The Quest for the Best Bread
What combination of sugar, water, flour, and yeast allows bread dough to rise the most in a fixed amount of time?
If I used the same volume of materials in different percentages, which combination of these ingredients would rise the most?


Bread is tasty, and I like making it, but like my mom (who is a fantastic cook), I always like to find a better recipe. The only thing better than bread is more bread. If I could figure out what combination of sugar, water, flour, and yeast allows for the most rising, I could find a better recipe.
When leavened bread, or bread containing some substance that produces bubbles of carbon-dioxide gas, causing it to rise and become light and porous, is rising, it does this, most often with the aid of yeast ("bread and baking"). Yeast is a fungus that feasts on the sugars in the dough. This is how bread rises. Besides that, it helps to give bread its yummy flavor.
If I was hand-kneading the dough for this project, I would begin with a large mass of dough in front of me on the countertop that feels moist to the touch but not "sticky." (how much is a large mass) Blicharz I would start by pushing away and pulling forward the dough, and I would continue this process until the dough is smooth and satiny feeling. This would take somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes for each trial group (Fidler, M, Denise). I would then have to wait for the bread to rise. Luckily, my mom has an electric bread maker, so a) the process will be kept standard, and b) I don't have to do all this work.
Of course I know that the mass of the bread doesn't increase when it rises more. Technically you still have the same amount of bread, according to the Law of Conservation of mass, but the loaf is bigger, and lighter, and fluffier, and, of course, tastier.
The Law of Conservation of mass, which I mentioned previously, states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed during a reaction, only changed from one form to another. ("matter"). This means that any rising occurring in our dough doesn't change the mass of the dough.
The temperature for the oven in which the bread is baking varies from recipe to recipe, but is generally somewhere between 375 degrees Fahrenheit and 425 degrees Fahrenheit. For the purposes of the experiment, I will choose the constant temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit (Rees).
I have decided to divide each trial's materials into twenty-five, one teaspoon parts for easy percentage breakdowns. Based upon the information I found in a typical recipe in the article "easy home-baked bread", I have decided that the first trial will be 17 1/2 parts (70%) flour, 7 parts (28%) water, 1/8 parts (0.5%) yeast, and 3/8 parts (1.5%) sugar (Perry). These numbers will change on a trial by trial basis.
For measurements I have decided to measure at three different stages: before the kneading and rising process, which will always be the same measurement; after the kneading and rising but before the baking, which will be different depending on the materials; and after the baking, which will also be different depending on the materials. Because I will be baking the bread, I have to decide the length of time it will bake. I have decided, for now, to bake the loaves for four minutes. This is based on the information I found in the article "Staff of life" (McLure). The author of the article made it clear that baking time depends on size and density of a loaf. Because my loaves will be tiny, the length of time must be short.
3-18-13: I am updating my experiment in several ways due to experimental error. I have changed the time for baking from four minutes to thirteen minutes, I have changed the time for cooling from ten minutes to fifteen minutes, and I have changed each part from teaspoon to tablespoon because the breadmaker I am using has a minimum amount that is above twenty-five teaspoons.
If bread dough has a concentration of 1% yeast, 3% sugar, 24% water, and 72% flour, then the bread dough will increase in volume by more than it would with other concentrations.
3-18-13: I proved this hypothesis incorrect in trial 3 (see table 1 below) when I concluded that the amount of yeast can not be increased without also increasing the amount of water because it is impractical to knead. I afterwards hypothesized that the original concentrations I used (70% flour, 28% water, .5% yeast and 1.5% sugar) were the best for rising, but this hypothesis was also proved false, in trial 4. My final hypothesis is that a concentration of 69% flour, .5% yeast, 3% sugar, and 27.5% water would be the best for rising.
All-purpose flour
Active dry yeast
Granulated sugar
1 Tbsp capacity measuring cup
Bread pan
Cellophane or cling wrap
Graduated cylinder
(The measurements can not be more specific because the specific measurements depend on the trial of the experiment. The independent variable in the experiment is the concentration of each of the four ingredients in each trial.)
1. Based upon the data previously collected, decide upon concentrations. Remember that the results we are looking for are those with high volume.
2. Measure out the different ingredients and dump them into the breadmaker. The water goes first. The water should be the same temperature for each trial. The sugar goes next, then the flour. If possible, try to spread the flour over the top of the water to separate the water from the yeast. Create a small depression in the flour with your finger and dump the yeast into that.
3. Spread a sheet of cellophane over the breadmaker. Dump water into it until the breadmaker is completely filled. Empty the water from the breadmaker and measure its volume. Subtract that from the total volume of the breadmaker and record it.
4. Set the breadmaker to the predetermined setting (varies by make and model). Wait. As soon as the breadmaker goes off, open it again and repeat step 3.
5. Move the dough from the breadmaker to the bread pan. Place it in the oven (set for 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and set the oven timer for thirteen minutes. When the timer rings, take the bread out.
6. Wait for fifteen minutes while bread cools.
7. Repeat measurements as outlined in step 3 with the pan instead of the breadmaker.
8. Repeat all steps until trials are completed.

Table 1 is a table of the results I got for the first four trials of the experiment.
Starting Volume Volume Before Baking Volume After Baking Flour Sugar Water Yeast Observations
Trial 1 369.669 mL 280.7 mL 331.5 mL Trial 1 Measures 17.5 tbsp .375 tbsp 7 tbsp .125 tbsp Dough-like consistency
Trial 2 369.669 mL 295.7 mL 383.0 mL Trial 2 Measures 15.25 tbsp .333 tbsp 12.25 tbsp .167 tbsp Very wet and sloppy
Trial 3 369.669 mL did not bake did not bake Trial 3 Measures 17.46 tbsp .370 tbsp 6.92 tbsp .25 tbsp Had to stop trial for fear of breaking breadmaker Trial 4 369.669 mL 239.7 mL 460.0 mL Trial 4 Measures 17.25 tbsp .740 tbsp 6.89 tbsp .12 tbsp Dough-like consistency

I determined that the most effective variable to change to result in greater rising without a significant change in consistency is sugar.

What will be your variable/constant? I would just make that clear before you execute your experiment, so the data will be easy to read and clearer. (Jon Uhlenhake)


"bread and baking." Compton's by Britannica, v 6.0. 2009. eLibrary. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Fidler, M, Denise.. "Bread making basics." Countryside & Small Stock Journal. 01 Nov. 2004: 78. eLibrary. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.

"matter." Compton's by Britannica, v 6.0. 2009. eLibrary. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.

McLure, John. "Staff of life: The simple art of baking bread." Mother Earth News. 01 Feb. 2001: 24. eLibrary. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.

Perry, Allen, Mary.. "easy home-baked bread." Southern Living. 01 Oct. 2004: 150. eLibrary. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.

Rees, Nicole. "baker's choice." Vegetarian Times. 01 Nov. 2011: 42. eLibrary. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.