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I made some cinnamon rolls the other day but the outside of the rolls are firm rather than soft after baking. What are the factors that affect the chewiness, softness, moisture of bread based desserts like cinnamon rolls?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I'll try to be specific without getting into too much detail here:

  1. The chewiness (AKA elasticity) - of dough is due to the formation of gluten. This is affected by:

    • The amount of starch (flour) used (gluten is the result of starch and water);
    • Type of flour used (high-gluten flour such as bread flour gives means a chewier result);
    • Fat content (fat insulates the starch from the water, slowing gluten formation);
    • Sugar content (in order for gluten to form, the starch must be dissolved; a high sugar content saturates the water and prevents dissolution of the starch);
    • Baking time (up to a certain point, until all of the starch has been converted).

  2. The crust (I assume this is what you're referring to by "softness") - is primarily the result of the Maillard reaction, which requires an amino acid and a sugar as well as heat. The longer and more quickly the reaction carries on, the crispier and browner the crust will be. The factors are:

    • Baking temperature (higher = crispier);
    • Baking time (longer = crispier);
    • Moisture (less = crispier). This has an effect because the evaporation temperature of water (100° C / 212° F) is lower than that required for the Maillard reaction (154° C / 310° F), so the reaction can only take place once all water has evaporated or been converted to gluten.
    • Acidity (pH) also inhibits the Maillard reaction but this is not normally a concern in bread.

  3. Finally, the moistness of the bread is essentially a combination of the first two:

    • Higher fat content means less gluten is formed and more of the moisture is preserved, as long as it doesn't evaporate. The fat itself also adds a certain amount of moisture as far as mouth-feel is concerned.

    • Higher sugar content also preserves more of the moisture and using a wetter sugar (i.e. brown or muscovado) provides some moisture of its own - although the latter can easily evaporate with over-baking.

    • Longer baking times cause more of the water to evaporate, which reduces the final level of moisture in the finished bread.

    • Higher baking temperatures also cause more water to evaporate. However, it's usually a trade-off between higher temperatures or longer baking. A good recipe tends to be optimized to provide a slightly crispy crust without over-developing gluten or drying out the bread.

If your bread (or similar baked product) ended up too dry, it's probably because you over-baked it or baked at too high a temperature. If it came out too chewy (glutinous), you might have used too strong a flour or not enough fat/sugar.

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Thanks Aaronut, exactly what I was looking for. –  bmillare Dec 30 '10 at 8:44
    
Aaronut, does having higher fat and sugar content make the bread less chewy? Would adding more gluten to the dough (e.g. by adding Vital Wheat Gluten?) make the bread chewier? –  CookingNewbie Aug 4 at 6:07
    
@CookingNewbie: As far as fat and sugar - that's exactly what this answer says. For Vital Wheat Gluten, I've never really tried it but that's their claim. Generally though, bread flour forms more than enough gluten to begin with. –  Aaronut Aug 4 at 15:56

Fat, water, cooking temperature and cooking time.

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Some of the most important factors that affect texture in this way are: sugar content (brown), fat content, milk content, and egg content. When you make cinnamon buns, you want to use a sweet dough (never lean), and sweet doughs always have a higher concentration of these ingredients.

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