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Baking loaves covered - Clinical trial, uncontrolled.

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dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Baking loaves covered - Clinical trial, uncontrolled.

We have had a stimulating and instructive discussion of methods of replicating the effects of commercial oven steam injection in home ovens. (See http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/7192/humidity-versus-steam#comment-36522) I found it interesting that many home bakers have found coving the loaf during the first half of the bake to yield the best results - better oven spring, crisper, thinner crust, etc. So, I had to try it.

 

My first attempt was with a bread I have made many times - Jeff Hamelman's "Miche, Ponte-a-Calliere." I made it with King Arthur Flour's First Clear Flour. There would not have been room in the oven to bake two loaves, even if I had divided the dough, so there is no experimental control, other than my past experience. I baked this miche covered with the bottom of a large, oval enameled metal roasting pan for 30 minutes, then removed the pan and finished the baking for another 25 minutes.

 

The results:

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche 

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche Crumb

Ponte-a-Calliere Miche Crumb 

My conclusion is that this bread has as good a crust and crumb as any I've made but is not substantially different from the miches I've baked using hot water poured into a hot cast iron skillet after transferring the loaf to the baking stone. The crumb is a little less open than I wanted, but the dough was less slack. The weather has warmed up, and the flour was probably dryer. I should have added a bit more water.

David 

Comments

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

My second trial of baking loaves covered versus adding steam with hot water in a hot skillet was with a bread I had not baked before - Thom Leonard's "Country French Bread," from Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking."  

Leonard uses a high extraction flour and two levains, a wheat one and a small amount of rye sour. Glezer's recipe gives the alternative of adding a small amount of rye to the final dough. I did that. She also calls for a mix of whole wheat and bread flour, but says, if you have a high extraction flour, substitute it for both. I used Heartland Mill's Golden Buffalo for my bread. 

The recipe is for a single 4 pound boule, but, because I wanted to compare the two methods of humidifying the loaf for the first half of the bake, I divided the dough and baked two boules of identical weight. Because I couldn't fit both on my stone, they were baked sequentially. I refrigerated the second loaf for 30 minutes, while the first one was baking, then took it out 10 minutes or so before it went in the oven. 

The loaf that I baked covered was covered with a stainless steel mixing bowl, preheated with hot water. Both loaves were baked in 40 minutes. The uncovered loaf was getting very dark after 25 minutes, so I turned down the oven to 400F for the rest of the bake. The covered loaf baked for the same time but at 450F for the entire duration (20 minutes covered. 20 minutes uncovered.) 

The results: 

Thom Leonard's Country French Bread 1Thom Leonard's Country French Bread 1  

Thom Leonard's Country French Bread 2
Thom Leonard's Country French Bread 2 

Thom Leonard's Country French Bread CompareThom Leonard's Country French Bread Compare  

I will post crumb photos when the second loaf has cooled enough to cut. 

Hmmmm ... I haven't told you which of the two loaves was baked covered, have I? Does anyone care to guess (and tell us why)?   

David

Marni's picture
Marni

I've been following this saga of covering loaves during baking and look forward to trying it when I find something suitable to use.  I also would like to add that I truly admire your bread baking results.  All your loaves look beautiful!

I'm guessing the right loaf in the bottom picture because it looks a bit higher.  I'm thinking maybe it had a greater burst when the heat hit it.  Then again, being covered could allow some rising before the heat killed the yeast... so now I'm not so sure.

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Marni.

Thanks for the kind words!

And thanks for your "vote." I'm going to hold the answer until more folks have had a chance to respond. The East Coast is even later than the West, and Europe is still waking up.

David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Country French Loaf 1
Country French Loaf 1

Country French Crumb Loaf 2Country French Crumb Loaf 2 

Here are the crumb shots from the two loaves. BTW, I tasted loaf 2. Delicious ... and quite sour for a bread that did not have a really long fermentation and no cold retardation.  

David

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I' betting #1 went into the oven first, light colored bottom, cooler stone. #2 has darker bottom crust for the stone had been heated longer.

Crumb in #2 is more even and shows slightly larger bubbles throughout, whereas #1 has tighter crumb on lower half of loaf possible effect of cooler stone.

Color on both loaves is beautiful! #2 more even. Can't really tell which one was under the bowl.

Side by side photo: #2 is left the light plays a role in the picture but it had been proofed longer. #1 on the right went into the oven first as shown by the lifting of the bottom edge also maybe (my opinion) 15 min. too soon.

Sooo.... Did I pass?

The Pointe-a-Calliere looks perfect!  Just perfect.

Mini O

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Mini Oven. 

Your observations are incredibly acute. You are a stellar diagnostician.  Where you stick your neck out, you are right on the money. I also congratulate you on your not guessing blindly regarding which loaf was baked covered, when you don't have data to support a diagnosis. 

David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I'd say the left one was covered and the right was uncovered. Just because you said that in your oven with a cover the crumb was denser when baked under a cover and that the one that was uncovered started to brown too much. I think that in a good oven (which from your previous results your IS) you'll get better oven spring and crumb with the classic throw the hot water in the bottom pan technique. But, maybe I'm totally off! :-)

Thanks for doing the test and showing the results! It would be great if someone with a gas oven or a "problem" oven would try as well.

I have tried he Thom Leonard's country bread with absolutely NO success. But after reading your entry I think that I'll change the type of flour I use. I discovered a new organic T110 which is sort of greyish beige. The bran in is looks like its ground or something. The bread I make with it is absolutely divine, almost spicy. Maybe the recipe will work better.

Happy Sunday to everyone,

Jane 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

I agree with Jane... the "cover method" tends to provide the greatest crust improvement for those baking with gas ovens (or other open-vented ovens) .  By design, gas ovens are vented to a greater extent than electric ovens.  As such, they do not hold steam as well as electric ovens.  Whereas someone baking with an electric oven might not see that great an improvement in crust when moving from the "water-in-the-pan" method to the "cover method", those using a gas oven should see a significant improvement.  At least, that has been my experience as a gas oven user.    

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

But I'm guessing the loaf on the right was baked under cover just because of the lift on the sides. I 'm picturing Susans balloon breads. Can't wait to see what I've won.                                                    weavershouse

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Nice experiment David!  Thank you for your work...,

From the cross sections I vote for Country French Loaf 1 as being baked under the cloche. The crust is thinner, lighter and appears "chewy". The crumb is somewhat confusing as it appears dry, as if the loaf was over long in the oven (versus over temperature). Its wheat gels seem to have been damaged...,

Somewhat confused I'll leave it there. If I continue on in this vein I'll end up for voting for number 2 instead!

Wild -Yeast

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Wild Yeast! 

No thanks are necessary. After all, I get to eat my data!  Regarding the dry crumbs: As I said, I had not made this bread before. Moreover, I mixed it in my Bosch Universal Plus with which I am still becoming familiar. (The Miche was mixed in a KitchenAid Accolade that I feel I know backwards and forwards.)   

The flour was very absorbent, and I think I should have added more water. I also may have over-mixed the dough. The bread tasted wonderful, but the crumb was a bit dryer than I expected. It was not over-baked. I monitored the internal temperature carefully toward the end of the bake. 

BTW, the recipe called for a 70 minute bake at 450F for a 4 pound boule. These breads were 2 pounders. The crust was getting very dark after 30 minutes and the bread center was 206F at 40 minutes. I wonder about the recipe instructions for baking. 

Perhaps some one who has made this bread before could comment on this. Jane? Zolablue?  

David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I had the opposite problem! The dough seemed really nice, not too stiff, but after the rising and proofing, I ended up with a big glob that spread... twice! I don't think I can be of any help because I am prefectly convinced that it is the difference in flour over here. And I have gone off of following american recipes to a T and just using the guidelines. I realized that the bread I have been baking lately that I like so much from a firm starter, a recipe I just sort of made up, is very much like the Essential's Columbia French style bread from Glezer's Artisan Baking but with a different mix of flour. I'm sure if I followed that recipe it wouldn't work!

But I will try the recipe again with the T110. I have to cut it in two because our ovens are so much smaller than yours over there. Which, when I think about it, maybe contribute to why it is easier to get such a nice crust over here in an electric oven. The space is more confined and my oven literally becomes a steam bath!

Jane 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane. 

Oven size! That makes so much sense. I have been wondering about why you get such beautiful crust and incredible oven spring. I've had difficulty attributing it all to the difference in flours. 

This makes me wonder about those Cuisinart counter-top convection ovens for bread baking. Maybe they would have the same effect. Hmmmm .... Now, all I need is spare counter top!

David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

My oven is about 45cm X 30cm. How does that compare to your?

It's evening here, I'll have to wait until morning to find out the answer to which bread was covered.

A demain!

Jane 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

 See ya at breakfast!  :)    

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane. 

My oven is 55.88 cm (22 inches) wide. I can't measure the depth right now. I have two loaves of rye bread baking under cover at the moment. 

The size difference is not as great as I had imagined. 

FYI, the Cuisart counter top "brick oven" has dimensions of 18-1/2 by 19-4/5 by 11-1/2 inches.  

David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks to all the "early responders!" 

I'm going to hold off revealing the answer for a bit to let others make their own conclusions. Besides, I am going to do at least one more experiment today - a Jewish Sour Rye which has a very different type crust from these breads. 

Jane and Steve's comments about covering loaves making a bigger difference in gas ovens is interesting. I have not experience with gas ovens. Is the difference in how they are vented? Their temperature stability? Or what?  

David

SteveB's picture
SteveB

David,

Because a typical gas oven for home use requires oxygen from the air to feed the gas burners, these ovens are usually designed with venting that assists in drawing air to the burners and then into, through and out of the oven.  My own gas oven has a single vent at the top of the oven that runs the entire width of the oven.  When I first started my bread baking years ago, I tried stopping up the vent with damp dish cloths to contain the steam that I would generate, but the steam found ways to escape through the stove burners on the range atop the oven.  For the most part, gas ovens just aren't as "air-tight" as electric ovens.  IMHO, a steam cover is the perfect solution for gas ovens.    

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Steve.Thanks very much for the clear explanation.
 David

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this discussion.  

As Mini Oven surmised first, Loaf 1 was baked first. Loaf 2 was baked second. In the comparison photo, Loaf 1 is on the right. 

Loaf 1 was baked covered with a stainless steel bowl for the first 20 minutes, then baked 20 minutes uncovered. The first 30 minutes, the oven was set at 450F. The last 10 minutes, it was turned down to 400F, because the crust was browning too fast. 

Loaf 2 was baked 40 minutes at 450F. Steam was generated by pouring about a cup of hot water into a pre-heated cast iron skillet. 

I have thought more about why these loaves baked so much faster than the recipe would have predicted. The answer was obvious, once it had occured to me: I made a much dryer dough than it was meant to be. Wetter doughs require longer bakes. 

Loaf 1 did have a little better oven spring. The consistency of the crusts were pretty much identical. Loaf 2 did have a thinner crust, as Wild-Yeast observed. However, I believe the difference in oven spring was due to the covered loaf having been proofed for 45 minutes less than Loaf 2. Also, the scoring pattern was different. How much difference a square versus a diamond pattern makes in oven spring is an experiment for some one else to conduct!

The bottom crust was lighter in color on Loaf 1, and it got softer as the loaf cooled. This may well have been due to the covering, as Wild-Loaf posits. I don't think it could be due to the stone being less well heated, as Mini Oven thought. The oven had already been on for over two hours with the stone in place. (I had baked the Miche a little bit before the first Country French loaf and left the oven on for the interval.) 

My conclusion, at this point, is that, at least for these types of crusty sourdough breads, baked in an electric oven, covering the loaves doesn't make much difference in the product compared to the water-in-the-hot-skillet alternative. 

Covering may make more of a difference for other types of breads. I am particularly eager to try this method with baguettes. 

My sour ryes need to come out of the oven now. They encountered what Jane might call "un petit problem," which usually means a disaster of moderate dimensions. More about that later.

David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I got that one all backwards! :-)

The depth of my oven is 38 cm. And of course the dimensions are the inside. I actually dream of having a real AGA with different compartiments but my kitchen is WAY too small.

I find your experiments very interesting, but since my oven gives great results, I don't think I'll even try. It bugs me when things get too fussy. But, the whole experiment will be a great help for all those with difficult ovens.

I don't know if the cuisinart hearth exists here. That could also be a good solution for some avid bread bakers.

I did some major baking this weekend and I'll try and find time to give you a look. I've got some questions.

Happy Monday to all.  (It's a holiday here, no school and kids running everywhere!)

Jane 

 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Jane.

A less wordy conclusion to my experiment could be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

I'm seldom unhappy with how my breads have been turning out. When I am, I can generally find what I did wrong and correct it the next time. The one exception is baguettes. I have yet to bake any with the crust or crumb I want, although the flavor is good.

David

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I made some baguettes from Glezer's Artisan Baking. They were great! BUT as usual, the crumb didn't have big holes. Then it dawned on me that I never use any flour less than T65 and baguettes are notorious for their "whiteness", made with white, white flour. So, I figure that has a lot to do with it. But the ones I made were still "fresh" the next day and the family loved them. Maybe one day I'll by some white flour and try again.

Jane 

SteveB's picture
SteveB

Jane,

One of the things I aim for in a baguette is what has been described as an off-white or "cream" color to the crumb.  If the crumb is white, there is a good chance that the dough, or the flour from which it was made, has been overoxidized, resulting in the destruction of many of the desired flavor components and pigments of the bread.  Here in the U.S., flour that is most appropriate for baguette baking is typically unbleached and off-white in color (King Arthur All Purpose and Gold Medal Harvest King come to mind as examples).  My understanding is that, in France, Type 55 flour is the most popular for baguettes.  Is this so?  Too bad we can't institute some kind of Flour Exchange Program (or can we?); I would love to try my hand with some authentic French Type 55 flour and I would be interested to hear of your results with King Arthur All Purpose flour.

Regarding shelf-life, if I use a preferment (either a poolish or pâte fermentée), my baguettes will still be relatively fresh the next day.          

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Yep, it's T55. I saw at the biocoop (organic store) that they sell it now. (I only buy organic flour because I guess I'm a bit of a flour snob. I figure that if it isn't organic, it isn't worth going to the trouble of baking since it is very easy to find very good artisanal bread here. It's the organic bread that costs an arm and a leg.) I may buy some just for the challenge of trying to make a REAL baguette. Though, the reality here is that more and more people are buying more artisanal type "baguettes" with better for your health flours in them.

As for sending flour, I would be worried about the American laws regarding sending "food" because they are so picky about that kind of stuff. Otherwise it would be no big deal to send off a couple pounds for the sake of "science"!

Jane