The Fresh Loaf

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French Batard questions! Meat and bubbles?

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Pparten's picture
Pparten

French Batard questions! Meat and bubbles?

Hello all,

I'm new to the forum but not to baking bread.  I started a few years back, trying out my hand at bread making on a whim.  The result was a three pound loaf with the density of a lead bar that even the goat we owned would not eat.  It was that bad.  So after some culinary sulking I tried again and finally had some decent results.  Now I consider myself a fairly accomplished baker with several successful bread recipies under my belt that I make on a regular basis.  So now come my big question.  I'm practicing making french bread and trying to recreate the flavor, texture and high-gas content of my local farmers market's selection.  My first attempt was a flop, only cooking halfway through, but the crust was very nice and crisp, so it wasn't a total failure.  My second loaf came out much better after allowing it to rise and bake much slower, but I'm still not getting the right flavor or consistancy of the bread itself that I'm looking for.  The crust was spot on, chewy with that lovely little squeak, but I'm missing the big bubbles and the slightly sourdough like taste that they've accheived.  I'll have to take and post some photographs, but perhaps I could get a little advice on the way.  I've got some sourdough starter brewing at home as we speak, and will give that a try later this week, but what causes those lovely crater-like bubbles you often get in rustic breads?  Also, how can I produce a chewier textured 'meat' of the bread?  Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide!

Paul

jcking's picture
jcking

Paul,

Perhaps if you list your formula and technique it would be easier to trouble shoot your bread.

Jim

Pparten's picture
Pparten

Fair enough,

I start with a 30 minute preproof of the yeast, 1 and 3/4 cut warm water, 2 tsp yeast, 1 tbsp sugar.  Sift 3 3/4 cups all purpose and 1 1/2 tsp salt, add yeast to flour over low 'stir' speed [kitchenaide with bread hook].  Bowl-knead for 7 minutes, hand knead for 10.   Rolled in oil and let rise over about 2.5 hours open on the counter [kitchen was about 70-75°F].  Folded, shaped and scored and allow to rise in a warming tray for another 45 minutes, oven heated to 450°F with a broilerpan of water on the bottom.   The dough was given a water wash just as it went into the oven and I kept the steam-bath in as it baked for about 30 minutes.  The bottom was still slightly underdone for my tastes so I removed the steam-bath and placed the loaf directly on the rack, baking for an additional 10 minutes at 350°F.  I'm sure the issue was that the amount of moisture in the air was keeping the bottom of the loaf from cooking properly, plus I'm working off of a cookie-sheet until I invest in a new baking stone.  I hope this helps!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Might want to hold off scoring until the shaped risen loaf is ready for the oven.  That way the cuts are fresh.  If your broiler pan is blocking all the bottom heat of the oven, might help using a smaller pan off to the side to make steam for the first 10-15 minutes during the oven spring before removing the steam tray.  

If your bread pan or cookie sheet are shiny, you might try baking with darker pans or glass so the loaf can brown more evenly.  I like a fry pan with the handle removed or a dutch oven.  Good move baking directly on the rack.  :)

I'm not sure, the recipe is for a yeasted dough but you say you've got sourdough brewing?  

Welcome to TFL!

Pparten's picture
Pparten

The broiler tray is fairly large, perhaps I should keep it off of the bottom of my oven?  Could it be taking away all of my heat?  I assumed that the column of steam was not hot enough to warm the bottom of my baking sheet.

I use a darker cookie sheet.  Would a cast-iron skillet work?  And would you preheat it in the same manner as you would a stone?  I understand both are very porous, if in different ways. 

I've got sourdough brewing because I've yet to make sourdough in my baking adventures and I'm trying to broaden my recipe spectrum.

jcking's picture
jcking

Yes, too much moisture and a baking stone will help. A pre-ferment will also help. The sugar isn't needed, it will soften the crumb. Pre-heat oven at least 45 minutes before loading loaf. Use gentle shaping and slash before loading into oven. Flour unbleached? First rise may be too long, did it double or more than?

Jim

Pparten's picture
Pparten

It doubled, but was slow to rise because I had it open to a slightly cooler than usual room.  I normally make 10-minute bread and warm it in the warming tray of my oven before baking so this was an arduous wait for me!  The first loaf flopped because I tried to rush it like my normal bread, bad move.  Should I keep the steam-bath in the oven while baking or just rely on the initial steaming and occasional spritzing do you think?

jcking's picture
jcking

If you're giving the loaf a water wash before loading into oven forget the steam bath and spritzing. Avoid opening the oven as you'll lose heat. The steaming is only helpful for the first 10 mins. Is you're oven gas or electric, with convection?

Pparten's picture
Pparten

It's electric with the convection option.  I haven't played with the convection settings much. 

jcking's picture
jcking

Switch to convection for the last 10 mins of baking to release a little more moisture and set the crumb.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

What brand of "AP" flour are you using?