises and sets.



  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (not over 110°F)
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • cornmeal or semolina for sprinkling on the pan, optional

Person needing bread into flour on a counter top.


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together, using the smaller amount of flour. Mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding more of the flour if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. (This may be a little messy, but don't give up!)
  2. Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Mix all of the ingredients together using your mixer's dough hook. You'll want to reduce the amount of water to 1 3/4 cups, since you won't be using any extra flour on a kneading surface, as you do when kneading by hand. Knead the dough at low-medium speed for about 10 minutes total, until it's smooth and just barely sticking to the bottom and/or sides of the bowl.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl large enough for it to at least double in size. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place (your turned-off oven works well) until the dough doubles, about 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Gently deflate the dough. Cut it in half and shape into two oval Italian- or longer, thinner French-style loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment (if you have it) and generously sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. The cornmeal or semolina are optional, but give the bottom crust lovely crunch.
  6. Let the loaves rise, gently covered in greased plastic wrap, for 45 minutes, until they're noticeably puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  7. Brush or spray the loaves generously with lukewarm water; this step, which helps keep the top crust pliant while baking, will enhance the bread's rise. Lightly slash the tops of the loaves three or more times diagonally. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven.
  8. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 200°F on a digital thermometer.
  9. Remove the loaves from the oven, take them off the pan, and return them to the oven, placing them right on the rack. Turn the oven off and crack the door open several inches. Let the loaves cool in the cooling oven; this will make them extra-crusty.
  10. Store completely cool bread in a paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Recipe adapted from the following source:

For more recipes, check out these articles! Mediterranean Salad Fiesta Skillet Dinner

Markaye Russell measuring ingredients during presentation.

3/6/2023 2:15:45 PM
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