Oil or other fat types are used to prepare many baked goods. Although basic bread does not require adding fat, many bread recipes include it. This article aims to explore the role of oil in bread dough and what happens if you add too much of it.
• Oil inhibits the development of gluten, so too much of it can result in bread that doesn't rise sufficiently and has a dense crumb. • Oil, being a liquid, increases the hydration of the dough. Therefore, if you use a lot of it, you may end up with too wet dough, which is difficult to work with and will not rise properly. • When a strong-flavored oil is added in large amounts, it also changes the aroma of the bread.
Typically, adding a tablespoon or two of oil to the dough is sufficient to improve its stretchability and make the bread crumb and crust tender. Basic bread usually contains 2-5% fat in proportion to the total amount of flour. The exception is enriched bread dough, which contains more fat, up to 70% according to some recipes.
The Role of Oil in Bread Dough
Oils are fats of vegetable origin that are in a liquid state, increasing the moisture content of the dough. Examples of oils include olive, soy, sunflower, or rapeseed (canola) oil. Along with eggs, sugar, milk, and butter, oils belong to the category of dough conditioners, which make baked goods soft and tender.
1. Oil inhibits gluten development
When flour comes into contact with water, gluten begins to develop. Both fat and water in the dough strive to bond to the flour, but if the fat covers the proteins in the flour before the water reaches them, it inhibits the formation of the gluten structure.
For bread with a high fat content, it is worth mixing the ingredients without the fat first. Add oil or butter to the dough only after the gluten has formed. This is much easier to do with a mixer than by hand. I use the Kenwood Chef stand mixer to make bread, which I highly recommend.
2. Oil makes the dough easier to handle
Oil serves as a lubricant in the dough, preventing it from sticking and making it more stretchable and easier to handle. When baking bread, oil is used not only mixed into the dough but also for greasing the proofing bowl, preventing the dough from sticking to it. While on the subject of stickiness, you may wish to read my article on whether bread dough should be sticky.
Since the dough does not stick because of the oil, there is no need to flour the bench when kneading and shaping the bread. This way, we can avoid adding raw flour to the dough, which has a negative effect on the texture of the bread.
Oil is also often used to grease baking pans, making it easier to remove the bread after baking.
3. Fats make the bread soft and tender
Gluten strands are shortened due to the fat, resulting in a denser breadcrumb with smaller and more uniform air pockets. The bread will be soft instead of tough and chewy due to the shorter gluten strands. The crust of bread containing oil darkens more and becomes softer during baking.
4. Fat can improve oven spring
While too much oil makes it difficult for bread dough to rise, the right amount of fat actually helps with oven spring. It forms a film around the gas bubbles, keeping the gases in and making the bread airy. The mixing time of bread dough containing oil must be longer, and the rising time is also extended.
5. Oils can improve the aroma of baked goods
Oils with a neutral flavor such as canola oil do not affect the taste of the bread. However, oils with a characteristic aroma, such as olive oil, can enrich the flavor of baked goods. By adding an infused oil like garlic or herb oil, we can give the bread a special aroma.
6. Oil keeps the bread fresh for longer
Oil can also help to extend the shelf life of bread by keeping it from going stale too quickly. Since oil does not evaporate from the dough during baking as water does, it stays in the bread and helps keep it soft.
In conclusion, adding too much oil to bread dough can result in a too wet dough, a denser crumb, a change in aroma, and a darker crust.
However, when used in moderation, oil can improve the stretchability of the dough and make the bread crumb and crust tender.
Oils act as lubricants, preventing sticking and making the dough easier to handle. They can also contribute to the flavor and shelf life of the bread.
The right amount of oil can actually help with oven spring, but it does require longer mixing and rising times. Therefore, it is important to use the appropriate amount of oil in bread dough to achieve the desired texture, flavor, and overall quality of the bread.