The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tears (not mine)

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baragouiner's picture
baragouiner

Tears (not mine)

Most of my loaves get a small tear near the base. The tops look good, I've gotten better at scoring, and the bread tastes great but the tears are really annoying. Any ideas what's causing them? Underproved? Poor shaping?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after they are shaped and rising?  Exposed in a banneton?  Covered, not covered, floured, naked, wet, dry, oiled?  What is your relative humidity?  :)

baragouiner's picture
baragouiner

Yes - they tear in the oven. I prove them in bannetons (covered) and flour the base before turning out onto a tray to slide into the oven. I bake on an inch-thick stone and put a few ice cubes in a tray on the shelf below.

Re relative humidity, I'm not sure what you mean - in the loaf or in my house?!

I've now cut into them and can see that the top crust has split away from the body of the crumb a little bit. Does this help with the diagnosis?!

I'm really struggling to know when they're proved and ready to bake. I've done a few under and a few over (I think) and only one has come out perfectly. But I can't remember how that looked / felt different from the ones that haven't worked...:-(

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

not sure, could use more information, but tearing most happens when the outer skin of the loaf is uneven in moisture content.  A weak spot caused by lack or too much moisture in that location.  It looks like the tearing is happening where the banneton meats the dough, and a gap opens.  Try dusting the bottom exposed dough as much as the banneton before it rises.  Try using a cloth instead of plastic to cover it.  Relative humidity of the room would affect how the skin is forming on the dough as it sits and rises.  Too dry makes a tough crust, too wet, steam will expand the loaf where it can stretch most easily.  The places of least resistance.  Scoring deeper may focus expansion to the cuts.  It is really not such a big deal, the loaves still have nice bottoms.  You could also try parchment or more flour under the loaf so it doesn't stick to the stone at all.  It can be this clears up with more stone use.

When the loaves are ready for the oven is a tricky matter and I'm faced with that decision every time I bake a loaf.  I tend to rest my whole hand on the loaf, pressing firmly but gently into the dough with my finger tips.  I oil, flour or wet my hand so it doesn't stick and check on the loaf often.  Do it when you first shape it so you have a basis for how the loaf changes.  Get a good look at it and take a digital picture so you can compare later if needed.  Feel for the sponginess and firmness of the loaf.  Feel it expand under the surface, the gas filling the loaf.

As it rises and expands, check it again, often, and feel the loaf without deflating it, press your whole hand firmly onto the loaf and use your other hand if needed. 

A gauge can be simply made with a little ball of dough.  Find a small narrow glass or something like a film container and press a little ball (of pinched off dough when you're shaping the loaf) into the bottom and make it as level as you can.  Mark the level with a rubber band or tape and mark the dough when it would be "double."  Depending on the recipe, you will want to wait until it doubles to bake or almost double or whatever.  This gives you something concrete  to follow, whereas a banneton (bowl shape) is hard to read when it is almost double or doubled.  Often times the dough rises more than one thinks!      

If you combine both these methods of determining rise, you are teaching your hands and brain when the dough is ready to bake.    :)

Alvaremj's picture
Alvaremj

It could be that whatever you are baking on wasn't heated enough. I had a couple loaves do the same thing when I rushed them into the oven. 

Good Luck

J

baragouiner's picture
baragouiner

Thanks - this sounds like it might be at least part of the issue. I've got a granite baking stone but it's about 2cm thick so probably needs longer to warm up than I'm giving it.