The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Maddening crust pallor

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pixelchef's picture
pixelchef

Maddening crust pallor

Hello all,


This is my first time posting here--great site! I have been baking for a couple of years and recently acquired my mum's sourdough starter (developed according to Nancy Silverton's instructions in "Bread From La Brea Bakery"). I've had wonderful success adapting favorites like cinnamon rolls and pizza to take advantage of the wild starter, and almost all of my bread turns out nicely.


However, every now and then I bake a loaf or two that simply will not brown properly. See images below for my latest disappointment (the objectionable loaf is on the right in the top image):



 



The two smaller loaves (on the left in the top image) are ~95% refined bread flour whereas the larger loaf (on the right in the first image and featured in the bottom image) is ~75% whole wheat flour, loosely based after the Flemish Desem bread from "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book". Neither has any commercial yeast, both rose beautifully and had pretty good oven spring (I introduced steam to the oven during the first 5 minutes of baking each loaf). And yet, the WW boule simply refused to darken properly in the oven no matter how long I left it in. The refined flour loaves baked at 500/450 for about 45min and carmelized to a deep, reddish brown complete with distinct fermentation bubbles; the WW loaf baked immediately afterwards at 450/350 for well over an hour and managed only to take on an unattractive jaundiced pallor devoid of bubbles. Both came to 210F--higher than I would have liked to take the WW loaf--and I fear WW loaf is going to be mostly crust after such a long time in the oven.


As I mentioned, this has happened to me twice before, once with sourdough pumpkin loaves and once with a "seeded sour". I've tried to identify a common variable, and thought I had pegged the culprit after I discovered both the pumpkin and seeded loaves were improperly sealed during an overnight retardation. I assumed the surface of the dough dried out excessively and somehow prevented the sugars from caramelizing properly as the crust formed. But today's pale loaf fermented overnight at room temperature, and I made certain it was properly sealed!


Has anybody seen this before? The bread generally tastes quite good, but the loaves are so ugly to look at!


Thanks!

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Hi. Have you had WW boules that browned well before? I find that my WW boules don't brown as well as my bread flour bakes. I probably got the best color of all my WW boules the last time I baked; that time I proofed at 90 degrees with humidity and baked at 500/450 with two steamings a couple of minutes apart. That loaf had a brownish red tinge.



--Pamela

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi pixelchef.


I think it is pretty clear that your problem is that your oven is too cool for the last part of the bake.


Crust coloration is due to the chemical reactions that sugars and proteins undergo in the presence of moisture and heat. Caramelization, which gives you the really dark crust color, starts when the surface temperature of the crust exceeds 300F.


For the first part of the bake, although your oven is hotter, evaporation cools the loaf surface. It has to dry sufficiently before the crust temperature really rises enough to start to take on color - at first due to the Mailard reaction, which is complete at 350F, then caramelization which makes the crust even darker.


I don't know why your high-WW boules don't darken as much as those made with less WW. I'd have to see your recipe. Perhaps there is less free sugar in the crust. You could add some sugar (malt extract? Molasses? Honey?) to your recipe. This results in a darker crust.


I hope this helps.


David

xaipete's picture
xaipete

David, do you think there should be a temperature adjustment when baking bread flour boules as opposed to ww boules?


--Pamela

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Pamela.


The problem is that I don't think you would simply exchange WW for BF in a formula. You would generally make other changes - certainly in hydration but also adding a sugar source. The WW breads I make also utilize a soaker.


So, you usually want a longer bake for WW (I'm assuming a high percentage of WW), and you would bake at a lower temperature.


Maybe one of the other members who do more WW baking than I has a better response.


David

xaipete's picture
xaipete

Thanks, David, for your reply. I am using a soaker of sorts, but I hadn't thought about the possibility that I was baking the boule too fast to achieve carmelization. I'll be baking this boule again on Sunday or Monday and I'll try not rushing the baking and see what happens. Thanks again.


--Pamela

pixelchef's picture
pixelchef

David & Pamela,


Thanks for your responses. I can't remember for certain, but I think I baked each of the pale loaves immediately after I had already baked a batch of bread. Perhaps I need to give the oven more time to come back up to temperature? I tasted the WW boule yesterday, and it is decidedly overbaked. I may try an initial temp of 500F and turn it down to 425 or so after 10-15 minutes to expedite browning of the crust, although I'm accustomed to using lower temperatures for WW dough.


I feel confident that both my proofing chamber (microwave with a cup of very hot water in it) and oven were sufficiently humid, which leaves temperature as the primary culprit. I may also try adding a little bit of sugar; in its current form the dough contains only whole wheat flour, salt, and water.


Thanks again,


Trevor


 


 


 

madzilla's picture
madzilla

I am hardly an expert...I am actually very new to bread baking, but wanted to suggest something.  I lived in Germany's Black Forest for a while, and my friend's parents baked awesome bread.  I seem to remember something about rubbing water on the loaf at some point to increase the crispiness of the crust.  Water molecules heat quickly and could help with browning.  Also fat or oils in the bread would encourage browning without making them sweeter. I got a beautifil golden brown crust by first baking in a covered pot, then the last 20 min uncovered. Also, maybe cranking the temp up at the last part of the bake instead of the beginning might help? Just some ideas. I have no idea if this helps. Good luck! Your bread looks beautiful!


M.

pixelchef's picture
pixelchef

M,


I usually fill a preheated pan located on the top shelf with a cup or so of boiling water just prior to putting in the loaves. This seems to produce a nice amount of steam (although I've read that this method really pales in comparison to proper steam injection). However, my mother, who is even more avid a baker than myself, recently tried directly spritzing with water a batch of loaves immediately prior to putting them into the oven. She was happy with the crispness of the resulting crust, but she was a little discouraged that doing so messed up the pretty floured lines left by her bannetons.


I have never tried baking bread in a covered vessel, but I intend to do so the moment I invest in a new dutch oven! Until then, I will certainly continue to experiment with dough additives like oil and sugar. Adding a small amount of honey seems to help with browning. I also wonder if the flour I am using has not been properly enzymatically balanced? I read in "Artistan Baking" by Maggie Glezer that insufficiently balanced flours can result in bread that simply won't brown. "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" also suggests sprouting barley, toasting it lightly, grinding it, and adding a tiny bit to dough to promote proper browning.


Trevor

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Okay, now I remember. They didn't rub it with water, they spritzed it.  However, if they had rolls that were beginning to go soft of the outside, I remember my friend wetting his hand and rubbing the roll, then popping it into the oven for about 5 minutes.  It was a great way to refresh the roll without it becoming too hard or soggy.


I have never heard of "balanced" flour. Interesting. I would think the best thing to do maybe would be to very lightly spray the loaf with olive oil spray, and then a light dusting of flour.  The oil will surely help the browning factor.


M.