The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Perfect crust and crumb

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qahtan's picture
qahtan

Perfect crust and crumb

If this is the type of crust you are looking for,
bake your bread in a cloche, some where in this list
is the cloche my husband made me if you are interested...
:-)))), qahtan
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Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Hi all,
I work long hours away from home and can bake only on weekday evenings and on weekends. Because of this, I need to extend the bread-making process over two or more days. Where and how do you suggest that I stretch the process to get the best flavor? Is it in refrigerating my poolish or sponge? Should I refrigerate the initial fermentation? Should I refrigerate the shaped loaves in the final proofing? I look forward to hearing from any and all.
Sylvia

In search of the perfect crust & crumb

sphealey's picture
sphealey

You can try all of those techniques until you get a schedule that works. I typically mix a poolish or sponge in the evening, let it bubble for 2-4 hours, then put it in the refrigerator overnight. Once the fermentation has slowed down I don't see why it couldn't stay in the refrigerator 24 hours, or longer if the preferment has no sugar.

I do the first rising in a relatively warm environment, as I think that helps the yeast establish its growing environment (especially if the poolish was cold when I mixed it in). But after the first turn you could do the 2nd and 3r risings in the refrigerator; the dough tends to rise to a certain size but then stop as it finally cools off.

Finally, after shaping you should be able to leave the loaf in the fridge overnight.

sPh

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

sPh,
Thanks much for your advice. I'm working on my first really stretched batch right now. Started the sponge on Tuesday evening and let that sit in the frig 24 hours. Last night (Wednesday) I mixed the dough and set it in the frig for a first fermentation. This morning, as I was rushing around getting ready to leave for work, I degassed it, turned it over a few times (envelope turns) and set it back in the frig to ferment throughout the day. I may be able to do a couple of additional fermentations, shape, proof and bake this evening.

The only change I've made to the recipe, to accommodate the extended fermentation, is to reduce the amoung of yeast I'm using. The proof will be in the eating.

If you've got additional thoughts, don't hesitate to send along.

Sylvia
In search of the perfect crust & crumb

sphealey's picture
sphealey

> If you've got additional thoughts, don't hesitate
> to send along.

My only additional thought is that you are going to get a great-tasting loaf! Depending on where you live maybe you could FedEx me a chunk; I like the ends best ;-)

sPh

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Well, my attempt to stretch my fermentations just didn't fit in with my work and weekend schedule (away from home), so that batch didn't see the warmth of the oven.

I'm trying it again, this time reducing the yeast even more and refraining from adding the sugar to the sponge (as called for in the recipe) in an effort to slow the process even more. I created the sponge last night and had it sit in the cool basement (65 degrees) all night. This morning, I moved the bowl to the frig. I'll work on it the dough tonight and hope I'll have some level of success to report within the next couple of days.

(Man, I love bread baking!)
Sylvia
In search of the perfect crust & crumb

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Well, I pulled my two 10-grain batards from the oven at about midnight last night and they looked beautiful: good oven spring and a deep golden brown color. I restrained myself and didn't cut into them until this morning and was disappointed: the flavor is fairly flat, and the crumb is too tight.
In thinking back: I think I did reduce the yeast by the right amount. I think slowing the fermentations in the frig worked well in combination with the reduced yeast. But, I don't think I let the loaves get warm enough and rise enough during the final proofing. It really does take a long time for that chill from the frig to dispel. I think I'll borrow that idea (posted recently) of putting my peel on a heated surface to help get that chill off (I do the final proof on a peel covered with parchment).

Question: In an effort to slow the fermentation, I didn't use the sugar called for in the recipe. Do you think I should use the sweetener next time to improve the flavor? Or is the flat flavor caused by something else? (I did use the salt called for in the recipe.)

Would appreciate your thoughts.

Sylvia

In search of the perfect crust & crumb

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

I came to the same conclusion about the dough taking a long time to get the chill off from the overnight refrigeration. I used a heating pad under my couche. Worked like a charm!

-Joe

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

It may be that your loaves were overproofed. I know that I have to put mine in the very bottom of my fridge if I want them to proof overnight. If I put them in the top, they're ready to go in 4-5 hours! Leaving them overnight gives me very little oven sprin. They're ridiculously sour, thanks to the overproofing. But the acid starts to break down the gluten, which, coupled with the dough stretched beyond its limit gives me a pretty tight crumb.

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Thanks Joe, JMonkey and sphealey.
Your observations and advice will help with my next batch (I'll start that as soon as I get home from work). Question - What kind of yeast are you using? I've been using the SAF Instant with great success, so far. Is another type of yeast better when you're trying to slow fermentation?
Sylvia
In search of the perfect crust & crumb

sphealey's picture
sphealey

_Bread Alone_ suggests that it is best to use cake yeast for slow fermentation due to instant yeast being treated to, well, make it grow faster. I haven't have a chance to try this out yet though; grocery stores in my area don't seem to carry cake yeast anymore.
.
sPh

Joe Fisher's picture
Joe Fisher

SAF Instant here. I buy the 1# blocks and keep it in the freezer.

Incidentally, I jsut found out my local Costco sells 2# blocks for less than I've been paying for the 1 pounders! Although I make so much sourdough now, I'll never go through the pound I've already got. ;-)

-Joe

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I'm the same way Joe. I've gone through about half a pound since January, but my yeast consumption has declined markedly in the last three months since 80% of my baking is now sourdough.

Sylviambt's picture
Sylviambt

Hi Guys,
I guess I'll keep with the instant yeast for now and try to keep my experimentation limited to just one factor or ingredient at a time. I haven't been able to find a source for the fresh yeast: not at the grocery or at the great health food co-ops in town.
I had a couple of sourdough starters working up a storm a while back, but after several batches of bread decided to devote myself to other forms of preferment because my husband just doesn't like that tangy flavor I love so well. I really have enjoyed seeing the photos many of you have posted of your successes with sourdough. Ah, well.

Sylvia
In search of the perfect crust & crumb

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Well since my starter only works with oats (at the moment, I'm busy working on a hybrid) I add it in the beginning when I mix whole grains (oats flour, barley flour, spices) oil, water and some white flour, let ferment an hour or better overnight and then add powdered milk, commercial yeast, sugar, salt. White wheat flour to knead. Someone asked for measurements, ok, the only thing I measured was 1 cup (240ml) of water, 2 soupspoons (30ml) of olive oil, 1 1/2 tsp (8gm) instant yeast, 1 tsp (5gm) salt. The rest were all scoops and handfulls and one soup spoon of spice. The preferment was thick but doesn't hold a shape and enough moisture to let the grains soak it up. The dough weighs aproximately 800gm before baking. It's just the right size for my little oven. :) Mini Oven