Chronicles of A Pastry School Student

12 Steps of Baking

Various Yeast Raised Breads. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The baking of bread has been around since the Stone Age. Then, people used stones to grind seeds, added liquid and baked over open flame. The result was a heavy, unleavened unseasoned bread. Early Egyptians later elevated the process of milling by using wind powered fans and sieves to disassemble the wheat berry, mixing with liquid and yielding a variety of breads. Romans and Greeks further advanced milling methods, producing different kinds of flour in various stages of refinement.

Bread has come a long way and today, there are three basic types of bread products: Loaf bread in many shapes, breakfast items, such as Croissants and Danish and soft cakes to include muffins and doughnuts. No matter the bread product, bakers who respect the tradition of baking know and probably follow the Twelve Steps of Baking in conjunction with recipes to produce the best looking, best tasting, highest quality products.

1. Mise en Place/Scaling. Mise en Place is French for “Everything in its Place.” This step includes gathering all ingredients a chef will need in the kitchen and scaling out (measuring) those ingredients in preparation for mixing. All other needed equipment and supplies are assembled and set up for easy access.
2. Mixing. In this step, ingredients are combined to evenly distribute yeast and create gluten development to form a smooth, uniform dough.

Dough after mixing, before the First Rise. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dough after mixing, before the First Rise. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

3. Primary/Bulk/1st Fermentation/1st Rise. Yeast in the dough begins to act on sugars and starches. This produces Carbon Dioxide and alcohol. The gas inflates the dough producing the beginnings of shape. This is referred to as a “Rise.” Most of a bread’s flavor is also developed at this stage.

Dough after First Rise. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dough after First Rise. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

4. Punching Down/De-gassing. Bakers literally apply controlled pressure in a slapping motion, to deflate the dough. Punching or De-gassing the dough expels the Carbon Dioxide, redistributes the yeast, relaxes the gluten and equalizes temperatures in the dough.

5. Scaling/Dividing. In this step, Dough is divided into pieces of the same weight in preparation for further fermentation and shaping.

6. Rounding/Pre-shape . In Step 6 the Dough is lightly shaped into smooth round balls. A smooth surface is formed on top of the Dough and it is left to rest. Lightly handling the dough is key to prevent the loss of Carbon Dioxide.

7. Benching/2nd Rise.  Also called intermediate proofing, this step involves resting the dough on the table (also referred to as a bench) to allow gluten to rest and relax while the bread continues to ferment.

8. Shaping & Panning. Dough is shaped a final time for the desired finished look. It is then moved to the vessel (pan or mold) it will be baked in/on.

9. Proofing/3rd Fermentation/3rd Rise.  Dough is left to ferment in a closed environment, (a Proofer or Retarder). Heat and Humidity help the dough to rise and maintain a supple appearance. When the dough doubles in size, it is ready to bake.

Dough after Proofing in Tin - Ready to Bake. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dough after Proofing in Tin – Ready to Bake. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

10. Baking. During the baking process, proteins in the dough coagulate;    creating a firm, chewy interior, crusty exterior and brown color.

11. Cooling. After baking, bread is cooled momentarily in the pan, then completely cooled on racks to prevent the bread from becoming soggy. This must occur before cutting into the bread.

12. Staling/Storing/Eating. Freshly baked bread needs to rest one last time. Not to be confused with “stale” bread, Staling occurs when starch molecules bond and solidify, creating a firmer, more rigid structure. At room temperature, the bread is ready to store, freeze or eat.


To learn more about mixing, kneading and shaping bread, watch the following videos in the Video section of this blog:

  • Epicurious – How to Knead Bread Dough
  • King Arthur Series – Mixing Bread Dough
  • King Arthur Series – Dividing and Pre-Shaping
  • King Arthur Series – Shaping Baguettes, Boules & Batards

Information, Research and Photographs provided by:

The Culinary Institute of America. Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Friberg, Bo. The Professional Pastry Chef, 3rd Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

Wikipedia. “Bread.” 30 December 2012.

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