The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

crust with multiple personality disorder

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bnom's picture
bnom

crust with multiple personality disorder

Well this is interesting.  I have struggled with my crusts ever since getting a gas oven.  It has been a long saga of trying various steaming, venting, covering interventions.   It's no issue if I bake in cast iron pan but I don't like baking boules much.  Sadly, I've lost some of my enthusiasm for baking because of this frustration.

Today, I baked some sd wheat bread on my stone with a foil roasting pan over the top for the first 13 minutes. Sadly, it has an awful icky color (and what's with the color in the grigne?) BUT one end of the loaf must have been letft outside of the foil cover and it browned beautifully!   So I guess the next obvious step is not to use a cover at all (of course I tried that variation early on w/o success).  Anyway, I thought I'd post this because it really is a pretty stark contrast. Your insights, commisserations, welcome!

 

grind's picture
grind

I get that sometimes and assumed it was the flour lined proofing cloth that gets ground into the top of the loaf.

bnom's picture
bnom

 I think what the photo tells us is that issue isn't formula or proofing  because you wouldnt have one end achieving the carmelized crust color while the rest looks like crap. What the issue is must have something to do with what happens inside the foil tent.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

From what I can figure it happens when my cover isn't tight around the edges or the foil has slipped.  

I think it has something to do with the foil heating the water vapor and moving it away from the crust rather than trapping the steam cloud over the crust surface, the crust then dries out before it can make a gelatin surface that later browns.  Brushing with butter or oil while the loaf is still hot, helps darken it but once it is sliced, it is not all that noticed.  It must happen in the first few minutes when the steam should be over the surface and condensing onto the loaf. 

bnom's picture
bnom

Most definitely the cover wasn't tight over the stone...so your theory may have something to it.  I surmise that cloche didnt fully cover the one loaf and the exposed end got the nice carmelization pictured. Since that one loaf end  was the nicest color I've achieved yet in this oven I feel like I've been given a glimpse of Valhalla but not the key.  I'll try baking without a cloche next time (I did that early on in my experiments but I've recently started adding diastatic malt and that may help). .

Back to the drawing board....  

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

exposed end got a stream of steam coming out from under the foil cover.  Wait, the browning was the high spot under the foil?  That would mean tht the steam couldn't rise to escape.   Got a rock or a trivet to weigh down the cover?  This might also be more of a problem with foil (a metal) than with other covers.

bnom's picture
bnom

the browning came at the end that was not covered by the cloche.  I didn't add any steam (is it possible the steam produced by gas is sufficient?).

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Wondering if you spritzed the interior of your aluminum cloche prior to covering the loaf?...,

Wild-Yeast

bnom's picture
bnom

At various times in the past I've tried spritzing the cloche, the loaves, the parchment paper....haven't liked the results enough to make any one technique part of my practice. 

I just know there's got to be a way to unlock the mystery of this gas oven.. . .

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

a demented Pumpernickel oven - one that relies heavily on Satan's Farts for the gas. 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

I've had this problem before too, and I have a gas oven. It happens sometimes when I bake pan loaves. For example, the top crust in the pan loaf will be dull, pale and insipid, while the sides and the bottom will be evenly and nicely brown (as in the side in your photo). 

I've noticed this happens even more when I mist down my loaf directly with water before I put it in the oven; when I mist the loaf, I never bake in a dutch oven, and I never add additional steam to my oven. 

Also similar to you, this problem never happens when I bake in my cast iron or enameled dutch oven. 

 I haven't solved this issue either, but have been wondering the following:

1. Could it have to do with too high of an initial baking heat? For example, my pizza crusts never have a nice sheen, and are always flat and dull looking, even though they brown reasonably well. They never get to that deep, burnished brown color that a well-baked bread that's been in a 400F oven for 30-40 minutes gets. 

2. Would the same problem happen if I misted down the top of a loaf I bake in my cast iron DO? I'll have to try that one as a test. 

3. I have often wondered if perhaps it's related to that hard water I have in my area? I might have to try this, perhaps misting with bottled water instead...I get that this is a longshot but worth a try. 

Here's some related info from the KA Flour web site (in PDF)

Steaming the oven has a cooling effect on the dough, and this enables the enzymes to remain active for a longer period of time. This in turn contributes to crust browning through the Maillard reaction, and later through caramelization of the crust. In an unsteamed oven, the surface of the loaf quickly becomes too hot for these enzymes to function, and the resulting bread has a pale, lusterless crust.

My best guess right now is that due to the gas oven venting, we aren't getting enough steam on our loaves, and the crust is getting too hot too fast, causing that ugly and tasteless paleness... My other guess is that my loaf sides are browning better because of both some kind of heat slowing/buffering that is occuring, as well as a more gradual steaming that is occuring between the side of the loaf and the side of the pan as the dough bakes. 

bnom's picture
bnom

Thank you so much for reply Cranbo -- I think you may be on to something regarding the heat being too high!  A few points:

1)  The dark carmelization pictured is not the side...but on the top of the loaf at the end  which I believe achieved it's color because it wasn't actually covered by the cloche (I was kind of clumsy in loading the loaves).

2) Another piece of the puzzle I neglected to share was that right after slashing the loaves I realized I'd only preheated the oven to 350!  So I cranked it up to 475 and shortly thereafter loaded the loaves. That means that the exposed end of the loaf (with the nice carmelization) was baking at around 400.

4) Your KAF quote (and my mistakenly low oven temp) leads me to think I've been baking my hearth breads and baguettes at too high a heat. Other baked goods baked at lower temperatures turn out very well.  

Oh wouldn't it be a wonderful fix if all I have to do is turn down the heat!.   I will report back with my next bake.  

 

 

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and when it went into the oven, I must have bumped the foil and it lifted on the side that turned white.   The whiteness was concentrated at the point of the gap.  The opposite side was brown. ...and photographed after butter was applied all over the top which is a dull sheen.  I can't remember if I misted the loaf, more likely not.  I also believe this loaf was stuck into the oven at a lower temp and continued heating until it reached 220°C  then reduced to 200°C.