The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Refining the technique: Some questions

MrTutt's picture

Refining the technique: Some questions

I've got some questions, and I'm looking for some suggestions. I'm a good cook, know my way around the kitchen and have baked bread off and on for years, but about six months ago I discovered no-knead bread making and have started making bread about once a week. I've refined my basic recipe to 500 gms of flour, 2 tsps of salt, 1/2 tsp dry active yeast, and 410 to 420 grms of filtered water. Most of the time I use a about 80% white whole wheat flour and 20% bread flour as the flour mix. I usually add 2 tbls of ground flax seeds, a cup of steel cut oats, and some honey. I do an 18- hour rise, punch down the dough, proof for 1 1/2 hours and bake in a cast iron Dutch oven covered for 30 minutes at 465, and then another 10 minutes uncovered. The internal temperature hits 202-205. Before I plop the dough in the Dutch oven, I drizzle a little oil into the pan so I can move the dough around a bit if the plop is more of a kerplop. I like the final product, and so does everyone who tries it, but.... (There's always seems to be a "but" in there somewhere. Isn't there

1. The bottom of the loaf is too dark. It's not bad, but it's not what I want. Could it be the oil? When I started baking with this method, the temperature was 475. I've cut that back 10 degrees, but the bottom is still too dark. The Dutch oven is an old one, all iron, no enamel, and very well seasoned. I have no sticking problems. I usually bake on the center level of the  electric oven. Would movie up a level help?

2. The loaf is pretty dense. OK by me, and the hydroscopic effect of the honey produces a tender and moist crumb that will last four or five days before noticable staling. Today, I'm made a loaf using only standard white bread flour and put only 1/2 a cup of oats on the mix. Everything else in the recipe was the same, but the finished product got a much higher rise. I'd say the loaf was 25 % greater in volume or more. 

So there. Any suggestions for the first entry, and explainations for the second.

Thanks for your help.

pmccool's picture

but we'll start with the first one.  There are at least three variables you can play with.  One, temperature, which you've already adjusted somewhat but still have room for further experimenting.  Two, DO location in oven; you can try moving it up one position if there's enough headspace in the oven.  Three, some form of shielding below the DO.  This could be as simple as a baking sheet on the same rack or a lower one to deflect some of the direct radiant heat coming from the bottom of the oven.  As a bonus idea, you can check to see whether your oven is designed to use both top and bottom heating while baking.  If it is, and if the top element is not working properly, the bottom element may be putting out more heat to keep the temperature at the set point, leading to the darker bottom of your loaf.

Now the second question.  In a no-knead bread made with an 80:20 ratio of whole wheat flour to bread flour, there isn't going to be nearly as much lift as there would be in an all-white flour version of the loaf.  Then there are the oats, which are effectively a dead weight in the loaf since they contribute no gluten.  As your own experience shows, all bread flour and less oats leads to greater oven spring.  To get better loft with the higher whole wheat and oat content of your basic formula, you will have to introduce some extended kneading (which takes you out of the no-knead universe) of the dough.


Ford's picture

I have added oatmeal (rolled oats) to bread, but I have ground the oatmeal in a food proessor before adding.  I have used about 20% oat based on the flour with no ill effect.  I also used bread flour which has a lot of glutin.  I soaked the oatmeal in the liquid, beating it thoroughly to eliminate lumps of oatmeal.


dabrownman's picture

I do with DO baking is to not leave it covered so long but that depends on if you are using a hot oven and hot Do before kerplunking in the dough.  If both are hot I will do 20 minutes covered at 450 F , 5 minutes uncovered, then dump the bread out of the DO and put it on the stone that the DO was baking.  I turn down the oven to 425 F (Convection if you have it) at that time and then turn the bread 180 degrees every 5 minutes so it bakes evenly.  I start testing for temperature inside 10 minutes after it comes out of the DO at the 30 minutes total mark. No more over done bottoms.